GOL, Please Send Our Ugandan Sister Home—Before It Is Too Late!

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 It pains us to learn that unscrupulous drug dealers take innocent young people and use them as part of their drug trafficking network, with the promise of riches.  If only more young ones would realize the grave danger of this illicit trade and run far away from it! 

Unfortunately, that was not the case with our 24 year-old Ugandan sister, Shirat Nalwadda, who was arrested at the Roberts International Airport on November 13, 2013 after Customs officers found 1.2 kilograms of heroin worth US$30,000 in her luggage.

That landed her in a cruel and merciless web of crime.  How could she tell the security that the heroin did not belong to her?  At airports all over the world there are constant warnings to passengers to accept NOTHING from other passengers. 

In the case of our Ugandan sister, the evidence was clear and decisive: illicit drugs were found in her luggage.  She was sent to court, indicted and convicted of unlawful possession, trafficking and distribution of narcotics drugs and given a four year prison sentence.

Judge Blamo Dixon, in his sentence, ordered that she be deported back to Uganda to serve out her sentence.

It is a matter of total embarrassment that the Liberian government has not been able to find the money to send this African sister back home.  All Africans eat rice, but that is not the staple in Uganda.  There, it is matoke (pronounced ma-to-kay).  That is a special variety of banana, the staple food of a majority of Ugandans (the Muganda), that country’s largest ethnic group.

That has been part of the problem with our sister Shirat.  She is not used to eating rice, and has pleaded with the jailers to serve her the matoke, which is not readily available in Liberia.

Following the Ebola outbreak last year, she was transferred to a prison in Bomi County.  There she has been for several months, kept under very deprived conditions, including lack of food.  Her attorney in Monrovia told this newspaper that when she had been confined at Monrovia’s Central Prison, he made sure to take her food daily.  But Bomi is too far for that.  The result: it is reported that she has stopped eating and has fallen seriously ill.

There is only one solution to this crisis: GOL should honor the judgment of its own court and SEND THE WOMAN BACK HOME!

It is totally untenable (indefensible, flawed) that the Liberian government should fail to honor the judgment of its own court.  And surely, the GOL should not do itself the indignity (embarrassment, shame) of telling the world it has no money to send its own African sister back home. 

Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan is a student of history.  He knows that Liberia was already an independent state by over a quarter century before Uganda was colonized by Great Britain.  The colonization followed the famous meeting between Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley in Uganda, 1871.  Stanley had been sent by the British to find Dr. Livingstone, who had traveled to the East African interior and for a while no one had heard of him.  The day they met deep inside the Ugandan forest, Stanley uttered to the British explorer one of history’s most famous sentences: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume!”

This historical reflection tells us how much older independent Liberia is than Uganda.

So surely, we can find the thousand dollars or less to send Shirat Nalwadda back home to serve out her prison sentence among her own people.  The GOL does not want to subject itself to any embarrassment—having to deal with the far more costly and shameful option of sending her body back to Uganda.

Foreign Minister Nguafuan, Justice Minister Sannoh, Finance Minister Konneh, Internal Affairs Minister Dukuly, please, act NOW before it is too late!      

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