Liberia’s government has announced an immediate investigation into the rape case of More Than Me, a charity founded by an American woman after allegations that a staff member raped girls in its care.
The information ministry said 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 staffer Macintosh Johnson, who died from an Aids-related illness in jail in 2016.
The charity was set up by Katie Meyler to help vulnerable girls, mainly from the slum community of West Point, and runs 19 schools, teaching around 4,000 students.
Liberia’s Education Minister, Ansu Sonii, told the Associated Press 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.
In a statement, a three-member committee of the charity’s board of directors said 36-year-old Meyler had taken a leave of absence until an independent audit requested by the organisation was completed.
Meyler’s work had been praised by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as well as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The US government poured money into her charity.
“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 resigned. The charity’s operations in Liberia will continue.
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.
For years the charity had been aware of sexual assault allegations. In 2015 Meyler, from New Jersey, said in a statement: “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 want the government of Liberia to bring full force down on this man. He should never be allowed to be around children again.” The Guardian