Justice for Mae Azango

Fierce of the Fearless in the face of danger
Bernard Gbayee Goah
Written by: Bernard Gbayee Goah
President Operation We Care for Liberia

A Liberian female Journalist, Mae Azango, unveiled to the public the hidden sagas of the deepest and most forbidden secrets of the Liberian Grebo bush. She wrote a story about the health implications of female genital cutting within a secret society of women in Liberia. Since the time of publication by the Liberian Newspaper, FrontPage Africa, Mae Azango has lived in fear as a result of threatening messages she received from anonymous callers. Mae fled for her life and is now in hiding.

Most interestingly Mae experienced these threats and went into hiding under the watchful eyes of the person she emulates the most, her role model, the one she had looked up to for redemption for years. The one who claims to have advocated for the rights of Liberian women for decades, the iron lady of Liberia, Africa’s first female President, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Mae Azango hasn’t slept in her own bed, or seen her 9-year-old daughter, in weeks. She has been living in fear since March 8, 2012. While in hiding, Mae questions why her role model has not come to her aid? Friends visit her under darkness and take with them Liberian newspapers for her to read. She read about her role model’s children and how most of them were appointed to top positions in their mother’s government. Mae read about nepotism in government, but most embarrassingly the Liberian President justifying why the President’s children and relatives should hold top position in government. She read about one of the President’s son’s grand-style birthday celebration. But there she is, in hiding without her only daughter who has just turned 9 and who’s birthday she may not celebrate this year or not for a while.

Mae’s cry for justice has reached us and that is why we at “Operation We Care for Liberia” feel morally obligated to act without delay. We see the threatening of any journalist’s life in Liberia as a jarring reminder of the senseless harassment faced by the press community in that part of the world. While investigations are still going on, the human right community owes Mae Azango, and all journalist victims who suffer harassment from both government authorities and organized criminal organizations in Liberia protection.

We demand that justice for Mae is served in a timely manner. We call on all human rights organizations to support our effort in pressuring the Liberian government to provide bodily protection for Mae Azango. Mae should not be separated from her daughter as a result of Government’s failure to protect her.
Also we condemn the Liberian government for abusing the rights of a 9-year-old child in time of crisis. The Liberian government has failed to respect the United Nations Child Protection act. If the mother of a 9 year old is in hiding for life threatening reasons, it does not require a rocket scientist to deduce that the child’s wellbeing is also threatened.

Let us put aside the fact that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has won accolades and admiration from the international community for her “work and advocacy” on women’s rights.  Let us put aside the fact that as an advocate, we should expect Sirleaf to call upon Mae to assist her in educating and addressing the very issues Mae brought to light.  The issues of Sirleaf’s inaction around women’s rights are secondary to the issue of preserving human rights, independent of gender. 

We call upon Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to protect a person who put their life on the line for the greater good of humanity.  We call upon Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to take Mae Azango’s report as a top priority than to allow Mae to be bullied into silence.  The silence has been allowed for far too long.

Bernard Gbayee Goah
President, Operation We Care for Liberia

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