Liberia: When Aid Workers Become Sexual Predators

Photo: Financial Gazette Rape victim (file photo).

Monrovia — Following the announcement by the Liberian Government that it is re-opening the alleged rape case involving a former staffer of the American-backed Charity, More Than Me, several government officials and civil society groups have joined their voices to array of condemnations meted against the organizations.

The latest is coming from Nimba District#9 Rep. Johnson Gwaikolo, the House’s Committee Chairman on Education and Lofa District#2 Rep. Julie Fatorma Wiah who is also Chairperson on Gender Equity, Child Development and Social Protection Committee.

In a press statement issued on Monday, October 15, Rep. Gwaikolo said it was “inconceivable and unacceptable that an organization that is to cater to the educational needs of disadvantaged girls would become a sex haven for sexual predators.”

What is more alarming, he said is the allegation that the More Than Me Director, Katie Meyler, knowingly and willfully allowed the abuse to be carried on and that the incident was covered.

He than called on the Government of Liberia through its relevant agencies including the Ministries of Justice, Gender and Social Protection, and the Human Rights Commission to conduct a full investigation to determine the criminal and civil violations against innocent and vulnerable children.

He also called on the Ministry of Education to suspend the operating license of the organization until a final determination can be made in the case.

The House’s Committee Chairman on Education also employed the Ministry of Health to intervene in the cases of the affected girls who have been exposed to HIV and other forms of sexually transmitted diseases to be properly managed.

“To prevent such act from occurring in the future, we urge the Ministry of education to conduct criminal investigation into the background of all staff members associated with all organizations that cater to young girls and other vulnerable population,” the statement said.

For her part, Rep. Wiah in her statement “condemned to the highest degree the abuse, molestation, and rape of several of our disadvantaged daughters who seek education and other social welfare at the More Than Me Foundation.”

“The committee calls on state institution and non-state institution such as the Ministry of education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Gender & Children and Social Protection, the United Nation, UNICEF to collaborate and coordinate in ensuring that justice is served to those children and their generation unborn.”

The Lofa County lawmaker pledged her committee’s commitments to availing itself to working with relevant state actors in ensuring that those affected are given the proper quality and adequate care and social protection for as long as they live.

“The committee calls on the general public to continuously emphasize to these affected sisters and daughters by refraining from stigmatizing them as their life journey have taken a twisted and horrible challenge,” she said.

She, on behalf of the committee commended the Family members of the affected children for their “own unimaginable degree of calmness by which they have pursued justice so far.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFFEL) says it welcome the Liberian Government’s decision to reopen the case, adding “AFELL looks forward to the outcome of this investigation and hopes that anyone found culpable will be made to face the full weight of the law for this alleged abuse and betrayal of the trust and confidence of the victims.”

The Liberian Government on Monday, October 15 announced it was re-opening the case in order to determine new evidence.

There have been huge outraged by Liberians after a report last week described the alleged sexual assaults at More Than Me charity in Monrovia by a former staffer, Macintosh Johnson. He died in jail in 2016 while awaiting trial.

The charity was set up to help vulnerable girls mainly from the slum community of West Point.