Liberia: Weah Applauds Anti-Rape Protesters ... but Deplores 'Infiltrators' With Political Motives

Hundreds of angry women from various women and youth groups of Liberia took to the streets of Monrovia in protest of the rape amendment bill recently by the Senate.
31 August 2020
The NEWS (Monrovia)

President Dr. George Manneh Weah has applauded organizers of anti-rape protests taking place in the country and called for collective and constructive engagement in tackling the pandemic.

"Personally, I am concerned about the rape. My government is very concerned," the President said Thursday, August 27, 2020 in an exclusive interview with the public broadcaster, the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS).

He said further: "You would remember that few weeks ago, I convened a meeting and constituted a special board to explore ways and means by which we would, as a government and people, combat the rising tide of rape and other sexual gender-based violence in the country. I had in audience the Chief Justice, Speaker, President Pro Tempore, the Vice President, the Ministers of Justice and Finance, Development Planning and Gender, Children and Social Protection with other civil society organizations. I convened that meeting and set up that special board because of our concern about rape and how urgently this government and other major stakeholders could increase efforts towards addressing the problem."

The Liberian Leader said protest actions by some Liberians to raise awareness and additional pressure about rape is consistent with Government's drive to fight all forms of violence against women and girls in the country but advised against undermining the effort by infiltrators bent on politicizing the efforts.

"The protesters' action is good because they are showcasing their concerns about a serious national problem and any good citizen should do so," the President said. "The problem is the unruly attitude of some of the protesters who were seen making political remarks and insulting public officials."

The President, who is the Feminist-In-Chief, furthered: "As a means of addressing the issue of rape, some people recommended capital punishment for guilty rapists, while others had different ideas. These conversations are ongoing and we welcome our civil society organizations and organizers of the rape protest to join in the fight."

To further demonstrate his commitment to the fight against rape, the President said he had since mandated the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to procure two DNA machines in addition to ones bought by our international partners to hasten the prosecution and trial of rape cases in the country.

During the LBS interview, President Weah also assured Liberians and the world at large that he is willing to meet with the organizers and people of "good intent" to discuss solutions to rape and other sexual violence crimes.

He encouraged organizers' representatives to come through the Ministries of Justice and Gender, Children and Social Protection to have a conversation on the issue of rape.

"Let us do the right thing so all can be treated fairly and rightly," Dr. Weah warned: "I regret that the protesters failed to present their statement of petition to a protégé of mine whom I sent to receive it. I think what matters is the message in the petition and not the messenger who receives the message. That was an error and did not reflect good intent at all on the part of the protesters."

He expressed concern about individuals who joined the protesters to cause disruption and violence.

"What I don't like is that there are other people who are within the group trying to disrupt what was meant for good. These are the people we need to advise," President Weah said.

"I just want to let them know I am with them. This is why I sent a proxy but they refused to present their petition. If I sent a protégé, they should see that person as the President. If you present your petition to my representative, I will definitely receive it. And you can hold me responsible if I don't act on the petition," the President added.

The Liberian Chief Executive also commended former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for joining the protest saying, "She is a citizen and former president of the country. She did a good thing."

President Weah, however, frowned on those in the crowd who disrespected and taunted the former president, adding: "She deserves to be respected and given a civil platform. She did a good thing by walking to the protesters. People should learn to respect their leaders and other dignitaries."

The president promised to do all he can to address the issue of rape, which is an age-old problem in the Liberian society and the world at large.

The President also denounced reported skirmishes between some protesters and the police.

"Since the inception of this government, there have been serial demonstrations and street protests on various issues and these have come to pass without incident," the President said. "I have instructed the Inspector of Police and his men not to ever handle protests with guns or any lethal instruments. I think they have followed that instruction. If there were attacks on peaceful protesters, I condemn it. But I think the police was after unruly protesters trying to undermine the good intent of others," he stated.

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