Category Archives: Africa

Kenya’s finance minister, top officials arrested for corruption

7F53A2FB-2375-496E-949D-49B63F12A11EHenry Rotich and his co-accused face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct [File:Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich and other treasury officials have been arrested on corruption and fraud charges related to a multimillion-dollar project to build two massive dams, police said.

Rotich, his principal secretary and the chief executive of Kenya’s environmental authority handed themselves in to the police on Monday, hours after the country’s chief prosecutor ordered the arrest and prosecution of Rotich and 27 other top officials.

“They are in custody now awaiting to be taken to court,” police chief George Kinoti told AFP news agency.

“We are looking for [the] others and they will all go to court.”

Rotich’s arrest marks the first time a sitting Kenyan minister has been arrested on corruption charges, in a country where graft is widespread. The charges against him stem from a police investigation into the misuse of funds in a dam project overseen by the Italian construction company CMC Di Ravenna.

Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. The company has also denied any wrongdoing.

Noordin Haji, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said the finance minister and the co-accused would face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct.

“They broke the law on public finance management under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well-choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions,” Haji told a news conference earlier on Monday.

‘Nothing to worry about’

According to the contract, the project was to cost a total of $450m, but the treasury had increased this amount by $164m “without regard to performance or works”, he said.

Some $180m has already been paid out, with little construction to show for it.

Another $6m was paid out for the resettlement of people living in areas that would be affected by the project, but there is no evidence of land being acquired for this, he said.

“I am satisfied that economic crimes were committed and I have therefore approved their arrests and prosecutions,” said Haji.

Rotich’s arrest will send shockwaves through the political elite, who are accustomed to corruption scandals resulting in little official action.

Earlier this year, the finance minister’s questioning by police provoked an angry reaction among politicians from his powerful Kalenjin ethnic group.

Rotich’s arrest may also be seen as further evidence of growing distance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. Ruto had requested Rotich’s appointment.

On Monday, Ruto’s allies played down the charges.

“There is nothing to worry about. Relax,” Kipchumba Murkomen, the senate majority leader and a Ruto ally, told reporters.

Many charged, few convicted

Critics have accused Kenyatta, who was re-elected for a second term last year, of failing to deal with corruption despite his promises to do so.

“We’ve seen the president coming out very strongly over the years saying he wants to make this issue a priority, he wants to leave behind a corrupt-free country, but a lot of Kenyans are disappointed,” Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi said, reporting from Samburu County in Kenya.

“Over the years we’ve seen major scandals involving public money, millions of dollars, involving public figures as well … arrests have been made. But then people are saying that beyond that nothing happens, they have not seen any convictions,  those who are found culpable haven’t seen their assets frozen, or their money returned to taxpayers,” she said.

“Thirty percent of government expenditure is lost to corruption and mismanagement .. a lot of Kenyans are saying that they need the president to do more if this fight against corruption is to be won.”

Rotich’s arrest was a “significant” step on a very long road, said Samuel Kimeu, the head of Kenya’s chapter of Transparency International.

But he added: “I would not be celebrating arrests. We need to see people in jail and we need to see what has been stolen recovered.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/kenya-finance-minister-top-officials-arrested-corruption-190722103920663.html

 

The brave women fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria

womanPeople gather at the scene of a suicide car bomb blast in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria [Jossy Ola/AP]

Maiduguri, Nigeria – Boko Haram killed the two most important people in Komi Kaje’s life within two days.

In November 2015, Komi Akaji, her 46-year-old brother, was shot dead by Boko Haram fighters.

“There were seven students killed. When I got there, I saw he was shot twice in the head,” Kaje said.

The days of mourning followed according to tradition. Kaje was broken but Peter Adam, her 35-year-old boyfriend, provided some relief. On a Saturday afternoon, Adam observed mourning rites with Kaje’s family and shared lunch with her.

But Boko Haram attacked again, turning a visit of solace into sorrow.

“They shot him in his chest and head and he fell inside a ditch. The bullet touched his brain,” said Kaje, her eyes in tears.

Kaje has tried hard to forget the killings but military sirens, the sound of gunfire, and constant exposure to the areas where her loved ones were shot dead were enough to provoke new trauma.

