Scores of Liberian women went ‘naked’ Tuesday, May 27, on the grounds of the Capitol Building in protest of their late husbands’ “benefits”.
The widows are demanding benefits they claim are owed them by government since their ex-husbands died in active service while serving in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
The women, and a very small group of men, gathered in the fence of the Capitol Building virtually in their ‘birthday’ suits, demanding redress from lawmakers.
Attempting to attract the attention of lawmakers, who were already locked up in both chambers of the Capitol Building carrying out their regular legislative duties, private security guards personnel embarrassingly prevented the widows from moving any further.
Some security men were seen avoiding looking directly at the widows’ while at the same time trying to restore law and other.
The widows began by creating a circle in the field, chanting revolutionary slogans and later attempting to march towards the building. Their move immediately sparked up concern in almost all offices, thereby forcing onlookers to look outside the building for a firsthand glimpse at what was taking place.
Their ‘emotional protest’ halted normal working activities for hours. Regrettably, however, no lawmaker, including House Speaker Alex Tyler and Senate Pro-Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley attempted to engage the widows.
Speaker Tyler was seen using the entrance opposite the University of Liberia main campus in order to leave the Capitol.
Quizzed on what prompted such an usual action, the women indicated that they were tired of the many promises provided by the Commander-in-Chief President Johnson Sirleaf relative to the matter.
“The government continues to play games with us. Since we embarked on this campaign, the government has not been able to look into our matter. Once, because of the elections President Sirleaf was able to give small money so that we could leave the streets. Since then, nothing has been done to address our plight,” an elderly woman amongst the group indicated.
Even though the women described their action as “unpleasant,” they believe that this is the best way possible to express their frustration to the government they claim lacks interest in addressing their plight.
The Comprehensive Accra Peace Agreement (CPA) recommended that the new AFL be restructured in a way that it would be de-politicized and de-fractionalized. The batch of soldiers, which allegedly contained the husbands of these women, was ethnically entrenched and heavily politicized. The army even became one of the warring factions during Liberia’s 15-year civil war.
On that basis, men and women of the army were released off their duty and later encouraged to reapply for proper training. As part of the restructuring process, many of the living army personnel received their benefits. Payment was made to the some of these women on behalf of the dead husbands.
In view of this, widows of the soldiers are now claiming several benefits from government.
It is not clear as to what the widows’ next plan of action is, but legislative observers believe that the women will not leave the Capitol any sooner.
Up to press time, many of the widows were still seen sitting around the flag posts discussing their way forward.