Woman and Daughter Recovering After Attempted Forced Traditional Initiation in Nimba

SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba – A woman and her daughter were attacked by traditional women who tried to forcibly initiate them into a traditional Sande society.

Olive Dahn and her daughter, who live in Neinpah Town, are now undergoing medical treatment at the G. W. Harley Hospital in Sanniquellie from wounds they sustained from physical assaults.

The Sande and Poro secret societies have existed in Liberia for centuries and are the custodians of Liberian culture, teaching traditional values and skills to children to prepare them for adulthood. However, the groups have also contributed to keeping alive some of the worst aspects of traditional culture, including female circumcision.

Dahn said a group of over 100 women had gathered at her house “and started dancing and playing with me—playing with this girl too.” She said after a while, the women informed her that she and her children would be taken to the Sande bush for initiation.

She said she resisted and then, out of fear of further confrontation with the women, she took her daughter and the rest of her children into the house.

However, Dahn said that did not stop the disturbance. She said the women forcefully entered the house and made away with some of her personal belongings, including clothes, slippers, food, and cash.

“They went and entered the house and started disturbing and took my things,” Dahn said. “They went and opened the door and window—everything. Then they entered.”

She said seven women started beating her daughter. They then turned their attention back to her when they were done.

The women took the items they had confiscated from Dahn’s home, hoping that she would follow and be forced into the Sande society.

After the women departed, Dahn said she quickly made her way to the Sanniquellie Police Station to report the incident. However, the initial attempt by the police to arrest the accused individuals failed as the women stripped themselves naked to prevent the police from arresting them.

However, a police source who preferred to remain anonymous noted that six of the accused are now in police custody, undergoing preliminary investigation.

A similar incident occurred less than a month ago when a member of the United Liberia Inland Church in Kpekpoa Town, along the Saclepea-Ganta highway, was forcibly dragged to the Poro bush by traditional men of the town.

The act prompted an investigation by the county inspector of Nimba, Reginald Mehn, with support from Rep. Larry P Younquoi of Nimba’s eighth district. The perpetrators were fined L$10,000 [US$65] to be paid as revenue to the Government of Liberia.

The incident involving Dahn has sparked concern from the head of the Chief and Elders Council of Nimba, Chief Peter Barlon. Barlon has warned that those forcibly initiating people would face serious actions.

Joseph Wongbay of Radio Nimba contributed to the story. Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

A resident of Ganta, Nimba County, Arrington has a background working with credit unions and other organizations dedicated to rural finance.

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