If she moved to a new city, her parents thought, it might help her heal. Kaje relocated to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to spend some recovery time.

But Kaje realised the solution wasn’t to run, “because Boko Haram was everywhere”.

Maybe, Kaje thought, if she could play a role in defeating the fighters some healing would come. At the time, the armed group held many towns and villages captive as part of a so-called “Islamic caliphate”.

Boko Haram since 2009 has killed more than 27,000 people and forced another two million out of their homes.

Fighting Boko Haram

When Kaje introduced the idea of joining the fight against the rebellion to her friends and family, it was received with mockery and indifference. “How can a woman fight Boko Haram?” she was told.

However, other women aside from Kaje, such as 45-year-old Idris Fati, shared her ambition to flush the fighters out of Maiduguri.

Kaje and Fati joined the Civilian Joint Taskforce (C-JTF) – a civilian militia drawn from communities affected by Boko Haram – that partners with and supports the military in its operations.

C-JTF had been an all-male force but there were tasks best-suited for women.

For one, Boko Haram favoured using girls and women in the group’s operations, especially as suicide bombers attacking markets, hospitals, mosques, churches and other public places.

“Boko Haram were using many women and girls to fight the war. Women were needed to counter that strategy,” Kaje told Al Jazeera.

Between 2011-17, Boko Haram used female suicide bombers in at least 244 of its 338 attacks, according to the United States-based Combating Terrorism Center. In 2018, 38 out of 48 children used by Boko Haram as suicide assailants were girls.

Nigerian soldiers, for religious and cultural reasons, are restricted from searching women and girls in most cases – an opening exploited by Boko Haram to blow up its targets.

Since then the women, from dawn to twilight, search other females at security checkpoints leading to Maiduguri’s markets, hospitals, schools, and other public sites vulnerable to attacks.

Many suicide bombers have been exposed and arrested and their murderous assaults foiled.

In some cases, the military involves the women in intelligence-gathering on the armed group’s activities. This has helped reveal operations by the armed group, earning them the nickname “Gossipers of Boko Haram”.

When the military receives intelligence that Boko Haram will target a particular location, it deploys the women to detect and expose female suicide bombers who might mingle in the crowd.

In rare, but far more dangerous cases, the Gossipers are involved in military operations targeting notorious female Boko Haram members.

Death threats

But not everyone is happy with what the Nigerian women are doing.

“My neighbours are always insulting me. They say that one day Boko Haram will kill me. But whenever I am involved in saving people’s lives, the joy of it is above all insults,” said Fati.

Boko Haram sends warning messages through emissaries, threatening to kill those working security.

“Boko Haram has threatened me so many times,” Fati said. “They warn me to quit the job or risk being killed. They say our work hurts and exposes their operations. But I won’t stop because I am fighting not just for my life, but for the future of my children.”

During the peak of Boko Haram’s violence, the military was accused of arresting, jailing, and killing innocent citizens on suspicion of being collaborators.

Discerning who was involved with Boko Haram was difficult for the military because of a lack of information about the communities.

About 20,000 people, including boys as young as nine, were detained without due process, according to rights group Amnesty International. About 1,200 men were reportedly killed.

‘Many have died’

Some locals knew those linked to Boko Haram, but to speak out was to risk death as the fighters retaliated against the families of those who exposed them to the military.

Women helped break the barrier by taking vital information to the military about members of Boko Haram living in their communities.

“Many women have died doing this job,” said Umar Habiba, 38, who coordinates the gatekeepers in Monday Market in Maiduguri.

She said there are more than 100 women currently working in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state – the hotbed of the rebellion. Others have resigned as a result of threats, marriage and pressure from society.

Danger is always present in their work as suicide bombers detonate explosives and kill themselves, along with those attempting to search them.

“If I die doing this work, I know my parents would be proud of me because I died for my state,” said Kaje, who earns $60 a month from the state government – a huge sum for a job she previously did voluntarily.

“Many women, unable to cope with the pressure, have resigned.”

