Liberia Declares Rape A National Emergency

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 25, 2017 shows former football player and candidate in Liberia’s presidential elections, George Weah posing during a photo session in Paris.
Weah was sworn in as Liberia’s new president on January 22, 2018, in the country’s first transition between democratically-elected leaders since 1944. / AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET

 

Liberian President George Weah has declared rape a national emergency and has ordered new measures to tackle the problem after a recent spike of cases in the poor West African state.

The moves comes after thousands of Liberians protested rising incidents of rape in the capital Monrovia last month, in a bid to draw attention to the country’s alarming rate of sexual assault.

Late on Friday, Weah said he would install a special prosecutor for rape in Liberia, as well as set up a national sex offender registry, a statement from his office said.

The government will also establish a so-called “national security task force” on sexual- and gender-based violence.

The high rates of rape in impoverished Liberia, forced to contend both with war and the Ebola virus in recent years, has been a longstanding concern.

A UN report in 2016 recorded 803 rape cases the previous year in the country of 4.5 million, and found that only two percent of sexual violence cases led to a conviction, for example.

It was the resulting sense of impunity and the legacy of the 14-year civil war between 1989 and 2003, when rape was commonplace, that had created the current problem, it said.

Incidents of rape appear to have risen sharply this year, however.

Margaret Taylor, the director of Liberia’s Women Empowerment Network, told AFP last month that her NGO had recorded 600 cases of rape between June and August, for example.

That was up from between 80 and a hundred cases in May, she said.

Weah’s announcement of a national rape emergency follows a conference in the capital Monrovia on tackling sexual violence on Wednesday.

Addressing the meeting, the footballer-turned-president said Liberia was “witnessing what is actually an epidemic of rape within the pandemic, affecting mostly children and young girls across the country.”

Weah’s office said in the statement on Friday that further anti-rape measures will be announced.

 

AFP

Liberia’s Taylor Denied COVID-19 Jail Move

 

 

Judges have rejected a bid by Liberian ex-president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor to be moved from a British jail, where he claimed he risks dying from coronavirus.

Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence at Frankland prison near Durham in northeastern England after being convicted in 2012 by a court in The Hague of fuelling civil conflict in Sierra Leone.

The warlord had argued that due to a “massive outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK” his life was at risk from continued detention in Britain and that he wanted to be moved to a “safe third country”.

But the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone said in a statement late Monday that “Taylor had failed to comply with court directions that he specify which countries he considered safe.”

The court said Teresa Doherty, the duty judge dealing with Taylor’s application, “noted that the World Health Organization has not declared any place in the world safe from COVID-19”.

Taylor’s claims that his prison was overcrowded and offered bad conditions were also “at variance with facts”, the judge found.

Taylor lost a previous bid to be allowed to serve the remainder of his term in an African jail in 2015.

Taylor was the first former head of state to be jailed by an international court since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in Germany after World War II.

He was convicted in 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity over acts committed by Sierra Leone rebels he aided and abetted during the war.

The residual court is the successor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was established by the UN in 2002 to try those who bore “the greatest responsibility” for the atrocities committed during the civil war.

AFP

AfDB: Adesina’s Re-election Signifies Africa’s Confidence In His Leadership – George Weah

Liberian President, George Weah, speaks during the virtual swearing-in ceremony of Akinwumi Adesina as AfDB President in Cote DÍvore on September 1, 2020.

 

President George Weah of Liberia has congratulated Dr Akinwumi Adesina on his re-election as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a second five-year term.

Speaking virtually during Adesina’s swearing-in ceremony, Weah said that his re-election shows the level of confidence the continent and its leaders have in him and Liberia looks forward to partnering with his leadership.

Describing Adesina’s re-election as historic, the Liberian leader said the AfDB President was able to distinguish himself within the past five years.

“Liberia looks forward to the continuous leadership under your leadership. Dr Adesina my good friend, your re-election signifies Africa and the world’s confidence in your leadership.

“God bless you in your endeavours. All the best, my brother, and congratulations,” the Liberian President said.

READ ALSO: AfDB Will Support Africa With Quality Infrastructure In Healthcare, Manufacturing – Adesina

Adesina made history by becoming the first President of the financial institution to be re-elected for a second term of five years.

Upon assuming office in 2015, he brought several reforms aimed at empowering Africans and Africa on a global sphere with his election taking place electronically for the very first time.

