Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nobel peace prize winner defends law criminalising homosexuality in Liberia

Tony Could not understand Ellen ...
Source: guardian.co.uk, 
The Nobel peace prize winner and president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has defended a law that criminalises homosexual acts, saying: "We like ourselves just the way we are."
In a joint interview with Tony Blair, who was left looking visibly uncomfortable by her remarks, Sirleaf told the Guardian: "We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve."

Liberian legislation classes "voluntary sodomy" as a misdemeanour punishable by up to one year in prison, but two new bills have been proposed that would target homosexuality with much tougher sentences.

Blair, on a visit to Liberia in his capacity as the founder of the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), a charity that aims to strengthen African governments, refused to comment on Sirleaf's remarks.

When asked whether good governance and human rights went hand in hand, the British former prime minister said: "I'm not giving you an answer on it."

"One of the advantages of doing what I do now is I can choose the issues I get into and the issues I don't. For us, the priorities are around power, roads, jobs delivery," he said.

Over his 10 years as prime minister, Blair became 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.

With Sirleaf sitting to his left, Blair refused to give any advice on gay rights reforms. He let out a stifled chuckle after Sirleaf interrupted him to make it clear that 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.

There have been no recent convictions under the sodomy law, according to the latest US state department human rights report. However, anti-gay activists have promoted two new bills which would take the legislation much further. 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 behaviour criminal behavior.

"We are just trying to strengthen our local laws. This is not an attempt to bash homosexuals."

The gay rights debate erupted in Liberia after the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced in December thatAmerica's foreign aid budget would promote the protection of gay rights, prompting speculation that funds would be tied to rights records.

The announcement brought unprecedented attention to homosexuality in a country where until recently gay people and lesbians lived in secret, but generally not in fear for their lives. Since Clinton's remarks, Liberian newspapers have published numerous articles and editorials describing homosexuality as "desecrating", "abusive" and an "abomination".

"Over the last six months, we've seen a worrying increase in anti-gay rhetoric, intolerance and indeed attacks on individuals fighting for the rights of Liberians in same-sex relationships," said Corinne Dufka, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in west Africa.

In the past month alone there have been at least six homophobic attacks in the capital, Monrovia.

One 21-year-old gay man, who recently left Monrovia to move to the countryside after some of his friends were threatened, said he now lived in fear of mob violence, a common occurrence on the streets of Monrovia. "You and your brother walking down the street, they may actually jump on you and beat you, kill you, and when they say: 'Oh they are gay, that's the reason we killed them,' nothing will come of it," he said.

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.

Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel peace prize last year for her work in campaigning for women's rights. The 73-year-old became Africa's first female president in 2006 and was elected for a second term last year. "If she tried to decriminalise the [current anti-gay] law it would be political suicide," said Tiawan S Gongloe, the country's former solicitor general. Without a majority government, Sirleaf desperately needs the support of other MPs to tackle other issues such as corruption, exploitation of the country's natural resources and mass youth unemployment, he said.}

After 14 years of civil war that ended in 2003, Liberia is still one of the poorest countries in the world.

Gongloe also said the country was still not ready for a debate on gay rights. "Liberians need public education on the issue. Our society is not at that point yet to have a civil conversation on the issue," he said.

At an African Union summit earlier this year Ban Ki-moon urged African leaders to respect gay rights and to stop treating gay people as second-class citizens and criminals.

When pushed on the UN secretary general's comments, with Sirleaf at his side, Blair responded: "I'm not saying these issues aren't important, but the president has given her position and this is not one for me."

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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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