Liberians Protesting to End Rape Want President Weah Receive their Petition in Person
Monrovia – It’s been a rather busy weeks for anti-rape protesters in Liberia. Since Tuesday, organizers have taken their grievances to the national legislature, the US Embassy but are yet to present one to the Presidency. On Thursday, the third day of the protest, officers of the Liberian National Police kept protesters at bay, seizing cellphones and turning protesters away from the grounds of the protest. Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and fellow Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee both took turns showing solidarity with protesters while President Weah has been on the hotseat for not identifying with those campaigning against rape.
FrontPage Africa went to the protest ground to talk to some protesters and this is what they had to say
RENEE N. GIBSON, PROGRAM MANAGER RURAL INTEGRATED CENTER FOR COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT
“Our President has to be serious; he has to listen to his mothers, his sisters, his children, he should think that he has a wife so its good that he listens to us and take quick action against rape. It seems that we don’t have anybody talking for us that is why women and girls have been raped daily.
My institution works with rape survival in Nimba County. In Nimba County alone we have to deal with more than 300 cases of rape that were registered to the police. What about the ones that were not registered?
We are tired. It’s dehumanizing for people to think women are less human beings. Is the President saying that we don’t need our right? If so, we will not leave here until President Weah comes and see us.
We are not going to give our petition to the Gender Minister because she is part of us. What action will she take? Because of the alarming increase in rape cases, we want serious action from the number one man in the country. Is that something hard that the President cannot do? President Weah needs to speak to us.”
TITUS B. PAKALAH, AN ORGANIZER OF THE END RAPE PROTEST
“Our guys have been put behind bars at the Central Police Headquarters. If they are not be released we will not leave from here. We are here for political reasons, we are here because every day in Liberia a girl child has sexually been abused. This is the message we are sending out.
We told our government that we have a three days action plan. On the first day, we will deliver a petition to the President, on the second day we will deliver another petition to the House of Legislature, and the third day we have a speakers’ series. But unfortunately, we do not have a government that can listen to us. This is why the police are brutalizing us, the police are incarcerating us only because we are advocating for women and girls right that are being abused.
For those political individuals, we told them that we do not need political intrusion. We saw that from political individuals at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Let is be clear that we will take legal action with any political individuals that will try to get into our non-political campaign.
It a campaign for us to raise our voices against sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia. And if for any reason political actors come here and make any political statement we will take you to the law. We did not invite any politician to be here, we invited the common people.
We did not refuse to give our petition to the Gender Minister, we went to the Foreign Ministry to petition the President. We know the Gender Minister has her ministry. So we wanted to have gone to her and give her another petition.
So, assuming a representative at the Foreign Affairs came to us; obviously, we would have given our petition because the Gender Minister does not work at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.”
I am totally against rape and child abuse. Seeing our kids being raped at the age of three years, four years is not something we want our society to be like. Rape has become a culture in our society but now we are at the point where we have a break it and make sure that rape is no more culture in Liberia.
We hope that the government listens because just to see youths leaving their houses every morning for three days coming on the streets, rape requires urgent attention from the government, especially the President of Liberia.
I think the Gender Minister needs to receive from us and then take it forward. But maybe she is not showing much attention to the victims or to the people that are protesting. So, giving the petition to her is not going to bring any solution.
So, meeting the President or giving the petition to the President is something that we all look forward to. Because being the feminist in chief of Liberia, the President should wear his black T-shirt as well, come out and be a part of us. We are appealing to the President to come out and look at us that we are his own, accept the petition, and take this issue of rape as an emergency because it is.
We want to see rape perpetrators being prosecuted not at death penalty but there should be a strong law put into place that will reduce rape cases and little by little rape is going to stop.”
NATHANIEL BARNES, FORMER LIBERIA’S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATION
“Today is my third day and so I am happy to be here. I am very passionate about it, and I am going to do whatever it takes to stop rape.
The young people are peaceful, and they are just expressing their concern about the issue that is affecting them. So, our leadership must listen.
I don’t want to make any judgment that the President has refused to receive the petition but it just important that he consider it because it is a matter of national concern. Our young people are being affected, the future of this country is being affected.
So, I hope he has a change of mind. He has seemed this initiative and I know that he will support it.
I think we have the appropriate laws but the effective implementations of those laws are lacking. And, there is seems to be the act of political will.
Rape is not only an act of violent crime but it is a cultural issue. It is a manifestation of how we proceed with our young women, our girls, and our children.
They had every right under the law, under social ethic to be protected. So, we need to take a holistic approach to resolve the problems. All perpetrators of rape should face the most serious punishment of the law and we also have initiatives to take care of the victims.”
EVELYN KPADEH SEAGBEH, JOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE, FOUNDER OF JUST A GIRL INITIATIVE
“The issue of rape is serious. In the communities, children are consistently being rape. We are not understanding why rape is happening. Even to the point where the campaign is on and there are still new cases.
So, there is a need beyond just speech made by the President, the Gender Ministry, and the Gender Minister goes to the international meeting and she continually cries that we have a challenge of rape in our country, we have domestic violence. We need them to go beyond just speeches.
I will give you four major reasons why the President should be the one to receive the petition.
He named himself feminist in chief. So, that is one reason why he should be the one to come and receive the petition. Number two, I am a reporter and I know on many occasions the CDC says they stand out for women’s rights, so the President must come and receive the petition. Number three, the President has said times without numbers that there should be no space for rapists in our country and abuse against women’s rights. Number four, nothing is going to happen to him. Nobody wants to target the President. Most of us are women and we are harmless. So, he needs to receive the petition.”
RHODA NEUFVILLE, RESIDENT OF MONROVIA
“It pains to be in the streets for three days and those that you are wanting to see, those that you wanting to hear from are not coming, it pains me as a mother.
In this country, to see our children both girls and boys being raped daily. The government is like a God in every country. so, the President must come to speak to us. It is paining me a whole lot.
Even, if we will not gather here, we are going on our knees and sue those perpetrators to God. We want the President to receive the petition because he is the head of the country.
If the Gender Ministry even comes out and says something and the President does not agree, it will not be done.So, let him come, we are his sisters, mothers, we are his children. So, let him come. Why can the President turn up to us? Is it today that we can no longer see our President? With the President adding his voice to our voices I think it will stop rape.”
ATTAH WEAH, RESIDENT OF MONROVIA
“Three days now we cannot see the government, the police people are running behind us. They said we should not wear black clothes, they say we are enemies to the state.
International community please help us, our government does not want to help us. The people that raping our children need to be killed, I say so.
Our children need to go to school, why will people be killing our children. Our children got the rights in Liberian.”