Liberia investigates US-backed charity after alleged rapes

Organisation’s founder Katie Meyler has taken a leave of absence until a separate, independent audit requested by the organisation is finished

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 8:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 8:10pm

Liberia’s government on Tuesday announced is investigating a charity founded by a young American woman after allegations a local employee raped several girls in its care.

A rape case has been reopened to determine new evidence, the information ministry said, adding that the government is “greatly concerned”.

Liberians have expressed outrage after a report last week described the alleged sexual assaults at a branch of the More Than Me charity in the capital, Monrovia, by former worker Macintosh Johnson. He died in jail in 2016 while awaiting trial.

The charity was set up to help vulnerable girls mainly from the slum community of West Point.

Liberia’s education minister, Ansu Sonii, said the ministry has obtained all necessary documents for a “meticulous” investigation and asked the public to remain calm.

“The interests of the children count first,” he said.

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In a statement, a three-member committee of the charity’s board of directors said founder Katie Meyler has taken a leave of absence until a separate, independent audit requested by the organisation is finished. Meyler’s work had been praised by Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and others.

“We fell short and we are determined to learn all that we can from this painful chapter,” the statement said on Monday. The board’s chairman has also resigned.

The charity’s operations in Liberia will continue, the statement said.

The advocacy group Liberia Feminist Forum said it was “deeply troubled by the horrid report”. It urged the government to immediately revoke the accreditation of More Than Me and place its 19 schools under other management.

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The charity for years had been aware of sexual assault allegations. In 2015 Meyler said: “I want it to be heard loud and clear that in no way do I support Macintosh Johnson or anyone who abuses children in any way. I stand 100 per cent behind our students, and I want the government of Liberia to bring full force down on this man. He should never be allowed to be around children again.”