Following the deadly stampede that led to the deaths of over 29 people and the hospitalization of many more, including pregnant women and children, politicians and key members of Liberia’s decision making bodies have taken to social media and other platforms to send their fervent messages and prayers for the people of New Kru Town. The crusade, now dubbed “the deadly crusade,” was organized by the renowned pastor Abraham Kromah. The gathering drew massive interest from the custodians of public security and insecurity in the borough of New Kru Town, ‘ZOGOS’ (Vagabonds).
Young people’s drug addiction and criminality are some of the long-lasting effects of the 14 years of senseless civil conflict in Liberia (1989-2003). With the growing insecurity and crime across the country (Liberia), slum dwellers are at higher risks of being victimized by these ‘zogos’ who live by robbing and terrorizing defenseless citizens. As demonstrated by the cause of the infamous stampede that triggered this write-up, Liberia’s security officers are, to some extent, incapable of assuring the safety of lives and property in places where criminals are running the show. West Point, New Kru Town, New Georgia Junction, Center Street, and Red Light are a few examples of places where police officers and ‘zogos’ (criminals) have regular shifts. Police officers ensure public security during the day, while zogos ensure public insecurity throughout the night.
Unfortunately, Liberia’s various governments, both previous and current, have done very little to curtail the issues of drug addiction, criminality, and deteriorating mental health conditions amongst the younger generation. The country has gradually become a hub for illicit trans-regional drug trafficking— the lack of practical policies and programs has led to countless social problems that include violence, stealing, rape, child abuse, homelessness, and even joblessness to some extent. The health and education sectors are not well equipped to address the challenges as policymakers focus more on short-term programs that lead to re-elections. In recent memories, a good example of such visionless programs is President George Weah’s direct donation of $5,000LD ($33) to each of the well-known hooligans and drug abusers in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.
First of all, this is the worst approach to solving the problem of drug abuse in any environment. Thirty-three dollars in the hands of a person struggling to get $1 to buy drugs sounds more like an empowerment program— improving their drugs purchasing power and painting a good picture of their situation in their minds and the minds of those who want to join them in the acts. Once again, the short-term objective of this act was to secure and maintain the political support of this destitute and risky social group. The country’s borders are porous and liable to the free movements of drugs and other destructive substances; there are no long-term policies to address drug abuse and insecurity as a national emergency.
Shortsightedness has pushed policymakers to turn to prayers for people whom their actions and decisions can save from this growing threat of banditism and ganging in the communities. Legislators and other relevant authorities must ensure that the government introduces policies that directly tackle the problem from the root with the long-term effects in mind. What has been done to address the problem? What can we learn from other countries with similar past experiences and history? What can we do to ensure the safety and security of our defenseless citizens, especially women and children? Liberia’s growing security concerns and explicit banditism merits the status of a national emergency and must keep our policymakers up at night. Instead of praying for New Kru Town, policymakers must be taking actions that prevent similar incidents in any other part of the country. What is New Kru Town today could be West Point or Red Light tomorrow if the right system and programs are not introduced.