... Says Former Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele
Liberia’s former Foreign Affairs and Commerce Minister, Olubanke King-Akerele, says the country needs women and they should stand up to support each other and the men should also join the support (to women) as well.
Madam King-Akerele’s comments come following Gbarpolu County Senator Botoe Kanneh’s narration of her ordeal during the 2020 Special Senatorial Election, which brought her to the Legislature, and how the women’s support contributed to her victory.
Madam King-Akerele said judging from Senator Kanneh’s encounters during the 2020 election, women wanting to contest in the 2023 elections must begin to work now, as the 2023 elections process for women has already begun. She made the assertion on May 2, at a one-day mediation dialogue with traditional leaders (Chiefs) under the flagship program: “The Women’s Situation Room” initiated by the Angie Brooks International Centre, held at the Cecil Dennis Auditorium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Monrovia.
“You heard Senator Kanneh talk about the support she got from us. How did we support her, we all put together funds and had a box just for her personally. Even the international partners passed and put something in this box,” Madam King-Akerele said.
She maintained that the initiative was important to make women in Gbarpolu and the world know Kanneh was not alone. Beyond financial support, Madam King-Akerele said they had meetings with the Minister of Justice Frank Musah Dean and Minister of Internal Affairs Varney Sirleaf, to make them understand that the women were not going to accept the “nonsense” coming from the country devils in Gbarpolu County.
Madam King-Akerele said the aim of the devils was to kill Madam Kanneh and allege that the decision came from the higher ups because the country devil does not act by itself.
“This is a reality, and a message we have to give to the feminist in chief, President George M. Weah and every other level. We had many women who walked and went to Gbarpolu. We are having elections coming up and the International Community needs to know about their support and details what the money will be used for,” Madam Akerele said.
Earlier, Gbarpolu County Senator Boto Kanneh, said her victory is as a result of support from individuals and women’s organizations and groups. Senator Kanneh said she believes that the devils planned to kill during the election for participating but give God the glory for her life.
According to her, many women will not want to go through said struggle just to get elected, especially the threats and risks from country devils.
Senator Kanneh’s narration about being chased by the country devil on several occasions and at different points would be described as a shock to Liberia’s democracy and fragile peace got the attention of both women and men in the hall. United Nations Representative to Liberia, Comfort Lamptey, has called for documenting Senator Kanneh's tale as the country heads to the 2023 general elections as it serves as a lesson on how the government and International Community can work to ensure that the environment is suitable for women to complete.
“Senator Kanneh’s story is serious and should not be the prize women pay to complete or participate in elections. If we say why women are not running, it’s for a reason like this because after listening, you have to ask yourself if you have to go through this. These are tactics that can be used to deter women from running,” Lamptey said.
According to her, this should not be the kind of environment in a democratic system or country for women who are competing for positions.
“Women are competing in order to ensure that society has better schools, healthcare and other needs and it helps to benefit the entire community. This should not be a favor. Lot of work needs to be done to ensure that a better environment is created for women to complete,” she said.
Madam Lamptey calls on Liberian women to always support each other, especially during elections, stating “someone should be held to account for Senator Kanneh’s ordeal.” Frances Johnson-Morris, former National Elections Commission chairperson and former Minister of Justice said it was time for the women of Liberia to stand up and support each other.
Madam Johnson-Morris said though she heard about Senator Kanneh’s tale, she was concerned about the role played by the National Elections Commission because they have a role to play. She calls on the women to always hold together as holding together will make money to come and the support will be huge.
Korpo Howard, president of the Montserrado County Rural Women, said lack of cash hampers women’s political participation and therefore, calls for more support to women. Madam Howard who lauded the women both home and abroad said the role played by the women in Senator Kanneh’s election must continue to exist.
Bong County District #6 Representative, Moima Briggs-Mensah said more needed to be done by women if they want to win more seats at the Legislature.
“Potential women who contested in past elections now hold positions in government and may be convinced not to contest 2023 elections. They will give us half of the cake and make us think it is the entire cake,” Rep. Brigg-Mensah said.
“If we stay together, we will achieve a lot. If we come together, it makes a lot of sense. It shakes people because they know when women come together, what can happen,” Rep. Briggs-Mensah said.
Rep. Briggs-Mensah said until the chiefs are elected in accordance with the Local Government Act, they will not serve their community rights because most of them have become partisans.
“If the leadership calls on them, they will go but if they are elected like me, they will stand up and say this is not right,” Rep. Briggs-Mensah said.
Monday’s program titled: “Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Liberia through Promoting Women Leadership and Participation in Civil and Political Life and Their Strengthened Role in Conflict Resolution brought together former chairperson of the National Elections Commission Frances Johnson-Morris, eminent women, traditional leaders, lawmakers and Liberia’s peacebuilding office.