Reading a press statement at the press conference from the Board of WANEP– Liberia, Mr. Malcom W. Joseph, Chairman of the Board of Directors, WANEP-Liberia, recalled that in October 2019, WANEP was accused of distributing bags of rice to some grass-roots women and rights defenders as inducement to protest for the rights and protection of Madam Jestina Taylor against the Government of Liberia (GoL), while she was being treated at the St Joseph Catholic Hospital in Monrovia.
“In addition, the Coordinator for the Women In Peace building Network (WIPNET) a sub-set of WANEP, Mrs. Delphine Morris Joekia, was allegedly accused of masterminding and mobilizing the women into protest actions against the government.Subsequently there were facebook messages of all kinds against Mrs. Joekia in particular, and WIPNET/WANEP in general.
Furthermore, the Board f Directors of WANEP, which I chair was informed that verbal threat of arrest was issued by the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Sayma Syrenus Cephus based on the same allegations,” Board Chairman Joseph pointed out.
He said it is against this backdrop, that the Board of WANEP seeks to provide clarification and assurance that WANEP will continue to remain a peacebuildng institution of integrity and excellence working across Liberia through its network organizations for durable peace and reconciliation.
He also recalled that on October 5th, 2019, the Women in Peace building Network-WIPNET Program of the West Africa Network for Peace building-WANEP-Liberia received another round of food and non-food items as their bi-annual ration from Alfalit International, of whom Philanthropist Joe Milton is the President and stays in Miami, Florida USA. The distribution comes through Alfalit Liberia in the months of (July & December), but for this year, the distribution schedule changed because Miami had to attend to emergency needs of some other countries.
The distribution was staged at 3 different sites in Monrovia that day in order for the women to have had easy access in transporting their 25kg bags of rice to their individual homes. The three communities that received food on that day were; Fish Market WIPNET Structure, Lakpazee WIPNET Structure and Peace Island WIPNET Structure.
At the Lakpazee distribution site on October 5, 2019, one young man called Varmah Bobby Gray, who claims to be a strong member of the ruling party CDC, dubiously recorded the women of WIPNET, while taking their food, and sent out the fake post on the social media, specifically Facebook, indicating that WIPNET was receiving food from opposition political parties against the ruling party of Liberia CDC. In his recording, he stated that WIPNET went to protest in support of opposition parties on the Justina Taylor issue at Catholic Junction and that they were receiving their pay with “just a bag of rice”.
“The fake recording was posted on Facebook by Varmah Bobby Gray without engaging the women to ascertain the actual source of the food and non-food items and their involvement with the Justina Taylor issue.Based on his erroneous statement that evening, the women of WIPNET were attacked by some community boys on grounds that WIPNET is not building peace, but rather using the women against the ruling party. They then threatened to attack the women whenever they are seen in their uniform in the name of advocacy.”
The community of Lakpazee was very tensed that evening to the extent that people took sticks during the argument against our peaceful women but the women remained very calm. As the Coordinator of the WIPNET Program was called by my women of Lakpazee to intervene, WIPNET Program officers Cecelia Danuweli and Bernice Freeman called on the Police Spokesman Moses Carter to intervene. Mr. Moses Carter advised the women on the phone to contact the nearest police station and report the case.
The police, however, went with the women between 7:20-7:30pm that evening at the house where Varmah Bobby Gray was sitting and wrongfully discussing the women that they are protesters and not peace makers. When he saw the women and the police walking to him, he escaped and entered in one room and locked up himself.
According to the landlord (Momo Tulay), that was his girlfriend’s room and she is renting the place but he frequently visits her there.
On the 7th of Oct, 2019, WIPNET issued a press statement, which was posted on the social media, calling on Varmah to retract his statement or face the full weight of the law. Varmah who boasted his connection with some high profile personalities of the current government of Liberia, further reported his lies to the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia, the S.G without analyzing the issue took to the media.
On the 10th of October, 2019 the Solicitor General of Liberia, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus at the regular press briefing at the Ministry of Information, ordered the immediate arrest through the ELBC Radio and Television station. The verbal arrest warrant on the television stated that Delphine Morris Joekai WIPNET Coordinator took police officers at the home of a peace loving citizen like Varmah Bobby Gray at 10:pm and trying to destabilize the peace of this country.
“We were shocked by this pronouncement by the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia who should be protecting the rights of the women against harm and danger from the likes of Varmah who is against peace and stability,” Joseph asserted.
Meanwhile, the Board informed the public that since 2014, WANEP has been working in partnership with Affalit Liberia and regularly distributes food items (including rice) to grass-root women in 15 districts areas in Montserrado County and Monrovia and across Liberia.
This distribution of bags of rice almost around the time of the incidence at the Catholic Hospital Junction involving aggrieved protesters and state security actors may have only been coincidental but certainly this was never an incitement by WANEP or WIPNET.
“As we release this press statement, similar distribution is ongoing across Liberia by WIPNET with support from Affalit Liberia.The Board reminds that WANEP-Liberia was established upon the founding of the regional peace building organization the West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) in 1998, and since its establishment, WANEP has led massive mobilization of civil societies and fragmented peace building groups into forming an effective response network to the conflict that plagued the region including Liberia.”
WANEP-Liberia has a membership of twenty-two civil society organizations including gender focused civil society organisations and serves as a national peace building resource hub for its members and other peace building organizations, due to its hands-on experience in collaborative approaches of mediation, peace building, reconciliation, human rights and gender advocacy in the Liberia.
WANEP-Liberia has four core program areas through which project activities are implemented. They include the Conflict Prevention Program (Early Warning & Peace Education), Governance & Human Rights, Women in Peace building Network and the Capacity Building program which is mainstreamed all programs.
WANEP through its program structures has implemented activities related to education and conflict prevention, advocacy, awareness raising, on the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR) and Liberia National Action Plan (NAP), prevention and response to Gender Based Violence (GBV), political leadership skills enhancement on women rights and participation in decision making including conflict early warning monitoring & analysis, peace building, court monitoring for SGBV survivals/victims to ensure access to justice. These activities have been implemented through its Women in Peace building Network, Conflict Prevention, Capacity Building, and Governance & Human Rights Programs.