Ebola outbreak in DRC an international health emergency, WHO declares

474C092B-EDD4-44B3-B5F9-90D97F07EB73A man receives an Ebola vaccine in Goma, DCR on July 15, 2019. Credit: Pamela Tulizo / AFP / Getty Images

.- The nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reached the level of an international health emergency, the World Health Organization declared yesterday.

The declaration, which critics say is long overdue, could bring greater resources to the region, where violence and skepticism of international medical personnel have hampered treatment and prevention efforts.

Officials made the international health emergency designation – for only the fifth time in history – after a priest died from Ebola in Goma, a city of some 2 million residents, which serves as a major crossroads on the border with Rwanda.

Risk of the virus being transmitted to neighboring countries is “very high,” WHO officials said, although outside of the immediate region, risk remains low.

For months, public health experts have feared that the deadly virus in DRC could spread to surrounding countries. Two Ebola fatalities were confirmed in Uganda last month, after the victims returned from a funeral in DRC. Kenya and Rwanda have also been on high alert for signs that the virus may have entered the country.

The Ebola outbreak began in the DRC in August 2018. Since then, it has infected more than 2,500 people in the country and killed more than 1,600, making it the second largest outbreak in history.

Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, voiced hope that the emergency declaration would prompt a unified international response.

”The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it’s still not under control, and we are not where we should be,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

The Associated Press reported that internal WHO documents showed a reluctance to make the emergency declaration over concerns about whether it might prompt border closures that could negatively affect economic and health care efforts, and deter countries from reporting outbreaks in the future.

The DRC health department displayed skepticism over the emergency declaration, suggesting that it may have been made as a fundraising move, while some residents of eastern Congo voiced fear that neighboring countries would close their borders, which provide trade routes that are vital to DRC’s economy, the Associated Press reported.

The WHO will reassess the situation in three months to determine whether an international health emergency still exists. Such an emergency is defined as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

Efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by misinformation and distrust on the part of local communities, who in some cases have retaliated against health teams by attacking them. Nearly 200 attacks on medical centers and staff have been reported this year, according to the BBC. This has limited many of the health services that non-governmental organizations are able to provide.

Catholic Relief Services has been supporting local Caritas partners in responding through education campaigns to help residents know how to prevent and respond to the virus.

More than 160,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine, which is 99% effective, according to the BBC, but many more are fearful of it and refuse to receive it. In addition, violence in the eastern part of the DRC has made it difficult to reach some areas of the country, and difficult to monitor the virus as it spreads.

Ebola is a deadly virus that is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains and occasional bleeding. The disease is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.

Several outbreaks have taken place in Africa in recent decades. An outbreak in 2014-2016 in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people and spread briefly to Spain, the United States and the UK.

During that outbreak, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas worked to treat those who were infected, support Ebola orphans, provide food support and educate people on hygiene practices to help avoid the spread of the virus, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with dead bodies.

Suzanne Van Hulle, a Catholic Relief Services team member who worked on the agency’s response to the West Africa outbreak, stressed the importance of education in fighting Ebola.

“During an Ebola outbreak, information and understanding people’s perception about the virus is just as important as medicine or a vaccine,” she said in a statement last month.

“Local community leaders play a critical role in educating people around Ebola and how to prevent both acquiring the virus and ongoing transmission.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/ebola-outbreak-in-drc-an-international-health-emergency-who-declares-26141

 

 

The plight of South Sudanese sexual assault survivors

DCC513A6-570F-4FED-93F2-4E02727C114FAccording to the UN, girls as young as eight were among 175 cases of rape recorded between September and December 2018 [Lamek Orina/Al Jazeera]

Dadaab, Kenya – Teresa* (not her real name) gathers her three children outside her shanty, which was provided by aid agencies in Dadaab, a sprawling refugee camp in Kenya where she has lived for six years.

The 33-year-old mother of three pulls out a plastic chair to sit on from a makeshift kitchen adjacent to her home. 

She picks up her youngest, a baby, and puts him on her lap.

Eight years ago, she had been living in Juba when South Sudan gained independence on July 9, 2011, from Sudan.

“My family was still in a celebratory mood. We had gained independence … and every dream we had was shattered before my eyes,” she said.

