The recent story that Ms. Grace Omaboe ( Maame Dokono) is to be prosecuted for a sordid sexual abuse case that allegedly took place in her 'Peace and Love' orphanage has quite understandably caused a stir. Added to the facts of the case are the extra spicy ingredients of Maame Dokono's celebrity status as well as her well-known fiery support for the opposition NPP, into whose camp she defected from the ruling NDC.
It is understandable, therefore, that some people would argue that Maame Dokono (MD) is simply a victim of witch-hunting by the government intent on showing her where political power lies. Others argue that as the orphanage was still in operation after its licence expired in 2006, the law has clearly been broken and children's lives are involved, so it is right that the state prosecutes her.
My take on this is simple. If Odokono has broken the law, then she needs to be punished for the breach. There can be no excuses; no matter her status in society or that she was doing some good works by having the orphanage in the first place. Her philanthropy does not exempt her from ensuring her charges are safe and secure.
However, the matter cannot be allowed to rest there. Wider questions need to be asked and answers demanded. What was the Department of Social Welfare, and in turn the Ministry of Women & Children, doing to ensure compliance with the law by ALL orphanages? Do they have regular inspections to check on compliance? Background checks on the staff to ensure they are not a threat to the children? Regular review of licences? How could they be oblivious to an orphanage running despite its licence having run out three years ago? The authorities must not escape blame for their shocking ineptitude in neglecting to regulate these institutions. It is a safe bet to assume that 'Peace & Love' is not the only orphanage to have flouted the law by allegedly operating without a valid licence, or where shocking abuses occur.
This brings me to my next and crucial point. Are the authorities going to carry out an urgent review of all similar institutions to ensure they are operating the law? When are we going to have assurances that this will be done?
You see, unless and until the authorities sit up and conduct a wide scale review of the whole system of our children in care, then there will be lingering questions about whether or not Maame Dokono's imminent prosecution is political and will give credence to her argument that she is. An urgent and comprehensive review will not only give the assurance that our vulnerable children's welfare is of paramount importance, but that the state is not engaging in political vendetta.
By Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng [[email protected]]