Liberia’s Vice President Decries “Intimidation Against Female Candidate” In Gbarpolu

7 February 2018. Paynesville: Vice-President of Liberia, Jewel Howard-Taylor, gives her remarks at the Liberian Women's Consultative Forum in Paynesville City Hall, Liberia. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - UNMIL

Liberia’s first female Vice President Chief Dr Jewel Howard-Taylor has expressed serious concern over claims of intimidation of one of leading female candidates, Madam Botoe Kanneh, in the Senatorial election of Gbarpolu County.

She believes that females who muster the courage to aspire for national leadership positions should be protected and tactics of intimidation and harassment have no place in a civilize democracy.

Madam Howard-Taylor is therefore calling on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to act swiftly to ensure that the situation is amicably resolved.

She also wants the Liberian National Police to do all in its power to ensure that Madam Kanneh is protected.

Liberian longtime advocate for women rights has meanwhile welcome statement of solidarity by Women groups, civil society organizations, religious institutions, the media and the general public against the actions meted against Madam Kanneh which has the proclivity to dent our democratic credential and undermine the Nation’s peace and security.

Vice President Howard-Taylor’s condemnation coincides with the the Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), WONGOSOL, and LiberianWomen Can Lead (LWCL), responded to reports of election violence in Gbarpolu County meted against Madam Botoe Kanneh, the county’s leading candidate and lone female in the senatorial race.

The team of women’s rights advocacy organizations intervened after receiving reports that Madam Kanneh was beaten, detained and threatened with the “Country Devil’’ in the town of Nomodatonau, District 3, near the Sierra Leone border.  The group rescued Madam Kanneh and took her to a safe location.

Madam Kanneh, one of nine contestants in Gbarpolu’s senatorial race, is leading by 449 votes (4722/25.68 percent); followed by Rep. Alfred Gayflor Koiwood of the ruling party, the Coalition of Democratic Change (4,273/23.24 percent). The National Election Commission (NEC) ordered a rerun in Nomodatonau because the town’s 2021 voters did not participate in the Dec. 8, 2020 election because Paramount Chief Magill Wuluah seized the ballot boxes and election materials.

The rerun was scheduled to take place on Dec. 15, 2020. The day before the election, the Chief Wuluah brought in the traditional male devil, a tactic intended to prevent Madam Kanneh and her supporters from entering the town to participate in the electoral process. In traditional societies, women are not supposed to see the male devil.  In our investigation, we reviewed several video tapes where Gbarpolu County’s Superintendent J. Keyah Saah was seen threatening local officials that they would lose their jobs, if they do not vote for Koiwood, the CDC candidate.

During the visit, the team learned that Madam Kanneh was beaten and harassed along with several members of her campaign team. Two of the women on the campaign team were raped while in police custody. The women experienced “horrific forms of human rights abuses.’’ They were ordered to stand in the sun with their arms raised for hours without food. Madam Kanneh’s brother, Cllr. Boakai Kanneh, head of the Law Reform Committee, was also beaten while in police custody.

We wish to inform the public that the “Traditional male devil’’ and other cultural practices have no role in politics because they limit women’s participation. Hence, we strongly condemn violence against women in the ongoing elections, specifically Gbarpolu County.

We are particularly concerned that government officials are creating barriers to prevent  a leading female candidate vying for a seat in the male-dominated Senate. The 30-member Senate has one female—Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, who won re-election in the Special Senatorial Election. Edith Gongloe -Weh, of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and Kanneh, an independent candidate, are the only two women left in the Senatorial race.

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