Entrenched traditional practices and religion on the one hand and deepening obsession for modernity and civic liberties on the other have submerged Liberia, which just graduated from 16 years of political and physical brutal war, into a potentially cataclysmic social and spiritual warfare. And it seems each belligerent group is panting with both passion and fury, grimly determined to prevail over the other. In the last few months, covert and overt maneuvers from both sides have increased in intensity and it appears an open war with possible casualties is imminent in the next weeks as the Lower House of the Legislature, perhaps woozy with impact of the fight, falls into deep lull over this serious matter. Privy to some of the schemes at bay, The Analyst reports the veracity and imminence of the war and the possibility that victory can befall any side–awfully soon.
Broad Street in Monrovia, which is from time immemorial is regarded the nation’s pride–the busiest and elegant center–has since the civil conflict turned into a paradise of pickpockets and other violent criminals particularly at night. What many Liberians may not know is that nocturnal Broad Street has also become a hub of prostitutes, including gays and lesbians.
Night-lifers on the eve of last Independence Day beheld the evidence when many nearly ran for cover in the aftermath of fracas that ensured between two male gangs attempting to reach for the heads of each other over claims and counterclaims to a common gay husband.
Minutes earlier, a plate-less black van arrived and packed before King Burger and before the occupants disembarked, two young men from each of the gangs quickly emptied their classes from which they were drinking and moved towards the van. Hardly did the occupants of the van disembarked then shouts and yells of the two men attracted their gang members as if the barrages of curses from the two men were an invitation to parent gangs for rescue.
And before the melee ensued, the black van and its occupants, whoever they were, sped up, leaving behind volleys of blows and clinking sounds of bottles on the tarmac of Broad Street.
This is the trouble we have on this street every now and then,” said a female eyewitness trading roasted frozen meats nearby. “Since my mother bore me I have never seen this kind of thing. Man loving to man, woman to woman and, more so, fighting over lovers of their sex for sex.”
She refused to disclose her name but said further: “Those who don’t believe that gay and lesbian life exists in Liberia and exists in their numbers must come to Broad Street after 10pm and see something.”
Broad Street, certainly, is not the only place gays and lesbians are hooking up and making real this rather strange practice–strange in terms of Liberian heterogeneous sexual culture. Not only are there countless reports of similar rows of prostitutes of the gay-lesbian business, there are wild rumors and speculations that homosexual practice is also pervasive if not rampant private and public offices.
Speaking on a local radio station’s religious morning talk show yesterday, the head of an anti-gay pressure group, the New Citizen Movement, Inc., said she had reports that private and public offices were basing their recruitment of staff and employees not on merit but on the willingness of the applicant to accept homosexual relationship.
“There is no doubt homosexual practices abound in Liberia nowadays,” said Rev. Cleopatra J. Watson. “This is a handiwork of Satan in his drive to fake everything that God does.”
Fights & Schemes
Homosexual practice has existed in Liberia for decades, according to some experts, but it has come to bitter public fight when a Liberian who claims not to be a gay assumed a pioneering proponent role for same-sex marriage this year.
Achie Ponpon first made himself a controversial figure when he played a ringleader role in the burning of a Norwegian flag in Monrovia over what he and his fellow demonstrators called Oslo’s underserved decoration of President Sirleaf with the prestigious Nobel Peace prize nearly on the eve of a crucial presidential elections which the President won.
Days after his release from prison over the flag-burning incident, perhaps to win favor with the West, including Oslo, or to entrench budding public attention on him, Ponpon took media airwaves and pages to drum up support to homosexual practices or same-sex marriage which remains a taboo subject in Liberia.
In addition to speculations that Ponpon’s provocation of this highly volatile social subject had got financial and moral backing of strong national and international forces, some individuals have said Ponpon has confided that his advocacy was merely driven by the quest to overcome the claws of poverty which have haunted him for so long.
Anti-gays Schemes & Tactics
Whatever the motive, the professed non-gay turned gay rights advocate has got himself at odd with the dominantly traditional heterogeneous sex society of Liberia. In addition to threats to life he reported, Ponpon was chased out of the University of Liberia intellectual forum by sticks-and-clubs-whirling youth.
It was not long after the University of Liberia chase that Ponpon alarmed that there was an arson attempt on the home of his Mother by people he considered anti-gay and anti-rights elements.
Not only did he also narrowly escaped the wrath of mob when he had gone to speak in support of same-sex marriage on local radio talk show, Ponpo also nearly caused mob arson of the local radio station on the same day.
While the mob-justice schemes in the gay war continued to be perpetrated by some conservative, culture-sensitive groups and individuals, other citizens have gone brutally civil not only with community-based sensitization and animation of the populace against same-sex traditions, but also with a proposed legislation to avert and ultimately obliterate the evolving homosexual rights debate in Liberia.
The crudest of anti-gay right attack has come so far from the Liberian Senate, which without its characteristic bickering and debates, unanimously passed a bill amending the a Section of the Domestic Relations Law of Liberia to outlaw or make same-sex marriage felonious.
