Liberia: Police Haunted by Rape Allegation

Since the reported allegation of sexual assault and or rape levied against the Liberia National Police Montserrado regional commander, there has been claims and counter claims suggesting a dead end to the case.

Officer Joshua During was accused by one of his female subordinate officers of rape and assault against her person. According to her the incident took place on November 26, 2021.

Joshua, through a police preliminary investigation, denied all allegations linking him to the crime.

The survivor, Hawa (not her real name) has repeatedly, in series of radio interviews pointed fingers and assured the public that her revelation about the November 26, 2021 incident involving officer During is the truth and nothing else.

Earlier today in an interview with WOMEN TV-LIBERIA, Hawa, in a state of desperation, threatened to kill herself if justice is not served.

"The next body your will see hanging will be me and, before I take my life, I'll write everything word for word so the world get to know that I never got justice for being raped by a ranking officer of the force I am serving", Hawa told WOMEN TV-LIBERIA.

She has worked as a Patrol officer of the LNP for the past 10 years but expressed regrets over the current trend of the case involving her and officer During.

Hawa disclosed that comments of mockery have been directed to her since she took to the media to seek justice, amid fear that there would be no redress to the matter.

"How can the Police, who are responsible for law and order, treat me like a dog? I am being told that nothing will come out of this case because officer During is a close associate of the Police IG Patrick Sudue," she narrated.

Her disappointment has grown to a point where she feels committing suicide is the only means to escape shame, disgrace and trauma. "My home is not together anymore, my husband does not talk to me like before, my body is declining as though I'm sick. I'm dying slowly and if I can't get justice, then let me die so my children can be free from this," she cried.

Hawa, during the interview, disclosed that officers who were investigating the matter at the LNP were seen holding discussion about the conclusion of the case in the Police chat room prior to reaching her.

Rape, under Liberia's new penal code, is a crime against the state especially towards a minor and is punishable by jail sentence of 7 to 10 years or more.

The Liberia National Police have entirely rubbished Hawa's claim against officer During, terming it as false and misleading.

The Investigation team, headed by the LNP deputy Inspector General for Crime Services Prince Mulbah, stated in a press conference on February 7, 2022, that elements required in authenticating the truthfulness of a rape allegation as required by law weren’t discovered throughout it’s investigation in regards to Hawa's allegation.

Hawa earlier accused Officer During of fighting and overpowering her with his strength, thereby having sex with her in his office chair during the late evening hours at the LNP headquarters.

Contrary to this, the chief investigator of the case, Col. Mulbah, disclosed that examination and other checkups conducted did not show any physical injuries or bruises as evidence to suggest an act of force used while the alleged crime was being portrayed.

The Investigation further revealed that both Officer During and Officer Hawa appeared to have a close relationship prior to the incident, which was traceable by phone calls on the call log.

Further rubbishing the claims by Hawa, Col Mulbah mentioned that  Officer Hawa had an altercation with Officer During's wife, which resulted in abusive exchanges via text messages on November 29, 2021.

Following the Press conference, it was made known that, based on Police Investigation that officer During is free of the alleged crime of rape, as per the findings.

Women Rights advocates are taken aback at the Police Investigation and its outcome.

They questioned the LNP handbook of retaining officer During in his post, while earlier on it was reported that officer During would be disrobed and or placed under investigation before returning to work. To the contrary, since the incident, Officer During had been going to work normally while the investigation was ongoing.

Pundits also believe that the fight against Sexual and Gender Based Violence is being undermined at the level of the LNP.

During the 5th annual message of President George Weah, he emphasized that there would be a 30% reduction of SGBV cases by 2030. 

Since his pronouncement, there has been repeated incidents of rape and other SGBV cases across Liberia.

The outcome of the LNP Investigation on the alleged Rape and Sexual assault case has plunged Hawa into complete dispair as her hopes for getting justice seem dashed. 

As to whether there would be a counter lawsuit filed against Officer During in this matter, has not been established, since Hawa is currently unsure about her next course of action.

Hawa is one of several women who feel that power dynamics have a role to play in the dispensing of justice to victims of sexual crimes.

In 2020, a total of over 992 cases were reported of gang rape, sodomy, and other GBV related cases. 

Recently, the LNP reported that Little Blessing Moulton, 13, died of pain unrelated to alleged rape. Family members and advocates were discouraged at the JFK Medical Center's report over the death of the child. Little Blessing was alleged raped by a 31-year-old man, known as Massaquoi, who is currently behind bars.