LAC 2014 Human Rights Monitor

Introduction: This report covers the activities from January, 2013-January, 2014, and focuses on the continuation of the Water for Life project, under the Economic and Social Justice and Development Pillar of the Human Rights Monitor, advocacy, remedy, training, education, business and human rights, travels, future projects, challenges and recommendations.

Water for Life  During the period, a total of 42 new hand pumps were constructed in Bopolu City, Gbarpolu County, VOA, Brewersville, Decosee, Altington and Caldwell, under the St. Paul River District, rural Montserrado County; Sand Beach and Gumo, Morweh District, Rivercess County, and the Joe Sherman UMC, Rivercess District, Rivercess County. Others include:  Zorzorma, Kpayekollie, Salayea, Gayezu, Womai, New town, and Worzi all of Voinjama District, Lofa County. Other areas affected by the project include:  Haper and Plebo, Cape Palmas District, Maryland County, Kokoya, Jorquelly and Gbarnga Districts, Bong County.

The other projects that are pending include: Tippita, Garraway, Nana Kru, Grand Dedeh  and Kru Coast Districts. They are expected to commence in February, 2014.

Recognition and Awards: For the second time in two years, and the fourth time in less than three years, the Monitor has been recognized by the Corridor Newspaper, an independent media institution in the Country as the Human Rights Institution of the year 2013. The first award by the Corridor Newspaper was in 2012 as human rights institution of the year 2012.  The first awards were given to the Monitor by the Chronicle and In-profile Newspapers, two independent media institutions as human rights institution of the year 2010.

 Monitoring, Documenting, Advocacy and Remedy The Monitor has remained unwavering in its activities since its inception over 15 years ago. As indicated in its objectives: Monitoring, Documenting, Reporting, Advocacy, Remedy, human rights education and training,  etc, the Monitor continues to live up to that mandate. It has remained unbending in its drive to ensure that its objectives are scrupulously implemented and achieved. The Monitor has continued to seek remedy through the court system, dialogue, mediation, press statement and press releases through the media, and direct representation.  Some relevant and intentional advocacy activities undertaken by the Monitor, including human rights monitoring, documentation, reporting etc., for the period under review include the following:

  1. Pastor Rose Bedell, a resident of Thinkers village whose house was redeemed as a result of the Monitor advocacy in January, 2013 is hereby enumerated. The facility was built by the victim and her late husband, but since his death, other family members including her late husband’s former wife and step son took advantage of the death of her late husband to confiscate the property.  Infact, the property was forcefully taken from her, but through the intervention of the Human Rights Monitor, a petition on behalf of the victim to the Paynesville Magisterial Court was filled. At the end of the trial, the Court declared madam Bedell as the legitimate owner of the property and she has since taken possession of it since.
  2. The mysterious disappearances of one year old and eighteen month old females in Gbokonema Bong County in February, 2013 is another step the Monitor has taken to ensure the remedy of this issue. The Monitor in collaboration with NAWOMAN reported the situation to the Liberia National Police and four individuals were arrested in connection with the case and are reminded in the Gbarnga Central Prison, now awaiting court trial.
  3. The Monitor was able to intervene and rescue the situation of a child whose father had totally abandoned and left her to the support of her single mother named Sundaymah for several years. The mother, who later became unemployed, could no longer bear with their little daughter. Through the Monitor’s intervention, the child is now in school and the father is now showing some concern and cooperating with the mother.
  4. Another situation of intervention was with a lady called Madea Karblee with five children and she and her children had been abandoned and neglected by her husband. The Monitor’s intervention has restored the relationship and good understanding in the family.
  5. The Monitor also took advocacy positions on several national issues, including that of the ‘Ellen Step Down Campaign’ and that of the resignation of Mr. Robert Sirleaf of the National Oil Company (NOCAL). In the first case, the Monitor maintained that clearly the demand for the President’s resignation was unthinkable, but at the same time, madam President needed to look into the issues being claimed by the advocates as reasons for the campaign, and take the appropriate measures to remedy the situation. The Monitor also commended Mr. Robert Sirleaf on his resignation from NOCAL in the midst of all of the accusations and innuendos that were beclouding his own image and that of the President.
  6. Meanwhile, a reasonable amount of assorted used clothing intended for desperate needed rural dwellers has been facilitated by the Monitor through its Associate Program Director, Rev. Pade M. Kialen when he visited the USA in 2013. The clothing was provided by the Galilee United Methodist Church of the Fredericksburg District of the Virginia Conference, USA. Some of the clothes were given to 90 inmates at the Buchanan Central Prison, Grand Bassa County and the balance materials will be given to 200 children in the Tippita area.
  7. The Monitor in collaboration with   19 civil society and trade union organizations in the Country are working to ensure the passage of the Decent Work Bill with a thresh hold of US$6.00 per day for workers. The campaign yielded some result when the honorable House of Senate passed the Bill at a threshold of $US6.00 as the minimum wage in 2013 and we are waiting the honorable House of Representative to concur. In an effort to provide information to the general public and increase influence on the National Legislature for the speedy passage of the bill, a one day round table discussion was organized by the Monitor on August 8, 2013. The one day event was organized under the theme “Dignity of Labor through the Decent Work Bill” and brought together over 60 young people, members of trade unions, civil society, the Government of Liberia, etc. The Rev. George D. Wilson, Jr., Director, Connectional Ministries, Liberia Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church  served as the Key Note Speaker.