Prior to his re-election on August 27, Adesina was mired in controversy after he was charged with alleged ethical violations.

However, after repeated investigations, the former Nigerian Agriculture Minister was cleared of all charges levelled against him, paving the way for his re-election.

He is the first Nigerian to hold the post of the bank’s President.

The AfDB, founded in 1964, is geared towards spurring “sustainable economic development and social progress” among member African countries.

Nigeria is the AfDB’s largest shareholder with 16.8 percent of rights, while Germany and the United States own 7.4 percent and 5.5 percent respectively.

UN To Use Liberian President Weah’s COVID-19 Awareness Song

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

Liberian President George Weah, a former international football legend, has released a song to be used by the UN to spread awareness about the new coronavirus, his office said Saturday.

Weah hopes to appeal to music lovers across the West African nation of some 4.5 million people to ensure COVID-19 does not spread further.

It is not the first time Weah has used his singing skills. During the 2014 Ebola crisis, when he was a senator, he released an awareness song.

“The song, ‘Let’s Stand Together to Fight Corona”, will be a part of the second phase of UNESCO’s #DontGoViral campaign, which they say is aimed at informing and sensitising communities across Africa about the dangers of the disease,” Weah’s office said.

“The organisers say the music will be subtitled in French and Arabic, and is expected to be featured on various platforms during the campaign – including the BBC and France 24.

READ ALSO: EU Tells UK Post-Brexit Deal Vital During COVID-19 Crisis

“The Liberian leader was also asked to be the public ambassador of the campaign in order to mobilise innovators and artists across Africa,” it said.

The song’s lyrics list several dos and dont’s — including washing hands regularly — to keep the virus at bay. Weah’s office said he penned it himself.

Liberia has 280 declared cases so far and 27 COVID-19 deaths.

AFP

‘I Was In Hell’: Infected Pregnant Nurse Recounts COVID-19 Ordeal

 

A health worker is reflected on a mirror while preparing to the COVID-19 zone of a hospital in Atizapan, Mexico, on May 22, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. PEDRO PARDO / AFP
PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: A health worker is reflected on a mirror while preparing to the COVID-19 zone of a hospital in Atizapan, Mexico, on May 22, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. PEDRO PARDO / AFP

 

Liberian nurse Sedia Marwolo was 32 weeks pregnant when medics arrived at her home and hauled her away to a special coronavirus hospital, which she likened to “hell”. 

It was the beginning of a 15-day ordeal during which the 38-year-old cried almost daily and was crippled with fear over whether her baby would survive her COVID-19 infection.

Marwolo’s bosses sent her home in early May — without giving her a reason — although colleagues later told her that her immediate supervisor had tested positive for coronavirus.

Five days after taking it upon herself to take a test, medical staff in protective gear were waiting for Marwolo at her house, while her neighbours watched her be taken away.

In a nightmare for an expecting mother, Marwolo was separated from her family and taken to a coronavirus intensive care unit in a military hospital east of the capital Monrovia.

“I was like in hell, alone, and abandoned,” she said. “To be pregnant and find yourself in a corona ICU is terrible”.

Liberia has recorded some 250 cases to date, with 24 fatalities — a low number compared with virus-stricken Europe and the United States.

But as with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that Liberia is ill equipped to handle a large outbreak.

The nation of some 4.8 million people was already badly hit during West Africa’s 2014-16 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 4,800 people in Liberia.

Inside the military hospital, Marwolo did not eat for two days out of fear. “I noticed that my baby was no longer moving in my stomach,” she said.

But she found a friend and ally in Harriette Mondaye, a midwife employed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), who counsels pregnant coronavirus patients.

“It was a difficult moment,” Mondaye said, adding that the infected nurse cried every time they spoke on the phone.

There are concerns that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable in the coronavirus crisis.

During the Ebola crisis in Liberia, wary hospitals sometimes refused to take in any patients, leaving some pregnant women to give birth in the street.

To avoid this scenario playing out again, the UNFPA is providing maternity advice in Liberia’s coronavirus hospital, Mondaye said.

Marwolo eventually began to eat again, and was discharged from the coronavirus hospital after 15 days, having recovered.

She then gave birth to baby girl, who did not contract the virus.

But after surviving the ordeal, Marwolo and her family now face the stigma of having had a brush with COVID-19.

Her husband and one of her three children also contracted the disease, and recovered, making the family near-pariahs in her neighbourhood.

“The stigmatisation is another hell for any victim of this virus to go through,” she said.

