‘Life under Threat’

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The exposure of the recruitment of teen males and females in the two core traditional secret societies in the country has caused an alleged threat on the life of B. S. Washington, his uncle-in-law alerted.

Mr. Kun Togba said, since Mr. Washington, his nephew-in-law testified and preached against the ills of the Poro (male secret society) and Sande (female secret society) in the Buduburum Refugee Camp in Ghana in 2004 he has since been hunted by fellow Liberians who feel that he exposed the societies.

According to Togba, since 2006, Washington’s wife and two children are yet to be seen after they returned home. He said their home, somewhere on the outskirts of Monrovia, was attacked in the same year by“so-called aggrieved and combative members of the societies.”

“Since then, we have yet to see Washington’s missing family up to this date.  This indicates that his life is in jeopardy both in Ghana and Liberia,” Kun Togba said. “I have even reported the case to the Liberia National Police (LNP) but all is futile and let me say Washington should never-ever return back home before he goes missing like his wife and children.”

Mr Togba said, his nephew-in-law began evangelizing against the Poro and Sande when he was converted in Ghana in a CHREDA, Christian Inter-Denominational Assembly, a charismatic church.

According to him, Washington received many threats from Liberian Poro members residing in Ghana so he fled to Egypt. Miller Zubah, a close friend to Washington who also is against Poro Sande practices, stayed in Buduburam Camp and was later killed under mysterious circumstances in July 2005. His decapitated body was found outside the refugee settlement.

“While in Egypt there was a lot of misunderstanding between the refugees and the UNHCR regarding refugee status and resettlement to a third country via the quota program. During that time the refugees decided to protest peaceably outside the UNHCR office so Washington left for Guinea”, Mr Togba said.

“After living in Guinea for two years his wife took the two children and returned to Liberia because she was tired of living in exile, said Togba. He crossed the border from Guinea to Liberia in order to prevent his family from entering Liberia and it is when he almost got killed and his family is still missing or dead.”

When asked about any family reported missing in 2006 the Public Relations Officer (PRO)  of the LNP neither confirmed nor denied it but said he would check the record book and call later since at that time he was not in the employ of the LNP.

When contacted, Reverend Augustine Akoi, the Senior Pastor of the Christian Inter-Denominational Assembly (Ghana) which Washington attended, confirmed that it was in his Church that Washington got converted and began preaching against the Poro and Sande. “He received death threats before fleeing,” he added.

However, when also contacted Washington confirmed he has been hunted by what he called sympathizers of the Poro and Sande Societies after he testified and preached against them in Ghana.

“During the April 6 war, I was sent from Monrovia to spend time with my uncle in Bong County, and it was how I was given to the Poro secret society at the age of 15,” Mr. Washington said. ”While in the Poro bush, in the forest for about two weeks, I escaped and re-joined my family in Monrovia.”

According to Washington, he escaped to Ghana when his father and brother and sister-in-law were murdered.

“When I got converted and received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, I subsequently became an evangelist and testified against the Poro and the FGM and that was when my trouble started,” Mr. Washington said.

He narrated that besides most teen males and females are forced into the Sande or Poro bush for either a crime one of their parents committed or in fulfillment of a promise made to enroll their children in the secret bush

According to him, the Poro bush is where men and boys are sent to be indoctrinated into the devil’s activities and groomed into men ready for marriage, while Sande bush is where women and girls are sent to be circumcised and groomed into women ready for marriage, as culture and tradition demand.

“It can hurt much more than delivery pain when they are cutting your clitoris with a knife because they cannot numb the place but only put leaves to cover the sore,” says Washington.

“Some of the men can be killed, in the name of the Devil who eats you,” Washington disclosed.

Meanwhile, the exposure of the secrets of the Poro and Sande Societies is a death penalty for any member.

Sometimes, the son or daughter’s parents who are members of the Poro and Sande societies can be punished for the child’s violation.

The Liberian government is yet to abolish the Poro and Sande societies amidst outcry from international organizations that FGM is harmful.

Cultural icons say the application of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as a traditional Liberian cultural practice, is common among the activities carried out in the Sande bush.

But a majority of the members of the Legislature believe that the “act is the true identity of the Liberian people that can never be traded or abolished for anything else.”

Bong County Senator Henry Yallah and Representative Edward W. Karfia have successfully led the campaign and the practices are still ongoing in the country.

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