Pressure grows in Liberia over US charity in ‘school rape’ storm

Liberian Vice President Jewel Taylor on Tuesday lent her voice to demands for a probe into a US educational charity after girls were raped at a school supposed to save them from a life of sexual exploitation.

Last week, the charity More Than Me admitted to major failings and deeply apologised after the scale of the abuse came to light.

“I vehemently denounce this act of exploiting our young girls and putting an organisation’s interest before the lives of our children,” said Taylor.

“I will never condone this act from anyone, be it foreign or domestic. Please allow us to do due diligence.”

Last week, the US investigative site ProPublica described how girls were systematically raped at the More Than Me Academy in Liberia’s capital Monrovia.

The charity had founded the school specifically to empower and educate local girls to save them from prostitution and sexual coercion.

The rapes – some of them perpetrated against children as young as 10 – were carried out by the charity’s co-founder, Macintosh Johnson, who later died of AIDS, ProPublica said in a piece co-published with Time.

The assaults took place at a school at West Point, a notorious slum in Monrovia.

It opened in 2013 to a blaze of publicity, becoming the first of 18 schools that More Than Me opened in the impoverished West African state.

ProPublica described Johnson as a “charming hustler” who insinuated himself with Katie Meyler, an evangelical Christian who created the charity.

She eventually raised more than $8m in funding, nearly $600 000 of which came from the US government, and gained the support of Liberia’s then president and Nobel Peace Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

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