“It is like a curse. We are even planning to leave the community.”

Marwolo credits her recovery to help from Mondaye, and wants to undertake further studies in order to counsel people in similar positions of distress.

“She encouraged me, she gave me hope,” Marwolo said.

Liberia Eases Prayer Restrictions But Extends Lockdown

File Photo: Liberia’s president-elect and former football star George Weah. Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Liberian President George Weah has said he will partially lift restrictions on praying in mosques and churches aimed at curbing coronavirus while extending a lockdown in the capital Monrovia.

In a statement on Friday, the former international footballer said emergency measures announced in April would be extended for two weeks in the West African nation.

These include a ban on all movement between the country’s 15 counties, the closure of non-essential businesses, and stay-at-home orders for Monrovia’s roughly one million inhabitants.

But Weah said he would allow churches to resume services from May 17, and mosques from May 15, provided that they run at 25-per cent capacity to allow for social distancing.

Liberian authorities have recorded 199 cases of the coronavirus to date, with 20 fatalities.

As with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that Liberia is ill-prepared to handle a large outbreak.

The nation of some 4.8 million people was badly hit during West Africa’s 2014-16 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 4,800 people in the country.

Liberia Bans Travel From Affected Countries After First Coronavirus Case

FILE PHOTO: Liberia’s president George Weah. PHOTO: ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Liberian President George Weah on Monday said that all travel from countries with over 200 coronavirus cases would be banned after the West African state recorded its first infection.  

The impoverished country on Monday announced that head of its Environmental Protection Agency, who recently returned to Liberia from Switzerland, had tested positive for the virus.

Following the confirmation, Weah gave a televised address in which he said “all travels from all countries” with over 200 cases were henceforth banned.

“All citizens or residents are urged to avoid public gatherings and large crowds,” he said, adding that people should also minimise travel within Liberia.

Liberia is still recovering from a deadly Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016 that claimed over 4,800 lives.

On Monday, Weah said that the spread of coronavirus “represents the greatest threat to the health and the wellbeing of the people of Liberia since the Ebola epidemic”.

He urged regular hand washing and avoiding unnecessary physical contact with strangers.

“There should be no handshaking whatsoever. Use a nod of the head for greeting each other,” the footballer-turned-president said.

Travellers caught bypassing mandatory health screenings will also be arrested and placed in compulsory quarantine, he said.

Weah added that “an intensive tracing exercise” was underway to identify people with whom the coronavirus patient had come into contact.

AFP

Liberia Confirms First Case Of Coronavirus

 

Liberia announced its first case of the novel coronavirus on Monday, becoming the 27th African country to confirm the illness.

The patient is the head of Liberia’s environmental agency and had recently returned from Switzerland, the information ministry said in a statement.

“The country has registered its first case of coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19,” it said.

“The government urges everyone to remain calm. Health officials continue to search for all those who came in contact with the infected person in order to place them in quarantine,” it added.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Ghana Closes Schools, Bans Gatherings

Liberian President George Weah will address the country on Monday “to announce important new measures that the government will put in place to prevent transmission” of coronavirus, the statement added.

AFP

Fuel Scarcity: Liberia Suspends Petrol Import Licenses

Liberia is a country in West Africa.
Liberia is a country in West Africa.

 

Liberia has suspended all petrol import licenses and will conduct performance reviews following a crippling fuel shortage in which importers were accused of inflating their reserves. 

The government said it had sacked a deputy managing director of the state-owned company charged with ensuring consistent oil supplies on Friday, as well as suspending import licenses.

The West African country’s weeks-long petrol shortage ended last month, after having caused considerable disruption as commuters queued for hours at petrol pumps and businesses struggled to transport goods.

Fuel distributors and importers were accused of overstating their reserves to the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) — in charge of fuel supply — leading to shortages.

The problem was also compounded by an undredged port which prevented large tankers from docking and alleviating the crisis, government officials said at the time.

Liberian President George Weah said on Friday that the government was creating a special task force to investigate what went wrong.

Bobby Brown, the LPRC deputy managing director for operations, has been dismissed for “gross negligence and fraudulent activities,” the statement said.

Likewise, all petrol import licenses have been suspended pending case-by-case reviews, according to the statement.

The fuel shortage represented another blow for Weah, who has faced protests over poor living conditions in the impoverished country of some 4.8 million people.

The footballer-turned-president inherited an economy already devastated by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, and by the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak.