Together with her husband, she was struggling to raise a young family until December 2013, when South Sudanese President Salva Kiir fell out with Riek Machar, then vice president.

This led to a conflict between the country’s two main ethnic groups, which displaced about four million people, including Teresa and her children.

During her last days in Juba, the South Sudanese capital, she was sexually assaulted.

“We were hiding for days when the war broke out. It was December 17, 2013, when seven armed men in uniform forced their way into our house. Inside, they found my husband and his two brothers. They took them outside and shot them,” she said, tears balancing on her eyes.

“I tried to run out for safety with my children but they captured me and started raping me repeatedly. They took away my two children and I have never seen those kids since then.”

Teresa is among an escalating number of South Sudanese sexual violence survivors.

Organisations and aid agencies in the world’s youngest nation have documented some of the cases. 

In February, the United Nations published a report saying girls as young as eight were among 175 cases of rape recorded between September and December 2018. 

Its investigation was carried out after September 2018, when the last South Sudanese peace deal was signed.

“It is not the whole picture, but they found 175 women and girls who had been either raped, gang-raped or sexually assaulted or physically harmed in other ways.

“And 49 of those girls who were raped, were children,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

In November 2018, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that “125 women and girls … were raped, beaten and brutalised in Rubkona county, northern South Sudan, in the 10 days between November 19 and 29, 2018”.

The organisation said this was high compared with the 104 cases reported in the previous 10 months.

However, the government was quick to deny these figures. 

Awut Deng Acguil, the gender, child and social welfare minister, described the numbers as “unfounded and baseless”, adding that, “there are no facts found to verify the rape cases”. 

But many survivors choose to remain silent. 

It took two years for Teresa to report what she went through. 

“I never wanted to report it because I was mentally tormented after that incident. Every time I see a group of men, I get re-traumatised. Images of the raid in our Juba home flashes in my mind. I don’t think I will ever move on from this,” she said.

Weak justice and stigma

In addition to the physical and mental trauma, survivors often risk being ostracised from their families and communities, said Wangechi Wachira, executive director of the Nairobi-based Centre for Rights Education and Awareness, an organisation that advocates for the rights of girls and women.

“Rape takes away someone’s dignity and causes a lot of anger and depression. Sometimes women blame themselves for what happened because of how societies frames this issue. This leads to high number of victims going silent,” said Wachira.

And there is usually little justice for survivors.

“I feel like justice cannot be done in my case. The seven men who sexually assaulted me were soldiers whom I did not know. They came from the government that was supposed to protect me. They raped me and killed my family members,” Teresa said.

According to Fatuma Ali, an associate professor of international relations at the United States International University-Africa, armed actors in South Sudan have systematically deployed sexual violence against civilians as a weapon.

“The devastating role of sexual and gender-based violence as a strategic weapon of war has positioned women and girls as a battlefield between the warring groups. This has led to the dichotomy between the protectors versus the protected hence ethnicising and feminising the war.

“This clearly shows that South Sudan has no capacity to stop these atrocities, leave alone give justice to its victims,” Ali told Al Jazeera. 

Back in Dadaab, Teresa starts to feed her children; she depends on food rations to survive. 

After the rape, she got pregnant. She gave birth in Kenya eight months later. 

“I will never go back to South Sudan. I hope the free education my children get here will help their futures. I have told the UN and other aid agencies to never take me back to South Sudan.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/plight-south-sudanese-sexual-assault-survivors-190709102343053.html

Conflict drives global rise in sexual violence against women

Attack A woman rests at a camp for people fleeing conflict in the Congolese province of Kasai. Photograph: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

Sexual violence is on the increase both inside and outside of wartime contexts and women remain the primary victims, warns new research.

In their report, researchers from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled) analysed data gathered from 400 recorded sexual violence events that occurred between January 2018 and June 2019.

They found an overall increase in reported events where the offender directly targeted women and girls; in only 5% of cases were the victims male.

At 140, the total number of reported events nearly doubled in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.

The report’s authors said this was “largely due to an upward trend in violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which consistently registers high levels of reported sexual violence”.

Dr Roudabeh Kishi, director of research at Acled, said: “It is important to remember that sexual violence in or outside of conflict remains a pressing issue for victims, regardless of gender or age.”