Insiders say a number of influential members of the Senate are fiercely lobbying with the highly complicated Lower House to pass concord and pass the bill as quickly as they did at the Upper House.
Meanwhile, a Christian movement has joined the anti-gay war and has begun to mobilize and extract citizens’ signatures to pressure the Lower House and possibly consequently the President to pass the bill into Law.
Rev. Cleopatra J. Watson, head of the New Citizens’ Movement, Inc., has commenced a mass people’s campaign not only to rally popular support but also to press the moral conscience of authority to expeditiously legitimize anti-gay practices in Liberia.
Watson told her talk show host Sunday that the advent of same-sex relationship in Liberia represents the latest scheme of the Devil to fool and destroy God’s creation.
“This is spiritual battle, and we the people of Liberia, this land of God, cannot afford to sit back and watch our young people who are the major preys destroyed,” she said.
Pro-Gay forces’ Maneuvers
Ponpon, as one pundit put it on a local TV talk show recently, “is a mere shadow, a courier boy and lackey of a hugely powerful force behind the curtains” working around the clock to popularize and possibly legalize same-sex practices in Liberia.
Since the main proponents hardly come public, pro-gays’ agenda and schemes are seen from what critics say. “They are using ‘cash violence’ to abuse and defile our young people,” said New Citizens’ Movement’s founder, Rev. Cleopatra Watson. “They take advantage of the fact that most of our people, particularly the youngsters who are the main preys, are poor. When they count US$500 which a young boy or girl had never owned, the business is done.”
Like Rev. Watson, other commentators believe powerful private and public sector authorities are using high unemployment amongst young people to coerce young people succumb to same-sex relationship.
Liberia’s poverty rate, let alone unemployment, falls at the abysmally low level of United Nation’s and other international watchdog groups’ Development Index. These conditions of poverty, pundits admit, create the fertile ground for the success of “cash violence” that naturally meets many young Liberian vulnerable and susceptible to gay-and-lesion initiation.
Proponents, if not necessarily practitioners of homosexualism, have also continued to lift the debate from the domain of culture and religion to purview of universal rights; that the marriage (however defined by any culture) is a right–a matter of choice by the individual–recognized by international conventions and statutes and rectified by many nations, including Liberia.
To uphold this right, power nations particularly the West, have voiced no opposition to homosexual relations; in fact, the United States and Great Britain, have expressed willingness to support efforts by groups desirous of promoting homosexual practices in the developing world, particularly Africa where heterogeneous sexual practices and anti-homosexual movements are dominant.
Recently, threats by the United States to stop aid to Liberia if the Government failed to support gay and lesbian marriage were only denied frivolously. The Embassy “clarified” that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton only voiced her government’s support to gay movements but did not threat to stop aid on the matter.
This justification appeals to a number of copious individuals (both male and female) who use their wealth to take the hands of persons of their sex into marriage or casual into sexual relationship.
It is widely rumored in the country that the homosexual barons, on the basis of powerful countries support to their sexual orientation, have intensified their onslaught and many communities, street corners, offices and nightclubs have become scenes of chaos of scrambles for gay and lesbian prostitutes in the country.
Who Will Win–and Why?
The final battle, dubbed the lobby battle of the century, is currently raging and the current site of it is the Lower House of the Legislature. For nearly two months now, since the Senate passed the bill seeking the outlawing of same-sex marriage, the bill languishes, if not dusting, in House Committee Room.
Insiders say the big guns are being fired, and cash violence is taking its toll. The Lower House replete with newcomers building their financial foundations stand vulnerable, some analyst said, and even though most of them lawmakers may be professed Christians, they want to keep themselves afloat and unharmed politically by keeping it endlessly in Committee Room or chop lobby fees and leave the burden for President Sirleaf.
But others presage it should not be a surprise when “Cash Violence” prevail and homosexuals and their supporters celebrate because of the susceptibility of lawmakers to pecuniary drives. Many times, the public and even members of the House accused lawmakers of taking bribe at the expense of probity and public interest.
This history of the House, some experts believe, should not be ruled out in the anti-gay bill which is strongly supported by powerful forces having combined influence from the ground and away.
However, some commentators are optimistic about the passing of the bill from the Lower House which they believe is dominated by professed Christians and Muslims belong to religions that denounce homosexuality.
Members of the two dominant religions have begun a campaign to confront their members in the Lower House with moral imperatives of their faiths.
Already, one group, the New Citizens’ Movement, Inc. says it is soliciting 100,000 signatures to make a strong case to the Legislature and the President of Liberia for the expeditious passage of the amended Domestic Relations Law seeking the direct outlawing of homosexual practices in Liberia.
It is also being reported that Muslims are bracing up to form similar initiatives to call on their members in the House and President Sirleaf to pass the bill into law without further delay.
There also a probability for the anti-gay proponents to prevail since the Legislators and the President shall on the altar of moral force and tradition and none may one to be mistaken as atheist or immoral despite of human rights angle of the debate.