Vulnerable Youth is a Deadly Weapon – PART 2
Part II subtitle; Zogos, The Next Crisis to Deal with in Liberia
About a month ago I did a feature article on how Vulnerable Youth is a Deadly Weapon.
In that article, I clearly stated the role of the government, Civil Society Organizations, the police, youth, and women groups in maintaining peace in Liberia as we gear up for the much talk about 2023 general elections.
I also told the police to be careful and always behave well and not to let people call them by their behaviors towards them which could lead to people calling them “CDC police or opposition Police”
I concluded that article by telling the readers that part two of it will focus directly on those we called in our Liberian terms “Zogos” and this is it.
In Liberia, the young people constitute over 65% of the country’s ‘4.5’ million population. In our Liberian context, zogos are wayward citizens, many of whom are found between ages 15 to 35yrs most of whom are found of thievery and sometimes physically attacking and harassing pedestrians for their survival.
The rise in disadvantaged Youth, (zogos) is a challenge currently facing the country.
This menace continues to threaten public safety and security. The fact is Liberia, the oldest West African Independence Nation has more to do in liberating its youthful population from this nuisance of illicit drugs addiction that is imminent to devastating the peace and security and reverse the gains made over time in restoring peace in Liberia after the 14yrs of fighting one another.
Worse of all, they do have no better sheltering, some are in ghettos, cemeteries, shanty structures, street corners, and market buildings at night. As a result of this, the continuous abuse of illicit drugs and substances continues to devastate their lives.
I believe that the growing number of zogos in the country is the result of the 14 years of civil war; peer pressure, poor parenting, low household income, and high cost of living.
Other factors may be the increase of ghettos and the weak social welfare system and mechanism in our country Liberia.
Another fact is the alarming rate of youth unemployment, lack of access to education (technical and vocational), and lack of empowerment programs (business loans, aid, and grant) to promote youth development and capacity-building.
I want to use this medium to call on the government of Liberia and other development partners to help this country during this duration.
All of us need to work to ensure that the zogos are rehabilitated, some of whom I spoke with expressed interest that they really want change but no support. Rehabilitate and give them skills training, tools, and cash packages to start something on their own. This is the way to begin this fight.
This is time for all of us to pay attention to this “zogos” issue.
It is not only affecting the poor even you the reach guys are afraid to reach setting places at setting time.
What is happening in the house of the legislature, why can’t they apportion money for rehabilitating homes in highly hit areas across the country?
For example, if members of that body could just say each budget year, we will apportion US$ 100K or so for rehabilitation purposes, where they will look into key communities hit and begin building structures that can accommodate about 50 persons, where they stay and study different skills and after maybe nine months you can set them up into cell groups.
Let’s say five persons who will have interest in studying electricity upon graduation from the center we give them a small loan, where they can able to start a little business.
In the same light, they should be monitored, and instructions are given to government agencies and ministries to give a little contract to these groups of people so they do not return to the streets.
Many of whom I spoke with say even though they want to leave the street, they see no alternative.
“I want to leave the street, but they would have to give me a place to sleep,” a zogo told me.
“If they help me to leave the drugs, but they leave me sleeping on the street, I will go back to the drugs.” If I am still sleeping on the street, I would go back to the drugs.”
While outreach workers occasionally approach them with offers of social services and rehabilitation, most never follow up on their promises, they complained, and there is little or no access to mental healthcare.
Let the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency enforce the drugs laws and crackdown on ghettos and other hubs where narcotic substances are sold.
I am again calling on the government of Liberia through the National Legislature to pass the illicit drugs law to make it a non-billable crime. I believe the time is now!
Why is the ministry not pushing both houses at the 54th legislature to create more space for youth development?
It is the ministry’s responsibility to begin pushing for what we are talking about now.
I believe if the ministry had started this process of rehabilitating these young people, we couldn’t have been discussing things like this by now in Liberia.
Most of the direct work with zogos is done by local NGOs, but this is limited by a lack of adequate funding and rehabilitation centers, making it hard to break the cycle of homelessness and drug addiction.
A resident of Old Road, a community in Monrovia, Francis Konah, said “Look around Monrovia, even here, zogo is everywhere. It is now time we start doing something about this illicit drug”.
“Let the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency enforce the drugs law”.
Emmanuel Kennedy, a repented hardcore criminal, and drug addict explained that he is sick and tired of seeing young people who have the potential to make a great impact on the development of Liberia but clichéd away their right minds because they consume narcotics substances and harmful drugs.
“I spent 22 years in South Beach, the government even stopped me from participating in election activities because it sees me as a threat to national security and peace”.
Emmanuel explained that lack of support and hard cost of living and lack of opportunity for young people were taking them on the street, the hub of criminal and drug addiction. “As a result, we started taking in illicit drugs and committing crimes for the upkeep of our livelihood”.
Emmanuel, Staley Jacob, and Theresa Chea (all zogos) in separate conversations said they need help to quit drugs and leave and get in with activities that will better their lives but could not because of the factors that led to them on the street and subsequently became drug addict continue to persist in their lives.
They expressed their desire to return to normal life when they are rehabilitated and acquire technical and vocational education.
To ensure their integration into their communities, I believe that empowerment is pivotal to their sustainability through entrepreneurship.
As a citizen of Bong County, I want to call on the county authorities to think in this direction. Let’s Rehabilitate the Zogos and the time is now!!
This article was written By Amb. Timothy R. Yoko and edited by Joshua T. Gbarnah
Amb. Yoko is a 2020-22 Global Peace Chain Ambassador.
I am currently reading Mass Communications at the Smyth Institute of Management and Technology University.
I am the Establishment Coordinator (CEO) of the Bong Media Hub, the official owner of:
Bong TV Online
Bong News Magazine & Bong Journalist Network.
I want to thank Stephen G. Fellajuah who contributed by helping with some of the interviews.