…As gov’t develop a roadmap to punish rapists
President George M. Weah has defended his decision not to personally receive the anti-rape protesters’ petition during their three-day protest last week, stressing that it was the protesters that never wanted him to get their message heard.
The protesters had refused earlier to present their petition to Gender Minister Williametta Saydee-Tarr and her deputy Mamensie Kabba based on mistrust.
According to the President, his presence at the protest never mattered, as demanded by the protesters, as much as that the petition that was not submitted to his deputies.
“Whenever you have issues, and you want to bring it to me and I cannot receive it, I have a deputy to receive it. So if you do not give your message to the deputy that I sent, then you do not want me to know what the issues are about.
“If you are marching on the street to raise your voice about a particular cause and I am not available to collect your concerned note or documents, for the respect of the country and the leadership you people elected, you should have given the note to the person I sent. It is not about who receives it but the message,” President Weah added.
His comment is in relation to the refusal of protesters to present their petition to Gender Minister Williametta Saydee Tarr and her deputy Mamensie Kabba, on an accusation that the two officials are aware of the rape problem and are directly responsible to act to end it, but are doing little or nothing to address the issue.
“Whosoever receive it [the petition], is not what you [are] looking at but the message going to the person you want to get to. So going forward, people work with me. So whenever I send them, give your message to them,” President Weah said. “It will come to me. Take heed to that and continue to be respectful. If you do not respect what we are doing as your leaders, then we will behave the way….we will always treat you good.”
The statement by the President yesterday comes less than a week after he had applauded the anti-rape protesters, who gathered to demand concrete actions from the government to stop rape — even though it ended in chaos as the joint security police brutalized protesters.
Meanwhile, after three days of a nationwide protest against the increasing rape cases in the country, President Weah, who did not receive the protesters’ petition, says his administration is poised to institute rigid punishment for rapists with the aim of ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) across Liberia.
President Weah, whom the public had criticized for being inactive in addressing the issue of rape and refusing to receive protesters petition directly, defended his administration’s record on the issues and its action to combat SGBV.
He added that long before the protesters could decide to take to the streets, his administration has already “initiated a cabinet-level decision on rape and had constituted a special board to explore ways and means by which the government can combat the rising tide of rape and other and SGBV cases.”
“The issue of rape is sensitive and I believe that we can be successful in ending it in Liberia and protect our young men and women. Again, we continue to engage those responsible to make laws to change what needs to be changed to protect our citizens,” President Weah said.
According to the President, his administration will play its role to help stop rape, but said a joint effort is needed to address the issue of rape in Liberia, stating “The Legislature needs to be totally involved to end rape.”
According to the Liberian leader, the media is needed to create more awareness about rape in partnership with the government. He said Liberians are serious about ending rape now and it is important for collaboration and partnership.
President Weah added that he supports the decision to stage a three-day campaign in Monrovia, which was aimed at creating awareness on rape, especially calling the attention of stakeholders.
According to a document presented to President Weah, violence against women and girls remains the most widely reported crime in Liberia.
The document indicated that SGBV remains a deeply rooted problem that has obstructed and devastated many lives.
Liberia’s Minister of Gender Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr, said the first action against rape or fighting rape is the holding of a national conference.
“We are considering a holistic approach. We have been meeting as a task force to look at this issue in a scientific way. This is not just a supervision issue. We have a taskforce made up of Justice Minister, Internal Affairs Minister, Labor Minister, Youth and Sports Minister, and Gender because the issue of rape is cross-cutting,” Minister Nagbe said.
The government is expected to hold two days conference in Monrovia on Thursday and Friday, September 3-4, 2020.