Defence for Children International-Liberia (DCI-L), a child right advocacy group, has called on the government through the ministries of Justice and Labor to investigate 34 children trafficked from communities in Todee, Lower Montserrado County.
Foday M. Kawah, DCI-L Executive Director, at a press conference held in Monrovia, said DCI-Liberia during its preliminary investigation conducted in Todee communities including Zuana Town, Kpenibu Town, Dowee Town, Tokpalon Town, Gbeno Town, Juhag Town, Kaiyeah Town, Gbajah Town, Beabah Town, Nyehn town and Bona Fahn and came to a conclusion that 23 parents have been allegedly victimized by child trafficking.
Kawah, speaking on June 9, said the incident occurred ten years ago (2004-2009), during which 34 children were allegedly “abducted, smuggled and trafficked” from their parents and subsequently adopted by the West African Children Support Network (WACSN) without their consent.
He said out of a total of 34 children, there were 12 boys and 22 girls who are believed to be trafficked in the US and other parts of the world.
Kawah, therefore, is calling on the government of Liberia to investigate at the level of the Probate Court whether or not the biological parents of these children gave consent prior to adoption; ascertain whether these children were adopted with their known names and that the state party takes urgent measures to abolish informal adoptions and expedite the enactment of the Adoption Bill, as well as ratify the 1993 Hague Convention No. 33 on Protection of Children and Cooperation regarding Inter-country Adoption and the Proper implementation or enforcement of the Anti-Trafficking law.
He also stressed the need for sustained awareness and sensitization among community dwellers and local stakeholders on child trafficking & child protection and improved collaboration between joint security forces and the community dwellers at border points.
DCI-Liberia boss alleged that the entire adoption processes by West African Children Support Network (WACSN) lacked transparency and had a trace of fraud and deception, as it relates to inter-country adoption.
Kawah said during their investigation, “The Parents/Guardians of those trafficked children appealed that the government and its development partners including Civil Society Organizations should help in the reunification of the children with their families because they believe that the arrangement had not been in their best interest including their children.”
“They believe that more need to be done with the involvement of the government and the Adoption Agency because they have not been able to establish the exact location of their children since they were taken from them to Montserrado and other parts of the country for education, not for adoption,” Kawah said.
Liberia is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), the main international instrument relating to children’s rights which article 35 emphasizes: “The obligation of member states to protect children from child trafficking and similar practices.”
It urges state parties to take all appropriate ‘national, bilateral, and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of, or trafficking of children for any purpose or in any form.
In 2013, the Expert committee of the UNCRC recommended that, in all cases of adoption, the State party must ensure that the best interests of the child are of paramount consideration and that the parents or legal guardians have given their informed consent for the adoption.
Amos Koduo, an agent of WACSN, said as an institution accredited by the government of Liberia to adopt children in Liberia, even though he cannot remember all the cases but in 2005, many people left Todee and brought their children for adoption.
Koduo said “People brought children to the agency from Todee and they are still in Liberia. We never went there to take children. Those families brought their children to us; I have written documents to that.”