MONROVIA – Women, men and youths dressed in predominately black outfits, holding anti-rape placards peacefully descended on the Capitol Building on Tuesday in protest over the death of a 13-year-old girl, who died after she was allegedly raped and sodomized.
Forty-seven-year-old Prince Massaquoi allegedly committed the acts against Blessing Molton a week ago in the Camp Johnson Road community in Monrovia, but she died on Monday—the day she was to undergo medical surgery. According to family sources, her body became swollen and she bled profusely.
The girl’s death has sparked a national outrage and raised questions about the sincerity of the Weah administration’s commitment to tackling rape and other sexual and gender-based violence.
“We want justice, rapists must die,” the protesters chanted in slogans under a scorching sun.
They also held placards with inscriptions: “Stop rape now”; “Any man who rapes should be sentenced to death”; “Little Blessing needs justice and we won’t rest”; “It wasn’t her dress, it was just your evil mind”.
“Thirteen-year-old Blessing Molton died as a result of rape by the 47-year-old Man, this is not our first, second or third time coming to the Capitol Building, because our children are dying. Some men are so cruel and nothing is being done to them, so we are here to seek justice. We came to the Capitol because our representatives we voted for promised us that if anything happens, we should call upon them, so this is why we are here. A girl whose parents voted for you to become a lawmaker is dead, so we want you to do something as our lawmakers,” said Mrs. Ne-Suah Beyan Livingston, who runs a safe home, Rescued, Abandoned and Children in Hardship (REACH).
A youth of the community, Michael Okan, Jr., was also shocked and angry over the issue. He was heard shouting: “Wicked Prince, you should be stoned to death or be placed on firing squad, why did you send this little girl to her early grave? …. Prince raped his own wife and cut the vein behind her foot, because she refused to have sex with him. This Prince can fix nails and eye lashes, so why he did not find some of the women he work for to have sex with them, but damaged a little child’s future. I want nothing but death penalty for Prince, he does not deserve to live because he destroyed the future of a young lady”.
Like Okan, many other women and youth expressed the same concern that the perpetrator should be sentenced to death for killing an innocent child.
The protesters intensified their protest as the convoy of House Speaker, Bhofal Chambers and a few lawmakers made its way out of the Capitol, apparently hoping that Speaker Chambers, a one-time vocal advocate for social justice and women’s rights would have stopped to listen to their concern, but they were disappointed, as the convoy drove away without stopping.
Apparently frustrated over the issue, the protesters blocked the entrance to the Capitol Building to prevent more lawmakers from going to work or coming out of the fence. And their action yielded results when Representatives Acarous Gray, Rustolyn Suakoko Dennis and Cee-Bee Bashell, Co-Chair on Planning and Petition, were forced to stop and address the enraged crowd, who presented their petition to them, a portion which read: “Blessing died on January 24 at JFK, this protest is to demand justice for our thirteen year old child and every rape victim in Liberia. Blessing Molton could have survived if we had a judicial and criminal justice system to address the problem of rape across Liberia. We are hurt and we demand the following actions taken: the Perpetrator Prince Massaquoi is punished in line with the rape law of Liberia for raping our thirteen year old child to death.”
Representative Barshell spoke to protesters, expressing empathy with them.
“We have been moved by your actions but we want a written petition from you along with your contacts so that we can put it on the floor, so it can be addressed. Thank you for your peaceful assembly, and there is no way we will leave you without attending to your cries. We have been paid to serve you and make sure you get justice. We do not want you to stop here, even if we sleep, do not sleep, even if we sit, do not sit, stand for this justice,” Rep. Barshell.
Before representative Barshell could end his statement to the group, Mrs. Livingstone shouted in anger: “How long would we continue to do petition before the lawmakers act? This is a mockery. But until a lawmaker’s child or their families are affected, it will all be just politics. Writing a petition is a complete mockery. Do you know how many petitions we have brought here which they have put under their table? So, how many other petitions should we write to prove that this is a national crisis? We want an amendment in the rape law that any man who rapes a child under 18, should be sentenced to death and their graves should be chained”.
Livingston further expressed her frustration over lawmakers’ alleged reluctance to amend the rape law and on reflected how they’ve been selective about the issue, referencing the case of the daughter of then Representative, Edward Forh, whose daughter, Nakita died during the 2014 Ebola outbreak—a case the drew lawmakers’ attention, including summoning health authorities.
“You cannot allow it to hit your door before it becomes a matter of concern. A lady is crying and fainting on Camp Johnson Road because her 13-year-old daughter is dead. They only know you when they need your votes. How long will we stand under the sun and they keep passing in their cars with their window glasses wind up,” she said.
The death of 13-year-old Blessing Molton brings to three within a month, after similar incident in Gbarpolu County and Pipeline in Montserrado County (alleged gang rape).
It also comes at a time President Weah has boasted about fighting rape and other sexual and gender based violence a claim his critics reject.