 

AFP

George Weah’s Critic Released In Sierra Leone

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019 Liberian radio show host and opposition leader Henry Costa (C) gestures to supporters after landing in Monrovia.  Zoom DOSSO / AFP

 

Sierra Leone said it had released a leading opponent of Liberian President George Weah after he had been briefly detained at Liberia’s request.

Opposition figure Henry Costa left Sierra Leone for the United States, where he usually resides, an immigration official in Sierra Leone and Liberian media said.

Sierra Leone authorities had stopped him from leaving the country on Tuesday, local media reported, in an affair allegedly related to problems with his travel documents.

READ ALSO: George Weah’s Critic Arrested In Sierra Leone

Costa, chairman of a youth activist group called the Council of Patriots (COP), is a fierce critic of footballer-turned-politician Weah and often attacks him on his popular radio show.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019 Liberian radio show host and opposition leader Henry Costa (C) gestures to supporters after landing in Monrovia. / AFP

Sierra Leone Information Minister Abdurahman Swarray told local radio on Thursday that Costa had been detained and released.

“There was a call from our counterparts in Liberia to investigate him and we did the due diligence,” Swarray said.

Costa had returned to his native Liberia from the United States last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6.

He was prevented from boarding a flight in Liberia last week for allegedly possessing forged travel documents, media in Liberia said earlier.

He was supposed to present himself to Liberian authorities on Wednesday but instead turned up in Freetown, capital of neighbouring Sierra Leone, where he was detained at the airport.

COP co-chair Mo Alie confirmed that Costa had been released and was on his way to the United States.

Liberia’s government did not comment on Costa’s detention on Wednesday, and it was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

The president is under growing pressure to revive the West African country’s economy, which is struggling after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.

AFP

George Weah’s Critic Arrested In Sierra Leone

Liberian President George Weah

 

A leading opponent of Liberian President George Weah on Wednesday said he had been detained in neighbouring Sierra Leone, amid allegations of passport irregularities. 

Few details of the case have emerged but local media have reported that Monrovia requested opposition figure Henry Costa be  extradited over problems with his travel documents.

Costa, chairman of youth activist group the Council of Patriots (COP), posted on Facebook on Wednesday that he was in the hands of Sierra Leone authorities.

“Don’t worry. I will be okay. The Sierra Leone authorities are being very professional and nice to me,” Costa said.

Local media said he was stopped from boarding a plane in Liberia on Friday for allegedly possessing forged travel documents.

Costa was meant to present himself to Liberian authorities on Wednesday, but was detained at the airport in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, media reported.

Liberia’s government was not immediately available for comment.

A Sierra Leone immigration official confirmed to AFP that Costa was in the country but did not comment further.

Costa is a fierce critic of footballer-turned-politician Weah and often attacks him on his popular radio show.

The president is under growing pressure to revive the West African country’s economy, which is struggling after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.

Normally resident in the United states, Costa returned to Liberia last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6.

AFP

Opposition Postpones Anti-Government Rally In Liberia

Supporters of the Council of Patriots (CoP) confront policemen in Monrovia on December 30, 2019. 
Zoom DOSSO / AFP

 

Liberian opposition leaders announced a week-long postponement of an anti-government rally planned for Monday after mounting confrontation with the government.

The rally was meant to protest at the West African country’s deepening economic crisis, but its organisers said there was lack of protection for protestors.

The government had accused the opposition of calling for President George Weah’s “unconstitutional eviction” and on Saturday warned all protests before the end of January would be blocked.

On Monday, the Council of Patriots (COP) opposition said it had called the rally off after the government said it was unable to provide security and after international observers recommended postponement.

COP Chairman Henry Costa, who helped footballer-turned-president Weah come to power, insisted the protest would take place nonetheless.

A new date has been set for January 6, after mediation from international observers.

The streets of the capital Monrovia were extremely quiet early Monday, an AFP journalist saw.

Police officers erected checkpoints across the city and were systematically checking vehicles and passengers.

Opposition MP Yekeh Kolubah, who is also a COP member, told AFP that police officers had stopped him from transporting protesters to a rallying point in the city.

Costa told reporters later on Monday morning that representatives from the UN, EU, US and the West Africa bloc ECOWAS had complained to the government about blocking the protest.

Still traumatised by back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis, Liberia is struggling to revive its failing economy.

Inflation is rampant, according to the World Bank, and civil servants regularly go unpaid.