Identifying that the primary perpetrators of public, political sexual attacks were regional political militias followed by state forces, Acled compared statistics for 2018 and 2019 in order to identify high-risk regions where women are more vulnerable to attack.

In 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo topped the list followed by South Sudan, Burundi, India and Sudan. By 2019, the list had changed, with India rising to second place behind the DRC. South Sudan and Burundi followed, with Mozambique and Zimbabwe in equal fifth position.

In both years, researchers found that events were often accompanied by lethal attacks, especially during armed conflict.

Breaking down the data into regions, Acled found that the largest proportion of reported events were committed by political militias, anonymous or unidentified armed groups in Africa and south Asia. In the Middle East, south-east Asia, eastern and south-eastern Europe and the Balkans, events were carried out by state forces.

In the same time period, more than 100 government-perpetrated sexual violence events were recorded, which accounted for more than a quarter of all incidents that occurred or were most common in India, the DRC, Myanmar, South Sudan, Burundi, and Sudan.

There are no comprehensive statistics for the number of women and men subjected to sexual violence during conflict, but the figures are believed to be in the thousands

According to Acled, women are frequently targeted during political violence, which makes up only one-third of all events involving violence targeting women and extends beyond sexual violence, where they say that levels of organised violence are high.

However, even where they identified that organised violence was not the primary objective, women often still face high levels of targeting outside of conventional conflict: for example, attempts by a state to enforce order through repression, or a mob targeting a woman accused of indecency. Such instances have arisen in Burundi and Pakistan, which provide indicative case studies.

“On the heels of commemorating the international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict, we need the support of states to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Kishi.

“It is damning to find that some states are among the primary perpetrators of such violence themselves. Impunity plays a troubling role in the continuation of such violence.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jun/28/congo-abuses-drive-global-rise-in-sexual-violence-against-women

DRC Ebola outbreak still not global emergency, says WHO

EbolaThe current outbreak is the second-deadliest in history [Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not qualify as an international threat, even though cases have been confirmed in neighbouring Uganda.

“It was the view of the committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in DRC and the region, but does not meet the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern,” the United Nations health agency’s expert committee said in a statement on Friday after an emergency meeting.

Despite the outcome of the deliberations, “this outbreak is very much an emergency,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a Geneva press conference via telephone from the DRC.

The virus has killed more than 1,400 people since its outbreak – the second-deadliest in history – was declared in August last year after emerging in eastern DRC’s northern Kivu and Ituri provinces.

To be declared a global emergency, an outbreak must constitute a risk to other countries and require a coordinated response. The declaration typically triggers more funding and political attention.

Speaking from the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said there was now a stronger political engagement to make sure the outbreak was contained.

“It will take longer than originally anticipated,” she told Al Jazeera.

“However, we still believe that it can be contained. It will need a multi-facet response not a simple public health response as had initially been thought. But we anticipate that it will eventually be contained.”

Uganda cases

On Thursday, the WHO acknowledged that it had been unable to track the origins of nearly half of new Ebola cases in the DRC, suggesting it did not know where the virus was spreading.

The United Nations health agency said on Thursday that two people had died in Uganda after arriving with the disease from the DRC.

Its expert committee has met twice previously to consider the situation in the DRC. In April, the WHO said the outbreak was of “deep concern” but officials were “moderately optimistic” it could be contained within a “foreseeable time.”

The outbreak, occurring close to the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, has been like no other. Community mistrust has been high and attacks by rebel groups have undermined aid efforts.

Experts say people are still dying outside of Ebola treatment centres, exposing their families to the disease, and many do not appear on lists of known contacts being monitored.

“Vaccines alone can’t work if community hides cases due to distrust. Violence persists. We are in this for the long haul,” Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said, referring to deadly attacks on health facilities in the DRC.

According to the WHO, more than 100 attacks on treatment centres and health workers in the DRC have been recorded since the beginning of this year.

As the far deadlier 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak raged in West Africa, the WHO was heavily criticised for not declaring a global emergency until nearly 1,000 people had died and the virus had spread to at least three countries.

