Friday, 9 March 2012

Wronged women of Liberia reluctant to revisit human rights abuses

The women sat on plastic chairs arranged in a circle, some breast feeding, others with small children at their feet. This is their centre in Ganta, the dusty, vibrant commercial capital of Nimba county in north-east Liberia.

"Most of the women here were raped [during the war]," says Yarih Geebah, the speaker for Ganta Concerned Women. "But if you don't have money, nothing happens. [For] we, the poor people, we who don't know book … justice don't prevail."

Liberia went through a 14-year civil war in which people were forced to perform the most debased and cruel acts imaginable. Initial findings from a United Nations Development Programme/World Vision survey in 2004 estimated 40% of the country's women were subjected to sexual violence, although other estimates suggest the figure is higher.

One woman from the group spoke of how she was taken as a "rebel wife" and raped repeatedly. Eight years later, the boy she was "married to" – now a man, and also the father of her daughter – sells petrol in Ganta. She sees him every day.

In August 2003, when the Accra peace accord was signed, it was decided the best chance for Liberia to get some form of justice was through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as had been set up in countries such as South Africa and Rwanda. The commission's mandate was to document and investigate human rights abuses committed between January 1979 and October 2003 and then make recommendations to the Liberian government.

To read more please visit the Guardian website

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