Wednesday, March 21, 2012

‘Cause for Concern’: US Keeping Eye on Anti-Gay Legislations in Liberia




Monrovia – The United States has expressed concerns over recent statements attributed to Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf suggesting that Sirleaf is backing a law that criminalizes homosexual acts, saying: "We like ourselves just the way we are."

Sirleaf reportedly made the statement in a joint interview with former British prime minister Tony Blair, by British newspaper, The Guardian, who was left looking visibly uncomfortable by her remarks, Ms Sirleaf told the Guardian newspaper: "We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve."

Blair was a champion for the legal equality of gay people, pushing through laws on civil partnerships, lifting a ban on gay people in the armed forces and lowering the age of consent for gay people to 16

A Catholic convert, he called on the pope to rethink his "entrenched" views and offer equal rights to gay people. But gay rights, he said, were not something he was prepared to get involved in as an adviser to African leaders.

Felony penalty underlined in bills

According to The Guardian, Blair refused to give any advice on gay rights reforms. "He let out a stifled chuckle after Ms Sirleaf interrupted him to make it clear that Mr. Blair and his staff were only allowed to do what she said they could.

"AGI Liberia has specific terms of reference … that's all we require of them," she said, crossing her arms and leaning back," The Guardian reported.

Homosexuality is already illegal in 37 African countries. In Uganda, a bill proposing custodial sentences for homosexuality is still being considered, although it no longer contains the provision for the death penalty. Ten women were recently arrested in Cameroon accused of being lesbians, while in Nigeria, homosexual activities are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Anti-gay activists in Liberia have promoted two new bills. One would amend the penal code to make a person guilty of a second-degree felony if he or she "seduces, encourages or promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities" or "purposefully engages in acts that arouse or tend to arouse another person of the same gender to have sexual intercourse", carrying a prison sentence of up to five years.

The second bill – drafted by the ex-wife of the former president Charles Taylor – would make gay marriage a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Jewel Howard Taylor told the Guardian: "\[Homosexuality] is a criminal offence. It is un-African."

She went on to say: "It is a problem in our society. We consider deviant sexual behavior criminal behavior. "We are just trying to strengthen our local laws. This is not an attempt to bash homosexuals."

Victoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman, acknowledged this week that the U.S. is aware of Sirleaf's comments. "Frankly, we've only seen them in reported sources, so – but I think there should be no doubt where the Administration is, where the Secretary of State is personally on LGBT issues, particularly after her extremely strong speech in Geneva."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an audience of diplomats in Geneva recently that : "Gay rights are human rights". A memo from the Obama administration directs US government agencies to consider gay rights when making aid and asylum decisions. Similar policies already exist for gender equality and ethnic violence.

"It should never be a crime to be gay," Mrs Clinton said at the UN in Geneva, adding that a country's cultural or religious traditions was no excuse for discrimination. Her audience included representatives from countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence.

In October, UK Prime Minister David Cameron's suggestion that aid could be cut to countries that did not recognize gay rights was condemned by several African countries where homosexual acts are banned, including Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Nigeria became the latest African country attempting to tighten homosexuality laws, with the Senate passing a bill banning same-sex marriages. Before it becomes law, it must be passed by the lower chamber and then signed by the president.

The announcement, described by the White House as the "first US government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad", is also being seen as part of the Obama administration's outreach to gays and lesbians ahead of the 2012 election.

U.S. 'Will be following up'

The official memorandum does not outline consequences for countries with poor records on gay rights. But it allows US agencies working abroad to consult with international organizations on discrimination.

"Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world," Mrs Clinton said in Geneva. "Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality."

The issue has once again resurfaced in the wake Sirleaf's statement to The Guardian with the State Department pledging to take the matter up with the Liberian government.

"I would expect that we probably will be following up to find out whether the reporting is accurate and express some surprise and concern. I think if there were major pieces of legislation that discriminated against any group, we would have to take that into account in our relationship and it would be a cause for concern," Nuland said.

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Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah



Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah

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