Internal WHO documents later showed that the agency feared the declaration would have economic and social implications for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. More than 11,300 people died in the three countries.

Before the WHO panel’s move, Axelle Ronsse, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, had expressed uncertainty whether a declaration would help. She said outbreak responders, including the WHO, should reevaluate their strategies to contain the spiralling outbreak.

“It’s quite clear that it’s not under control,” she said. “Now may be the time to reset and see what should be changed at this point.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/dangerous-iran-denies-claims-gulf-tankers-190614151217769.html

Liberian priest’s wide-ranging accusations against two bishops include sexual harassment

HarrassementCredit: Fotos593/Shutterstock.

. Liberian Church leaders have visited the Vatican after a priest claimed to have been mentally and psychologically abused by two bishops, reportedly in retaliation against him for refusing sexual relations.

Father Gabriel Sawyer, who has since left ministry and attempted to marry, made the accusations against Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia and Bishop Andrew Karnley of Cape Palmas in an Aug. 15, 2018 letter to the apostolic nuncio to Liberia, Archbishop Dagoberto Campos Salas.

Archbishop Zeigler declined comment to Front Page Africa, while Bishop Karnley characterized Sawyer’s claims as “a campaign of lies and falsehoods against me.”

The visit took place the last week of May, the news site Crux reported. The Vatican meeting included Bishop Anthony Borwah of Gbarnga, who heads the Liberian bishops’ conference; Father Dennis Cephus Nimene, secretary of the bishops’ conference; and Campos, the nuncio.

The alleged victim said in his letter to the nuncio that the harassment was constant and systematic for over 14 years.

In a May 23 Front Page Africa / New Narratives report, the priest said he was left destitute and waited for a year and a half for an investigation. He claims to have then attempted to marry a friend in February 2019 “to protect my own life.” He said he faced threats and he accused his ecclesiastical superiors of refusing to provide him with necessary healthcare.

“Once the information got out they were sending me threatening messages,” he said. “I am the first person to speak out on these homosexuality and sex abuse charges. And these things have haunted the Church for years. I felt it is time someone speaks out about them.”

Sawyer said the retaliatory incidents involving Karnley lasted more than two decades, dating back to his time as a seminarian when Karnley was vocations director.

Karnley made sexual advances towards him “continuously” when they traveled by car together, Sawyer alleged.

In one incident, Sawyer said, Karnley tried to touch him sexually when he was half-asleep in his room. When he refused the bishop further sexual activity, the retaliation began, the priest claims.

“He quietly and calmly left my room, telling me at the same time, that he will make sure that I did not become a priest,” said the priest, who said the previous Archbishop of Monrovia, Michael Francis, assigned him to another priest for evaluation before approving his ordination to the priesthood. Francis died in 2013.

Sawyer said he kept quiet “in order to save my vocation.” He said he discussed the retaliatory behavior with his classmates, though not Karnley’s alleged sexual advances.

Karnley, 52, has served as Bishop of Cape Palmas since 2011. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Liberia, and was its apostolic administrator from 2005-2009.

The 75-years-old Zeigler has been Monrovia’s archbishop since 2011. He is the former Bishop of Gbarnga.

New Narratives said it has interviewed five other priests and lay people who affirmed Sawyer suffered abuse from the two bishops. These alleged witnesses asked for their identities to be withheld for fear of retribution from Church leadership.

Moses Carter, a spokesman for the Liberia National Police, affirmed that the country’s laws will be enforced if anyone is convicted, explaining, “If any individual in the Catholic Church commits an act it does not becloud the entire church said individual must be made to face the full weight of the law.”

“Whoever claims they were sodomized or attempts were made on them, the law is always there for everyone. They can come over to the (Liberia National Police),” said Carter.

Liberia’s penal code bars “involuntary sodomy,” classifying as a third-degree felony “deviate sexual intercourse” or causing someone to engage in such intercourse. It is unclear whether the law would apply in Sawyer’s case.

Sawyer has also charged that the archbishop abused his power and refused him leave to go to Ghana for treatment for an illness.

The harassment was so severe it has caused him “untold sufferings and mental disorders,” he charged, including “psychological breakdown” and even a periodic “state of paralysis.” He also suffers from acute gastrointestinal disorder.

