31 July 2012

Liberia: Lawmaker to Dowry Dead Woman

The home-going of a loved one or family member is a final earthly journey that is usually characterized by grieve and an atmosphere of serenity, but the story was totally different over the weekend at the Samuel A. Striker Funeral Home in Sinkor, Monrovia when two Liberian lawmakers engaged in violent verbal exchanges over a dead body.

Representatives Baron Brown of Grand Bassa County and Senator Jonathan Banney of River Cess County engaged each other in bitter exchanges over the dead body of one Cecelia Boe Barney, identified as one of the wives of the Senator.

The tensions between Senator Barney and family members of the deceased drew the attention of the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia Nation Police, who went on the scene to quiet the situation.

Representative Brown, who claimed to be a brother of the late Cecelia, said family members vehemently opposed the abrupt burial of their daughter without Senator Barney meeting all necessary traditional requirements, including payment of dowry since he failed to comply until her death.

Brown added that the family went to court and obtained a stay order on the burial, pending full compliance by the Senator, but noted that authorities of the funeral home on Saturday included Cecelia on their list of dead bodies for burial allegedly upon the instruction of Barney.

He said copy of the stay order from the court on the burial was served the family, but they did not receive copy of the communication that gave the Striker Funeral Home the go ahead to release the body to Senator Barney.

According to Representative Brown, the late Cecelia was their second sister to have died in the hands of Senator Barney without marrying her following years of living together as husband and wife.

He said their elder sister and Barney lived together for many years when the Senator also fell in love with the late Cecelia and took her home as his second wife. This paper gathered that the late Cecelia was the fourth wife Senator Barney has lost so far. According to family sources, the Senator traditionally had five wives, but only one is alive.

The Grand Bassa County lawmaker said Barney didn't marry any of the sisters until the senior sister died, but other family sources said Senator Barney did pay the dowry of the first sister before she was buried so he must do the same for the late Cecelia.

However, Senator Barney in reaction said he spent over US$10,000 on Cecelia's illness, who is said to have died from breast cancer, including sending her to Ghana, but to no avail. He argued that customary law requires that if a man and a woman should live together for five years and above as lovers, they are automatically considered husband and wife.

Barney said his relationship with the late Cecelia lasted for 30 years and the union was blessed with five children. He added that he has spent over US$40.00 on family of the deceased, and was surprised they were requesting for him to dowry their daughter even after she has passed off.

Senator Barney maintained that he will not give the family a dim, and will bury his wife at the appropriate time. Due to the contention by the family of the late Cecelia, the burial ceremony on Saturday was not possible.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro-temp Gbehzongar Findley had intervened, promising to pay the burial expenses.

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