Your Excellency Sir/Madam,
I would like to commence this advocacy piece by unusually introducing the span of my general advocacy for Africa. In resume, this commenced in 2002, in Guinea (Conakry), when refugees were being seriously abused by UNHCR/BNCR in Guinea – i.e., by the very international/local counterpart bodies that were responsible for the protection and welfare of refugees in Guinea.And later, in collaboration with a very vibrant Guinean human right organization, OGDH, we, (the Refugee Community in Guinea), formed the only refugee human right organization, called the Council of Refugee Advocates in Guinea (CRAG), with me as their first President, until I relocated to Sierra Leone in 2007. During my tenure as President, we (CRAG) wrote the popular refugee advocacy and welfare documents to Geneva – “Forceful Relocation (Repatriation) of Sierra Leonean/Liberian Refugees in Guinea” (a 10 page Complaint/Appellant document on UNHCH Guinea BNCR empirical abuses/violations against refugees) &“Proposals for the Enhancement of Refugee Welfare in Guinea;”which attracted direct investigation and intervention from UN/UHNCR headquarters in Geneva from 2005 to 2007. My compulsive purpose of doing this above advocacy resume is to intimate you that my advocacy is completely apolitical, passionate and objective, as from a dogged Pan-Africanist, rights and anti-graft campaigner, who irrevocably opines that Africa and Africans deserve far better than what most of our current malevolent benefactor-leaders/public servants are giving us. Thus,upon my return to Sierra Leone and till now, I have written over 50 advocacy pieces and documents on human rights or commoners’ interests, anti-graft and African democracy, etc. And in my advocacy career, I have come to realize, with painful disdain that more often than not, in Africa, the constituted bodies or authorities that should be protecting vulnerable and indigent people, end up exploiting and/or abusing them invariably – like a real “vampire system.”
I am so disheartened to doyou this piece, due to the ever hiking spate of very sinister and erratic rape (and other SGBV cases) in Liberia and Sierra Leone especially; and several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the continent as a whole. And it should be noted that “RAPE”(of girls, women ad boys) is a “crime against humanity”and a very dehumanizing, as well as psychologically traumatizing menace in any society – regardless of who the perpetrators are.
Quite recently, in Liberia, I witnessed, observed, covered (and stood in solidarity with) thousands of Liberian women, girls, boys and men, who held demonstrations from August25 – 27, 2020 – to register, in no uncertain terms, the unacceptable and preponderantly alarming rate of rape in Liberia, on a daily basis. And I would like to interject here too that in July 2019, thousands of women and other sympathizers staged a “sit-in-protest action” right in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entrance; which is the current seat of Presidential power in Liberia. However, from my personal reflection, their petitions and heart cry were neither heeded to, nor countenanced by the government and pertinent authorities and dastardly predators of this heinous crime of rape. This is regardless of the very stringent laws passed against perpetrators of rape and other SGBV crimes, during Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s, (a dogged female rights and political activist’s) regime. As such, even this ageing former President and Nobel Peace laureate, stood in solidarity with the protesters (along with his ageing former Vice President, Joseph Boakai and other politicians from the various political divide; and including other renowned civil society activists and actors, such as Nobel Peace laureate, Madam Leymah Gbowee, and a host of entertainment celebrities.
Notwithstanding, it was rather very unfortunate that after the protesters presented their petitions to the Liberian Legislature, at their Capitol building on the first day of the protest, their passionate request to hand-deliver their petitions to their President, George Manneh Weah, who always prides himself as the “Chief Feminist” in Liberia, was dashed, as he could not turn out to face the protesters – rather he sent his Minister of Finance, Mr. Samuel Tweh on the second day of this momentous and highly emotive protest action; whom the protesters out rightly refused to deliver the petition to. And I must further state that the escalating spate of gruesome rape incidence in Liberia certainly demands very exigent national action as an emergency – in lieu of the usual empty and nonchalant“political clichés of “zero-tolerance” to it and other societal menaces and legitimate plights of the commoners in Liberia.
And according to the Liberian government’s research findings, of the over 990 reported rape cases, only about 5% have been conclusively adjudicated in the courts of Liberia; while children less than 3 years are being grossly violated, dehumanized and even sometimes traumatized to death. What a grotesque, sub-human phenomenon in this 21st century that is by and large treated with levity by our constituted authorities and actors. This could inform why some very emotive, traumatized and passionate women, among the protesters could “strip naked” on the third and last day of their protestation – even when they were being molested, chased and brutalized by state security operatives.
So, as I categorically stated in my 14th and 15th Editions of these submissions, it is glaring that our Liberian (African) leaders and public servants generally do not subscribe to any other democratic principles, tenets, practices and provisions, except their “do or die” electioneering procedures – which is a relic and vestige of what I consider the obnoxious pre-colonial “African patronage system” that is becoming so entrenched in our national governance and economic systems in this 21st century. What a shame – African leaders!!
