-After arrest of 2 Liberian officials in Soul Korea
Women’s rights organizations in Liberia are calling on President George Manneh Weah to set high standards for public officials in the wake of rape allegations against two Liberian officials in South Korea.
Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization based in the United Kingdom, Moses Owen Brown and the Director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection of the Liberia Maritime Authority Daniel Tarr have been detained in Soul, Korea for alleged sexual assault, after South Korean police banged on their hotel room and picked them up in response to distressed call.
The two were in Busan, South Korea attending the International Maritime Organization (IMO) GHG SMART Practical Training and Study Visit held from September 19-23, 2022 when the alleged incident occurred.
Several women organizations on Tuesday, 27 September in Monrovia urged the government to take stern action against those involved to prevent a recurrence.
“We are concerned over video news reports emanating from the South Korean media involving two Liberian officials, Daniel Tarr and Moses Owen Browne, who had gone to South Korea to participate in the Sustainable Maritime Transport Training Program for Least Developed Countries. In the shared news video, translations of the news at the bottom of the news read “Foreigners attending an international event in Busan have been arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a teenage girl.” they note.
They further narrate that the report then cuts to a video in which a man in uniform identifies himself as police and asked persons inside to open the door, while screams of women from inside could also be heard in the video.
“It was later reported that after a long standoff, the door finally opened and two men identified as the above-named individuals were detained.”
The women groups continue that two teenage girls were also reportedly rescued at 11 pm during the incident and that the Liberia Maritime Authority has issued a statement, promising to cooperate with the South Korean police; and the Ministry of Gender has similarly issued a statement, calling for administrative action to be taken against the officials.
“We call on the two institutions to go further by ensuring that the two individuals are dismissed, including taking actions against all government officials that have been accused of rape until due process can be done”. they demand.
The group of Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH) Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI) Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP) Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI) Network of Peace and Security Women in ECOWAS Countries (NOPSWECO) in a joint statement laments that the actions of the two individuals are not only unpatriotic and shameful but also disrespectful, disgraceful and embarrassing for a representative of the Liberian government to portray himself in such manner.
“President Weah is on record for referring to himself uncountable times as Feminist in Chief and has made countless statements calling for an end to SGBV, and supporting the development of the Roadmap. Yet, for all his verbal commitments, women and girls of Liberia are yet to see the system work in support of women girls; we are yet to see the President ensure accountability of highly placed individuals in his government who have been accused of rape and we are yet to see the government come up with a statement condemning the unwholesome behavior of two highly placed officials in the government.”
“We recall in September 2020, when Mr. Dee Maxwell Kemayah was accused of sexual harassment by a staff within his office, women rights activists called on the President and the legislators not to confirm that individual until he was cleared of allegations of sexual harassment; those pleas fell on deaf ears as today, Mr. Kemayah is the Minister of Foreign Affairs” they add.
They wonder that if the Foreign Ministry must be the entity to spearhead this effort in collaborating with its counterpart in Korea with sexual harassment charges still pending for Minister Kemayah, how credible can the ministry and the government itself be viewed on the world stage.
According to them, in 2020, a member of the Special Security Unit, Mr. Joseph Jakey Brown, commissioned to Gbarpolu county to safeguard the peace, ended up with allegations of rape and torture during the Gbarpolu elections, but he still remains a trusted member of the security network to date.
“We call on the Government and President Weah to demonstrate accountability for gender equality by taking the following actions: end impunity by holding government officials and all those who have proximity to power including Mr. Kemayah, accountable for sexual allegations by dismissing them from their posts and ensuring that they go through due processes.”
They ask government to set up a sexual offender’s registry thru the Ministry of Gender not only for Domestic Violence Fund to support victims of abuse but also to support timely access to justice, invest in the referral pathway and provide periodic public report on the implementation of SGBV roadmap. Editing by Jonathan Browne