The ‘Group of 77’ or home for the physically challenged in Monrovia turned a battle ground early Monday, 8 January when people living with disabilities staged a protest, demanding the premises currently being operated as a school building.
Jeremiah D. Cooper, spokesperson of the protesters narrates to the New Dawn that since 2009 they were asked out of the building by Mrs. Kartumu Boakai, wife of Vice President Joseph Boakai for the purpose of renovation.
Mrs Boakai has oversight for the Group of 77 here, but Jeremiah claims under her leadership, situation at the home has worsen, disclosing that for the past 12 years, the group has been engulfed by problems.
“We are living on 15 cups of rice for whole month and that is causing some of us to be in the streets, begging. We are in the streets and Mrs. Kartumu Boakai is running school in the building that is for us, and our children are in the streets begging. The building is not for school, but residence for persons with disabilities”, he explains.
He recalls that during the regime of ex-President Charles Taylor, they were also asked out for one month, after which the administration downplayed or forgot them.
The spokesperson continues that when they took up the matter through protest, they were beating up and jailed by the late President Moses Blah, whose widow had oversight, causing most of their colleagues to die in cold blood in jail.
“In this regime, every time people with disability die in our country, nobody cares; we just lost one of our members Christopher Vessellee, who died from cold”, he laments.
He says due to lack of sleeping place, people with disabilities are sleeping in the streets.This paper has not confirmed these claims with Mrs Boakai, neither has the Office of Vice President Boakia issued an official response.
Also speaking to reporters, Shaffa Gaior says members of the ‘Group of 77’ constitute about 16.5 percent of the population of Liberia, but they are relegated to the fringes of society.
Meanwhile, the principal of the school currently at the ‘Group of 77’ Mr. Mark Sorbor, explains that for the past five years he’s been running the public school, there has been no communication from members of the home about the building.
He explains that the school is being operated under the supervision of the Monrovia Consolidated Scholl System or MCSS, and if the protestors had forwarded a formal communication to his office, he would have informed his bosses.
Continuing, he says the protest has caused serious problem for the students because they are preparing for the 3rd period and first semester exams.
An activist for the rights of people with disabilities in the country, Samuel Dean, is calling on the protesters to take the right channel in seeking redress to their problem.
Samuel says he does not support the protestors stopping students from coming to school, though the building is not for school purpose. He claims that for the past 12 years, millions of dollars have been coming in for members of the ‘Group of 77’ but Mrs. Boakai has not been doing anything for them.
He further laments that even allotment for the paralytic national team has been cut from US$50,000 to $12,000 on condition that members of the team, who went to the United States to participate in a tournament, never returned home.
By Sally H. Gaye -Editing by Jonathan Browne