With yet so much to say on such an emotive societal menace, but with brevity of space, I would like to conclude the Liberia rape saga by proffering some reasons why I think rape is getting more alarming by the day; as well as infer some solutions alongside.
Among a retinue of reasons for the ever growing incidence of rape across the country, are the ensuing, in resume:
– The lack of adequate governmental support towards rape survivors and victim’s families.
– The lack of adequate “safe-housing” facilities and support from both governmental and non-governmental actors – in fact, in Montserrado County, (the seat of power, most populous and rape-prone area,) there are arguably only 2 functional safe-housing outlets; one operated by the government and another by a passionate private gender activist and philanthropist – both of which are grossly underfunded and under supported.
– Community/domestic compromises, due to family ties, political and societal status of alleged rape predators, poverty and low self-dignity, etc.
– Police compromise and exploitation of rape survivors and/or their families; compromise with influential and affluent predators and police also demanding money from survivors, in order to effect arrest on alleged perpetrators, etc.
– Compromise in the legal system and undue protraction of rape case litigation in some our courts.
– The absence of an “Exclusive Fast-Track-Courts” for rape and other SGBV crimes; (as it also ought to apply in alleged corruption cases).
– Lack of adequate and sustained community awareness, engagements and psycho-social counselling on SGBV issues.
– Ritualistic purposes, killings and psychological perversions and very poor self-esteem, etc.
So, in my opinion, the government and other aligned governmental and non-governmental actors need to step up their support, interventions and actions on this very appalling social menace and treat it as a real “national emergency.”
Do permit me, your honorable self, to end this edition, by highlighting the Sierra Leone rape saga – which I briefly mentioned in my 14th Edition. In summary, I would put forward that the Sierra Leonean situation is almost as grim as the Liberian – as of twin-nations with very similar socio-economic and political phenomena. So one would almost translate and apply similar scenarios and solutions to both countries; i.e., “as in Liberia, so in Sierra Leone,” with very remote peculiarities.
Having reflected thus as an insider in both countries, I would like to briefly examine a specific national intervention in Sierra Leone bothering on gender issues. While in Sierra Leone for over nine months recently, in 2019/20, I saw several impressive and eccentric launches of the “Hands-off Our Girls” campaigns by their vibrant First Lady, Madam Fatima Jabbie Bio, (and her office), strategically traversing the 5 provinces in Sierra Leone; with very well attended and popularized laudable publicity stunt initiative as that. Furthermore, her initiative to freely distribute sanitary pads to mature girl students in all public schools across the country – commencing with Freetown is quite commendable. Do keep up with those interventions Your Excellency.
However, without mincing words, I am yet to understand and see the tangible impact of these campaigns in mitigating rape and proactively addressing SGBV issues, which are also on an alarming trend right across the nooks and crannies of Sierra Leone.While I am not trying in any way to decry her initiatives and interventions, I would frankly opine that in my observation, over the years, many of our public sector initiatives in Africa generally, and especially towards abused, vulnerable and indigent persons, end up maximally benefiting the initiators/actors, with very little impact on the actual beneficiaries. So, we just keep going round the vicious syndrome of a scoundrel of“vampire system.
Therefore, in finally concluding this piece, I would like to urge and appeal to the Sierra Leone First Lady and all other humanitarian and national ventures, to institute a decisive paradigm shift that tends towards popular interest and welfare – thus changing our insensitive posture and reckless abandon of the welfare of the masses; especially the abused, disadvantaged, vulnerable and impoverished people in our artificially imposed poverty-stricken nations. And even more importantly, make “rape” a disgusting menace in our societies that perpetrators will be ashamed of.
May I close by demanding too that both the recent gruesome rape case investigations and outcomes of 5 year old Kadija in Sierra Leone and that of the 3 year old in Liberia, be thoroughly and expeditiously concluded and outcomes made public – with guilty predators receiving maximum penalties as determined by law. And that “RAPE,” as a “CRIME AGAINST HUMABITY” be given maximum priority government attention, sustained intervention and support, in order to make the girl child and women safe and sane in our societies.
GOD BLESS THE STRUGGLING WOMEN OF AFRICA!! GOD BLESS AND PROTECT OUIR BEAUTIFUL AND RESILIENT GIRL CHILD OF AFRICA!!
Dr. Abraham J. Williams
(Rights Advocate &Expert/Pan–Africanist)
– OrganisationGuineenne de Defense des Droits de L’Homme et du Citoyen(OGDH)
– Federation Internationale des Droits de L’Homme / International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
– Union Inter-Africaine des Droits de L’Homme / Inter-African Union for Human Rights (UIDH)
– Amnesty International (AI)
– I Love Black People