The Rev. Dr. John G. Innis also graced the occasion and made a special remark. Detailed report on its human rights monitoring, documenting and reporting can be made available upon your request.

Training and Education Workshops: During the period under review, the Human Rights Monitor conducted a total of seven trainings and education workshops. On May 31, two day training was conducted in Bopolu City, Gbarbolu County. Seventy-five participants from the city and adjacent villages were invited. The objectives of the workshop were to give the participants basic understanding on water and sanitation, grassroots organizing, advocacy, human rights related issues and development as well as maintenance and management of the hand pumps.

On June 7-8, a two day human rights training and education workshop was conducted in Plebo, Maryland County. The Cape Palmas District hosted the two days event at the Jasper Grant UMC with 47 participants in attendance from Garraway, Kru Coast and Cape Palmas Districts. The training was conducted under the theme “Transforming Communities through the Social Principles”. The topics deliberated on included:  “The Social Principles-An Economic  Instrument for transformation at the Local Level”; Community Involvement in Developing  a Gender Based Violence Free  Environment based on the UMC Social Principles”; “ The Role of the Church in Building Healthy Relationship Among  Individuals and Families to Promote Social and Economic Justice”. Other topics include: “Making Compulsory Primary & Secondary Education a Reality for All” etc.

The training left an indelible mark on the participants and has increased interest and the commitment of most of the participants to volunteer their services free of charge as social justice advocates and organizers for the church. They appealed for identification cards and regular visitation of staff persons from the Monitor’s office.

On July 13, 2013, a one day training workshop for 75 participants was held in Brewersville, Montserrado County. The one day event was aimed at educating the residence on water and sanitation, their basic fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Liberia, the Role of the Church in development and the Rights to Development. The one day event was climaxed with the dedication of one hand pump within the Dukulay Farm Community, Brewersville. The other trainings included Lofa, Gbarnga, Bomi, and Owensgrove, Grand Bassa County. Also, an international training under the theme “Global and Domestic Violence” was held in Gbarnga, Bong County in December. The four days event brought together 40 participants from Monrovia, Kakata-Farmingtong River, St. Paul River, Gbarnga, Jorquelly and Kokoya Districts. The key facilitators were the Rev. Neal Christie, Assistant General secretary, and Clayton Childers, Director for Conference Relations and Imagine No Malaria of General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. Other local facilitators include: Rev. George D. Wilson, Jr., Director, Connectional Ministries, Liberia Annual Conference, Rev. Dr. Yatta Young, Dean, Gbarnga School of Theology, Mr. Edward Harmon, Mrs. Catherine Nyenewo, Director and Associate Director, Youth/Young Adults Department of the Liberia UMC, etc.

We also benefited from several international trainings in the USA, which include: 1. The Fourth International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees in New York on October 4th, 2013. 2. A Public Forum on Immigration on November 2, 2013 3.  “Climate and Environmental Justice Forum in New Orleans, USA on November, 2013. A Summit on Liberia in Illinois, USA in November, 2013.

Business and Human Rights: The Monitor in collaboration with the Liberia Labor Congress and the Human Rights Defenders of Liberia are initiating an effort geared towards engaging small, medium and big business institutions to promote business and human rights, with support from the Human Rights and Protection Section of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

The program is aimed at working with businesses to ensure that they conform to and uphold international best practices in the work area and the environment. This is a new human rights phenomenon, which has been endorsed by the United Nations.  The frame work is called RESPECT, PROTECT AND REMEDY.

Since the inception of the initiative, seven business entities and three government agencies are being engaged. They include: Chico, Putu Iron Mining, AMLA Gold, the Ministries of Justice, Commerce, Aqua Life Mineral Water Company and Agriculture. Six interactive discussions on the formulation of business and human rights policy were held in May-August, 2013.

Future Projects/Programs: In an effort to increase access to clean and safe drinking water in the Country, the Monitor in partnership with the Marian Medical Mission,  a US based humanitarian and development  organization are working to develop a center that will train young people in the area of fabricating  hand pump materials. The plans are still being developed but we are very hopeful that it will yield result in 2014.

Challenges/Recommendations: Amidst all of the success stories and achievements, there were challenges. The inaccessibility of rural communities has posed and continues to pose a serious challenge to reaching the neediest communities in rural Liberia. Sometimes young men and women are compelled to transport project materials on their heads for five to six hours working distances, crossing deliberated bridges and walking in rivers. This is sad and dehumanizing.  There is a need for intentional and serious prioritization of the construction of farm to market roads, including feeder roads in the Country by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Unity Party lead Government.

Conclusion: The contribution of the LAC/UMC in the post war reconstruction and development drive of Liberia, including sustainable peace is worth noting. The UMC in Liberia under the dynamic leadership of our illustrious Bishop, Rev. Dr. John G. Innis is on the frontline to meeting the holistic needs of God’s people. This is the mission of the Church and I am proud to be part of this and to also be called a United Methodist.

We are very grateful to our “Bossman”, the Rev. George D. Wilson for standing by us and giving us the support and guidance. Thanks to our Treasurer, Bro. Sonuway Dolopei and the entire Business office of the LAC/UMC for being very cooperative with us. To our staff and volunteers, we say thank you for your commitment. Because of your time and energy, we are able to reach this far.

Respectfully submitted:

Jefferson B. Knight