Monrovia – Just a day after wives of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), blocked highway leading to the Roberts International Airport (RIA), widows of deceased soldiers stormed the Capitol Hill Foreign Ministry Affairs offices of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to also demand their late husbands benefits.
On Tuesday, January 9, wives of present soldiers, who are housed at the Edward Binyan Kesselly Military Barrack, along the RIA highway, blocked that very major route, demanding monies deducted, from the last few years, from their husbands’ salaries.
At the Foreign Ministry, the women held placards bearing inscriptions: “AFL widows are dying. Please pay our husbands’ benefits, Madam President.
Madam President, why are you treating us like this?”
Most of the women prostrated themselves on the main road just at the entrance of the Foreign Ministry.
“We are the AFL widows; we are protesting for our husbands’ benefits of US$3,000. My husband joined the army in 1969, since he is dead now, I am entitled to his benefits,” said Esther Myers, head of the AFL Widows.
While speaking with the press, President Sirleaf convoy leaving the Foreign Ministry came to a stop, and President Sirleaf disembarked from her vehicle to briefly speaking with the women. In no time, Madam Myers and President Sirleaf engaged in a back and forth conversation, when Madam Myers said;
“Happy New Year Madam President; we do not want you to leave us just like this, without paying us our husbands’ benefits. Please Madam President, we are suffering,” she told President Sirleaf, who interrupted her.
“This is not the right way to ask for something by coming in the street and making the country to look bad."
"You need to gather your leadership to meet me, so we can talk about this issue, but when you come on the street like this, it won’t help you, because, you will make the whole country shame and it is not good like that,” the President retorted.
Madam Myers assured the President that she would remove the women from the street as President Sirleaf had suggested, but added: “Ok Mama, we will do what you say but 12 years now, we have not gotten our husbands’ benefits.”
The President raised her hands in disagreement and said, “No! Do not say 12 years because every year we can go through this same thing around July 26 and Christmas, so do not say it is 12 years, since you have not gotten pay.”
The Liberian leader than pointed to the leader of the AFL widows, Madam Myers and shouted, “I know you for causing confusion,” who, too, replied, “Yes, you know me very well, Madam President, but how am I causing confusion?
The President replied, “You know how to mobilize the women as you have done in the past to speak with me, so why did you come on the street today?
I am on my way to a program but when I get back, I will see the leadership of the group, so wait for me in the yard of the office I am occupying for now. You and I are women, so why should Police be here? So, I want you tell your women to leave but you wait for me in my office yard.”
It can be recalled that in one year during President Sirleaf’s first term of office, she called the widows, through their heads, Madam Myers and Mrs. Ora Baysah.
She arranged for them to have some money for their Christmas celebration that year, after they had blocked the Capitol Building entrances with kitchen utensils in protest.
Another year, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai deposited US$25,000 into their account and instructed their heads to withdraw and distribute the money according to their lists.
A few days after, some of the women assembled before the former Justice Ministry office on Ashmun and Center Streets intersection accusing their leadership of conspiring with the Defense Minister to eat their money.
“Now that President Sirleaf is heading out, they are mounting pressure to receive their husbands’ benefits again.
I wonder President-elect George Weah is going to inherit what Ma Ellen created when she dissolved the AFL,” asked a passerby.