Liberia: Internal Affairs, Council of Chiefs Endorse Suspension of Sande Activities

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and National Council of Chiefs have endorsed a resolution by traditional leaders calling for a one year suspension of all traditional schools, especially the Sande groves in Liberia.

At the end of a consultative meeting among traditional leaders held in Gompa, Nimba County, June 24th - 25th, 2019, the participants resolved atemporary suspension of all Sande society practices and activities in order toaddress some aspects of the SANDE society (Traditional Women Bush School), often considered by Human Rights Organizations and some of international partners as "harmful tradition" in Liberia.

A release from the Internal Affairs Ministry said the endorsement was signed on Monday, July 1, 2019, in Monrovia by Internal Affairs Minister, Honorable Varney A. Sirleaf and Chief Zangar Karwor, Chairman of the National Council of Chiefs.

The ceremony was graced by Honorable Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, UN Women Country Representative Madam Marie Goreth Nizigama, Swedish Embassy's Head of Development Corporation Madam Elizabeth Harlemann and Dr. Hans Lambrecht of the European Union, including an array of traditional Chiefs, elders and tribal Governors.

According to the resolution, the traditional leaders say their attention have also been drawn particularly to the increase of Sande bushes/groves even after traditional leaders' commitment to conduct an inventory in order to address these problems.

The Internal Affairs Ministry and the Council of Chiefs also endorsed that effective immediately a three-month ultimatum be given to all groves currently operating to conclude their activities and close in observance of the suspended timeframe.

During the suspension, all operating certificates and licenses will be withdrawn from traditional practitioners and a comprehensive National Inventory will be conducted of all Sande bushes and Zoes (traditional practitioners) in Liberia, following which trained Zoes will be re-licensed or re-registered before the resumption of operations after the suspension period.

The resolution warned that any traditional leader (traditional practitioner) or Sande zoe caught violating this pronouncement during the period of suspension shall be penalized in keeping with the traditional laws and policies of Liberia or be held liable on convention of a fine as provided for under Section 50.7 (c) of the Penal law.

At the same time, traditional leaders called on Government and partners to provide funding and logistical support for full implementation of the national inventory and monitoring of full adherence to the suspension.

Responding after the reading of the resolution, Internal Affairs Minister Varney A. Sirleaf appreciated the traditional leaders for the decision which is intended to promote the positive image of the Liberian tradition, committing the Government to helping to improve the system.

For her part his part, Chief Zanzan Karwor re-emphasized the need to support the process of the inventory so as to identify the number groves and their locations throughout the Country.

Gender Minister Saydee-Tarr described the suspension as momentous occasion, especially as Government and partners find a way to end harmful traditional practices.

In remarks, representatives of the UN Women, Sweden and EU welcomed the suspension, saying it's the beginning of efforts leading to attainment of global vision 2030 which among other things calls for eliminating harmful traditional practices.

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