With the unscrupulous menace of rape breaking through the ceiling at a yearly rate of over 900 cases since January of 2020, coupled with the leader branding himself as Feminist Command-In-Chief; pundits, with dismay, have observed that just how the politics made the head of the nation to leave his comfort zone, take to the various streets, communities and even areas to raise the profile of the candidates of his political party; so true, that nothing could be much more important than stepping down the official stairs for few minutes, and meeting with the very people (now grieving in agony for being under attack from rape) who first made you leader of the land from where you are empowered with the mandate to govern.
According to them, when the leader of the nation responded in an interview with the government owned LBS that on that day the people were protesting in the streets, he was also watching same on the television which suggests that the President was not out of the city nor was he so busy to come down and have a candid chat with his own people who mandated him to lead in the first place. They noted that the one who was sent has no authority to enhance the kind of redress most needed rather it comes from the President who upon receipt of the petition would restore the aspiration and trust the hand of authority and power to make things happen; adding that like the document in the hands of the absolute, so it is said of love being in the eyes of the beholder.
But after three days, like the ill-fate of the June protest, the rape protest did not succeed in landing their petition in the hands of the President as they would have most wanted. But be as it may, and despite the sharp disappointment on that fateful day, when the leader could not come down to meet with his grieving people; they (the people) have planned to come back, and will the government, despite constituting a taskforce to begin looking into such chronic shame and national embarrassment, this time make good out of what is still looming as a heartbreak move and a bad and disappointed situation.
However, President George M. Weah defended his decision not to personally receive the anti-rape protesters’ petition during their three-day protest last week, stressing that it was the protesters that never wanted him to get their message heard.
The protesters had refused earlier to present their petition to Gender Minister Williametta Saydee-Tarr and her deputy Mamensie Kabba based on mistrust.
According to President Weah his presence at the protest never mattered, as demanded by the protesters, as much as that the petition that was not submitted to his deputies, reports a local daily.
“Whenever you have issues, and you want to bring it to me and I cannot receive it, I have a deputy to receive it. So if you do not give your message to the deputy that I sent, then you do not want me to know what the issues are about.
“If you are marching on the street to raise your voice about a particular cause and I am not available to collect your concerned note or documents, for the respect of the country and the leadership you people elected, you should have given the note to the person I sent. It is not about who receives it but the message,” President Weah added.
His comment is in relation to the refusal of protesters to present their petition to Gender Minister Williametta Saydee Tarr and her deputy Mamensie Kabba, on an accusation that the two officials are aware of the rape problem and are directly responsible to act to end it, but are doing little or nothing to address the issue.
At the same time, the organizer, the Affiliation of Women and Child Rights Activists, said they intended to return to the streets in the next three weeks if their demands are not meet in the soonest possible time.
“We will mobilize social forces to return to the streets within three weeks. If the government does not take concrete steps to end this rape pandemic, we will be forced to return to the streets to demand solution. We need solutions now and there is no joke about this,” said Natalyn Omell Beh, one of the protest planners.
The three days protest, which saw thousands of Liberians on the street marching against rape and other acts of sexual and gender-based violence, comes amid the rapid increase in these crimes across the country, particularly 900 plus rape cases, within the first six months of this year.
As part of their demands, the group is calling on the legislature to deliver on their petition, beginning with a public hearing on rape and SGBV to increase budgetary allotment for the Ministries of Health, Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Liberia National Police to empower these structures to combat the scourge of rape.
Moreover the European Union Delegation comprising the Embassies of its member states resident in Liberia – Germany, France, Ireland and Sweden have issued a collective statement which states that the EU shares the deep concern expressed by the Government and people of Liberia regarding the alarming rates of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the country.
The EU takes note of the recent, deep public engagement on this important issue, including demonstrations on the streets of Monrovia. Likewise, the EU recognizes the initiative taken by President George Weah and his Government to find ways to address this profound problem.
SGBV is perpetrated against women, men and children, often against the most vulnerable in society and it must be stopped. Freedom from violence is a fundamental human right, which must be realized and protected in every society.
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