The frequent appearances of ‘country devils’ in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, are disrupting ordinary lives as well as affecting medical services at the government hospital, Dr. G. Gorbee Logan, County Chief Health Officer, has said.
Dr. Gorblee said that country devils’ appearances are accompanied by wild shouts that frighten health workers and patients.
He made the alarming disclosure Wednesday when he presented the situation report at a two-day Health Review Meeting with implementing partners at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia.
“The Gonzippo, Beafine and Sackie clinics, for example, are always closed due to the repeated appearances of country devils and the staffs of those clinics have threatened to abandon their assignments,” Dr. Logan said.
“We decided to make it a part of our report to inform authorities to meet with the county officials to find a solution which will allow our health workers to work without fear or intimidation from any source,” he said.
According to traditional elders, when a Country Devil comes out of the bush, non-members of either the Poro or Sande societies hide to avoid being forcibly initiated into one of the societies for a period of three to six months.
The compelling of boys and girls as well as men and women to enlistment is one of the recruitment strategies of the traditional societies which have been experiencing a low enrollment since 2012, according to sources from both Poro and Sande societies.
The enlisting of non-members by force ceased after the Liberian government suspended the practice in 2014 for 90 days.
But Dr. Logan said three out of 22 health centers in the county have suffered from the repeated visits of Country Devils to the towns where the clinics are located.
In June 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reviewed the licenses of Poro and Sande societies, with the involvement of elders and chiefs and stated that violators would bear the full penalty of the law.
The Bureau of Customs and Cultural Affairs of the MIA in collaboration with the National Council of Chiefs, Elders and Zoes urged their council members throughout the country to carry out their functions within the confines of traditional laws and guidelines governing the practices of Poro and Sande societies.
However, the MIA reiterated that no Poro, Sande or Zoe conductor shall initiate any child or any student into a grove during the normal school year.
“In order to avoid interference or disruption of normal school activities and the academic progress of students, no zoe shall force any child or adult male or female as well as any person into initiation in the Poro or Sande Society without the knowledge and consent of significant parents or guardians,” said the statement signed by the Chairman of the National Traditional Council of Chiefs, Elders and Zoes and approved by then Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly.
It emphasized that Poro and Sande practitioners found in violation of the Ministry’s Administrative Circular No.21and 13 respectively, which contain the approved guidelines governing the practice of Poro and Sande Societies, shall be penalized in keeping with those guidelines and regulations.