Explaining his sex abuse claim against Zeigler, Sawyer said the archbishop “told me that I was looking nice and he loves me.” It appears to be based in the archbishop’s recommendation that “I should make time available to visit him at his house,” which Sawyer said he realized meant “something else.” In Sawyer’s account, the bishop later repeated such a proposal.

“This time I told him I was not interested and cannot reduce myself to that level. I was so upset and left his office without discussing what I went to see him about,” the priest said.

Another priest speaking anonymously to Front Page Africa said that Zeigler has professed his innocence of the allegations in meetings with clergy.

Karnley told Front Page Africa, “I challenge Father Sawyer in the name of God to take me to any court and prove it, not only him but any man living or dead.”

News reports cited a leaked email to Sawyer from Bishop Borwah, dated Dec. 4, 2018, that appears to show Borwah asking Sawyer to “please keep things away from the media, public and the court.”

The bishop, who was ordained a priest of the Monrovia archdiocese in 1996, appeared to want the priest’s side heard.

“You have the right to be listened to and protected by the Church,” said the bishop, who pledged his help to bring the process to a successful conclusion “as much as I can with God’s help.”

Sawyer has supporters and detractors.

One lay Catholic, Aaron Weah, told Front Page Africa he supported “a strong and impartial investigation.”

“I believe that if they are verified to be lies it will help the Church. If these acts are actually happening in the Church and they can be verified and authenticated it will also help our faith,” Weah said.

Others were critical of the accuser.

“I think it is misinformation,” Solo Otto Gaye, a journalist and a Catholic who volunteers with the Cape Palmas diocese, said of Sawyer’s claims. “This is hard to believe because (the) bishop is an African man from the village. I run his social media page. I have gone from village to village with him. We even sleep together. If he is gay I would know.”

Some reactions came from the pulpit.

“What you are hearing is because an individual is hurt and decided to smear the image of the church,” Sacred Heart Cathedral’s administrator, Father Alphonsus Momoh, said to a Sunday congregation in Monrovia. “One day the truth will be told by the one who told the lie. Some believe it, some don’t and some are standing firm.”

He attributed the controversy to greed and a desire for money, saying, “Nobody wants to go through the proper channel. You will go and tarnish the name of the institution you belong to. There is no trust. We find in our midst- pulling down each other.”

A division of the Catholic fraternity Knights of St. John International, based at the same cathedral, expelled a member who spoke to the press about the matter and criticized the Church.

Sawyer said harassment continued after his ordination, though indirectly. He charged that Karnley and his allies conspired to oust him from his parish assignment, leaving him destitute and forced to beg for money at times.

His letter objected that the bishop’s office provided him insufficient funds to secure a visa to the U.K. for studies, and provided insufficient funds to support him while studying in the U.K., which similarly forced him to beg.

Upon his return, he was assigned to pastors who failed to provide his basic material needs. Sawyer contended his assignment as an associate priest after having served as pastor was non-canonical and a “total abuse of ecclesiastical power.”

A pastor he served under, he said, called the bishop and falsely reported that Sawyer threatened to kill the pastor “with a cutlass.” Sawyer also claimed that Karnley falsely accused him of having affairs with women, because of his refusal of sexual advances.

Sawyer claimed that his refusal of Zeigler’s alleged sexual advances meant that the bishop would listen to gossip about him rather than fairly investigate the accusations and unjustly kicked the priest out of his assignments. He claimed that the archbishop showed insufficient empathy to the priest and did not pay sufficient respect to his family after his father’s death. The priest’s letter speculated on whether this apparent inaction was due to an Ebola outbreak.

Both bishops ignored canon law, the priest charged.

The series on the Liberian bishops was produced by New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. It acknowledges funding from the Australian government agency Australian Aid, with the disclaimer that the funder had no say in the content.

The New Narratives project’s international partners are the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the U.K.-based charitable arm of the news network, and Chime for Change, founded by the Italian luxury fashion company Gucci in 2013. The Chime for Change campaign on its website describes as an effort “to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality.”

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/liberian-priests-wide-ranging-accusations-against-two-bishops-include-sexual-harassment-43668