GANTA, Nimba â€“ Authorities of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection say they have turned over 25 children who were accused of witchcraft and abandonedÂ by their parents and guardians at a church in Ganta. The Gender Ministry said the children were reunited in late March after over two months spent tracing their families.
In January, The Bush Chicken reported that the children had been rescued by police and taken to a Gender Ministry safe home in Sanniquellie. The children were rescued from the Fire for Fire Deliverance Church, where they had been taken for spiritual cleansing, on suspicion that they were involved in witchcraft activities. At the safe house, the Gender Ministry said it worked with UNICEF to locate and reunite the children with their parents and immediate family members.
â€œPrimarily, we are doing reunification today,â€ said Victor Y. Zeegban, the Gender Ministryâ€™s county supervisor, on March 28. â€œWe are reunifying these children with their parents and immediate family members, all of whom are residing in Nimba.â€ The childrenâ€™s ages range from 5 months to 16 years. When Zeegban initially spoke to The Bush Chicken in January, he confirmed that the children were being mistreated and were found in appalling conditions, with no access to medication when they fell sick. He added that one of the children died in May last year.
However, despite those grave offenses, no one has been charged with any crimes. Instead, the language used by authorities has been forgiving of the transgressions of the church and the guardians who took the children there in the first place. Under Liberian law, â€œa parent, guardian, or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he knowingly endangers the childâ€™s welfare by violating a legal duty of care, protection or support.â€ The commander of the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police in Ganta, Cpl. Jenkins N. Mangou, said the church may have had good intentions for the children, but it did not go through the right channels.
He noted that the actions of the church was wrong and unacceptable under the law because it did not have permission to operate an orphanage. Mangou said his office had since informed the Gompa Magisterial Court about the case, adding that it is left with the court to use its judgement to determine how to proceed with the case. Meanwhile, Zeegban, the Gender Ministryâ€™s county supervisor, thanked UNICEF for providing food and other materials for the children, as they were reunified with their families. The gender coordinator for Nimba, Yah Belleh Suah, assured The Bush Chicken that the children would continue to be monitored and tracked to ensure their well-being.
Suah said the ministry took each of the children to their individual homes to identify the parents or family members and to ensure that the children felt comfortable being turned over. She said, for most of the children, the family members they were being turned over to were not the same ones who took them to the Fire for Fire Church.â€œWe took almost three months to trace their real family members after getting to know that they were taken to the prayer center by people who were not their immediate family members,â€ Suah told The Bush Chicken via a phone call from Sanniquellie.
Featured photo by Sualeh K. Ziamo