12 June 2014

Liberia: Internal Affairs Advises 'Poro, Sande Societies'

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) in collaboration with the National Council of Chiefs and Elders (NCCE) have advised against illegal practices and forced initiation of people in the poro and sande societies. According to General Circular number 13 "for several weeks now, the attention of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders (NCCE) has been drawn to practices and acts by individuals or groups claiming to represent Traditional Leaders and Zoes that violate standing administrative guidelines and regulations governing the conduct and operation of Poro and Sande societies in Liberia, as well as the constitutional rights of freedom of movement and freedom of association Within the Republic of Liberia."

The circular issued by the ministry said repeated violations of the guidelines and regulations governing the practices of Poro and Sande Societies in key sections of Liberia have caused and continue to cause embarrassment to the Government and people of Liberia, trauma to affected persons and families, and interruptions to normal lives of citizens and residents, thereby undermining the Government's efforts to ensure that the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all citizens and residents are respected and upheld.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders said their attention is also drawn particularly to the mushrooming of Poro and Sande groves in Bong, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Grand Bassa, and Montserrado Counties where most of these violations occur. For example, in early April 2014 in Grand Cape Mount County, officials reported that a woman was ordered gang-raped and the 12 men who allegedly perpetrated that heinous act escaped; only two of the 12 men were later arrested and are in prison in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount Country, and awaiting trial.

"Further, in Wiama Town in Gbarpolu County, a police officer was forcibly taken and initiated into the Poro Society. Efforts to secure the officer's release were initially hampered by a demand for ransom payment of LD25, 000.00 by the group that allegedly committed the criminal act. With the strong intervention of the Ministry, and the NCCE, the officer was however later released," the circular said.

The MIA, in that regard has affirmed its strong recognition and support for the varied cultures and traditions of Liberia; yet the Ministry categorically condemns the use of Poro and Sande societies to perpetrate illegal criminal acts against free citizens and residents of Liberia. The Ministry also condemns all forms of forcible initiation into Poro or Sanide Society anywhere within the territorial confines of the Republic of Liberia

"The Bureau of Customs and Culture Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, in collaboration with the national Council of Chiefs and Elders, urges all Zoes, Elders and chiefs throughout the Republic of Liberia to carry out their functions within the confines of the traditional laws and guidelines governing the practice of Poro and Sande societies," the circular concluded.

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