BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – Police in Grand Bassa have sent a 55-year-old man to court for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl in the county.
Emmanuel K. Ballah, who is also a driver for ArcelorMittal, was accused of sexually violating the teenager while she was on vacation in Monrovia. The victim’s mother had taken her daughter to the hospital for examination after learning of the incident and reported the case to the police, who arrested Ballah.
“His wife is a close friend to me,” the victim’s mother explained to a team of journalists. “She went to the United States – she told me to pay attention to her husband because he is not a person who can eat around. So I can give him food every day. He is very close to my children, so they all call him uncle Ballah.”
The mother told reporters that the rape occurred when she was away from her children on a trip.
“When I was away, my daughter called me that she has something to tell me,” she said, explaining that Ballah had asked the child to fetch him bread and when she returned, he locked the door, preventing her from leaving.
“The girl said he told her to take off her clothes,” she continued explaining. “The girl asked why I should take off my clothes and panties. So, he said to her, I am coming to do rude thing to you.”
The victim’s mother said Ballah kept a knife at the head of the bed, instilling fear into her daughter. She added that Ballah had also turned his radio up loud to prevent anyone outside the room from suspecting anything.
Using a common Liberian euphemism to describe sexual activities, she further said, “He climbed over her, took off her underclothes, and started to do rude things to her.”
After Ballah finished, he brought the victim back to her home in a vehicle, the mother said. At this point, she was visibly shaking but avoided telling her sister about the occurrence until Ballah could leave.
The victim’s mother told journalists that immediately when her daughter explained the ordeal to her, she and her husband transported her to the hospital for examination. She said the family also called Ballah and had the victim explain the ordeal in front of at least six persons.
“He had his hands on his head and started crying,” the mother said. “He said yes he did it, but he started begging that we should forgive him.”
The victim is currently recovering and being treated at the Liberian Government Hospital.
“I want the government to take rape issue very seriously,” the victim’s mother said. “When it will be the case to cut off their penis, we the women will agree. Especially for me, I will support it because it is getting too much. Since former President [Ellen Johnson] Sirleaf made the law, we should stand by it and take it very seriously, because [the number of rapes] is going up. The men are not calming down. He wants to spoil my child’s future.”
While in police custody, Ballah did not speak to journalists. Police placed him under a strict watch to protect him.
Ballah’s employer, ArcelorMittal, called the occurrence “tragic and completely unacceptable.”
“We are devastated by this news and strongly condemn such act anywhere within ArcelorMittal Liberia’s concession and beyond,” said Amanda M. Hill, the company’s head of corporate communications. “We are providing support and care to the victim and the family.”
She added that the company had taken administrative actions against the suspect and turned him over to the Liberian National Police for further investigation and appropriate legal action.
“The company doesn’t tolerate violence and is committed to a work environment free of any form of harassment, exploitation, abuse, or violence as defined by the laws of Liberia. This is also stated in our human rights policy that we adhere to. Any form of harassment, abuse or violence will never be accepted,” she said.
The police received the complaint on July 11 and launched a thorough investigation. Ballah was finally sent to the Buchanan Magisterial Court on July 16 after being charged with statutory rape.
Ballah has been remanded at the Upper Buchanan Central Prison, awaiting trial. The date for his appearance in court has not been disclosed.
Featured photo by Olivier Asselin/UNICEF