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“Manneh,” Who Are Your Advisors?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

As I said before, today, I refer to His Excellency George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia by his middle or given name (“MANNEH”). I am doing so not in a derogatory or disrespectful manner, but in keeping with our Kru tradition, which I learned while growing up as a child in New Kru Town. In our Kru tradition, whenever, you are called by your middle name either by your parents or another person, in such manner it means that your parents or the person wants to bring your attention to something unpleasant or to give some pieces of advice.

As I always said, despite my disagreements with some of the government’s issues, I will never resort to insults, invectives or something derogatory about the President because such is completely diametrical to the values of the Kru tradition, one of which says, “nyo bor kolo-bye menten” ( No person should insult a leader or an elder). In the case of President Weah, I am older than him, notwithstanding, that should not be a license to disrespect him, even, if I disagree with him or some activities about the government.

Furthermore, I still recall that disrespectful acts to an older/elder person was a taboo and as such anyone who indulges in such act would be reprimanded by his or her parents or another parents, without qualm from the biological parents. Whether it is the same today is not the intent of this piece. This piece is to draw the President’s attention to a missed opportunity last week as “Feminist-in-Chief.

This piece is a follow-up to the one I did last week, entitled:” Public Relations And The Anti-Rape Protest: Was President Weah’s Presence Necessary,? which among other things I consciously said, “ if I were part of the President’s advisory team, I would have insisted that, as FEMINIST-IN-CHIEF, he turns out to receive the petition and equally express concern about the upsurge in rape cases in the country, something that could have also been a good political public relations, as FEMINIST-IN-CHIEF.

Emphatically, I pointed out in the piece that, this was not a protest against the government. The protest was against individuals who have been involved in rape incidents in recent time, thus raising public concern about the increasing number of rape incidents, in which babies have also been victimized.

Again, this was a great opportunity for the “FEMINIST-IN-CHIEF,” to show face, as we figuratively say in this country; in other words, in terms of political public relations, the President could have scored good point, and justify the title he bears. The title he bears, unambiguously indicates someone who stands in the gap for females or who says things to protect womanhood. Can you just imagine that, had he personally turned out, clad in black, with an anti-rape message, could have sent a greater message as FEMINIST-IN-CHIEF.

Today’s article is based on the response of President Weah for not attending protest action for the last three days and it is based on this that I have decided to make reference to the issue of ADVISORS in the office of the President, something sometimes referred to as “KITCHEN CABINET,” which discusses or holds talks with the CHIEF on pertinent issues.

Some of the Anti-rape protesters

It is compartmentalized that it comprises people of different professional backgrounds. A “KITCHEN CABINET,” is defined as “a group of unofficial advisers to the holder of an elected office who are considered to be unduly influential.

Giving reasons for not attending the protest action as requested or demanded by the protesters, President Weah said his failure to meet protesters was not deliberate as was insinuated in the public. He attributed his decision to meet with some Liberians in time and was due to what he termed as “Busy schedule.”

Moreover, the Liberian leader, President Weah frowned on protesters’ refusal to present their petition to the Ministry of Gender who he said was designated by his office to receive the petition on behalf of the government, describing the protesters’ decision as an affront and disrespect to his office.

This is where I, with due respect disagreed with the President because that office is a busy office like being in the “squirrel’s cage.” I still feel, given the plethora in rape cases, as “FEMINIST –IN-CHIEF” the President, based on this title, should have taken few minutes to interact with the protesters.

In all fairness, the President’s presence at the occasion could have been a good public relations. Sometimes, in public relations, the presence of certain people or leaders can bring about maximum or optimal results. So1metimes proxy does not calm the storm, or bring about the desired result like in the matter of the upsurge in rape incidents or cases.

Perhaps, as I said before, if the President had turned out in his black attire to join, the protesters could not have gone to the US Embassy the third day, climaxing the protest. I believe that going to the Embassy was out of frustration and anger, since the CHIEF did not turn out to receive their petition.

As I said previously, turning out could have been a good public relations for the President. This aspect of Mass Communication, is simply, “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.“ In addition, specialists are of the view that, “Public relations can “build and maintain a positive public image for a company or organization.” Hence, this was an occasion the CHIEF could have used given the title he bears.

Today, I invoke the issue of advisors or Kitchen Cabinet because they have a role to play in wherever they find themselves. In other words, they are politically considered or referred to as, “THE PEOPLE AROUND THE PRESDIDENT.” That is, their pieces of ADVICE can either lead to success or failure.

Another group of the Anti-rape protesters

It is not a hyperbole that the issue of rape has been a matter of public concern, prompting even the Catholic Bishops Conference of Liberia, to comment on the issue in its recent Pastoral Letter, pointing out that, “Rape is not good.” It then said, “We condemn in the strongest possible term the rise of rape against women and children in our society. This is diabolical violence that should have no place in our society. It is a flagrant violation of their inalienable rights that should be protected and defended at all times. Rape kills the physical and psychological state of victims and our nation. It is a deadly crime against our nation.”

It went on: “In her effort to fight this diabolical practice, which seems to be growing as a result of a breakdown of our families and family values, the Government of Liberia made rape a non-baillable crime. However, the reported cases of rape keep increasing, leading some voices in various quarters to call for a stronger deterrent like the death penalty.”

As previously stated, generally, rape refers to, “unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.”

Additionally, it is also unlawful sexual intercourse. It is committed when one party forces another party to have sexual intercourse. It implies resistances and lack of consent.

As I was concluding this article, I gathered that the government had a “ROADMAP’ on the issue at bar and other gender-based issues. The task force presented the document to the President last Monday. Knowingly, with this in the pipeline prior to last week’s ANTI-RAPE PROTEST had the President turned up, he could have vaingloriously used this issue of “ROADMAP’ as part of government’s efforts against this issue of rape and other related matters.

This is where I have problem with those advisors on such matter, because this was a great opportunity to divulge government’s efforts against this disease. This, I believe, could have conciliated the people.

Frankly, as someone in the mainstream of journalism, I was shocked to learn about this task force which is a good initiative. However, I was not surprised because the issue of information dissemination is a problem in this government. It is not that there are no qualified or competent people in this cycle, but perhaps the lack of the three C’s and S (coordination, cooperation, collaboration and strategies) are seemingly responsible for this poor information dissemination.

The issue of government’s activities should not be shrouded in secrecy. It should not be like a “ZOE BUSH.“ Even in the ZOE BUSH, some people are au courant or conversant of its activities. The issue of government’s activities, whether it is the Legislative, Judicial or Executive branches, should not be done in secrecy; the people they serve have the right to know the workings of their government.

Once again, last week’s protest was a great opportunity that was missed by the President to showcase the title he bears. Indeed, the office of the President is a busy one; and also one of the places of the unexpected. Notwithstanding, that office MUST find time to deal with such issues like the protest against this “diabolical act,” as described by the Catholic Bishops to curtail it.

There is no argument that there is a law against rape. Is it that the law is weak? Is it that we need to amend it to be stronger; or is it a problem of prosecution? These are some of the issues we need to consider to combatting this disease, in which even babies are being victimized.

Let me re-emphasize that by referring to the President by his middle or given name , is not to show disrespect, but I decided it this way, in keeping with the Kru tradition to draw his attention that his presence was a great opportunity for him as “Feminist-In-Chief.

I Rest My Case.

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