Several weeks ago, on Friday, March 20, 2015, to be exact, we published an editorial appealing to Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, Finance Minister Amara Konneh, Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh and Internal Affairs Morris Dukuly to arrange for the deportation of Ugandan prisoner, Ms. Shirat Nalwadda, to serve her drug trafficking sentence in her own country.
But since she was convicted after being arrested at Roberts International Airport on November 13, 2013 by Customs officers who found 1.2 kilograms of heroin worth US$30,000 in her luggage, she remains in a Liberian jail. This is despite the ruling by Judge Blamo Dixon that she be deported to Uganda to serve out her sentence.
At one point there was a scare that Shirat would starve to death because she was refusing rice, in preference for matoke, which is neither grown nor sold in Liberia. It is a special variety of banana which is the staple of Uganda’s largest ethnic group, the Baganda
Following the Ebola outbreak last year Shirat was transferred to a prison in Bomi County. Her attorney told this newspaper that when she was confined at the Monrovia Central Prison, he often carried food to her. But Bomi is too far to continue doing that, especially since he is without a vehicle. Last March there was another scare that she had stopped eating and that sparked our March 20 editorial.
As we said in that editorial, it remains entirely untenable (indefensible) that the Liberian government should fail to honor the judgment of its own court. It is equally embarrassing for the government of Liberia to claim that it lacks the money to send Shirat back home. It defies reasoning that this government cannot raise US$1,500 to send this 24 year-old woman back home to serve out her sentence among her own people?
What our officials are forgetting is that by their failure to act they are embarrassing not only their country and its government, but two of their own women in particular—President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected President of Liberia and Africa—and Madam Dr. Thelma Awori, Liberian Consul General in Kampala.
We make one last appeal to the Liberian government officials concerned to send Shirat Nalwadda back home without further delay to serve her sentence as ordered by the court. If there are any obstacles between agencies of the two governments concerned, they should be expeditiously resolved so that the court’s order can be carried out.
We call on the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia to get involved to ensure that the government complies with the court’s orders regarding this prisoner. The last thing we want is to find ourselves in the most embarrassing and shameful position of sending Shirat back home in a box.
Remember the age-old Liberian saying: Small shame is better than big shame.