Home Editorial Living In Monrovia Today…

Living In Monrovia Today…

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By Dan Martin

Prior to the public display of arms or the military coup in 1980, Monrovia, one of the oldest capital cities in the world, was a place of love, happiness, good sanitation and most of all, a refuge for many freedom fighters including South Africa’s former President, Nelson Mandela (late).

During those days, the over 300,000 inhabitants then, knew little or nothing about armed robbers or ‘passengers 54’ and ‘Zogos’(males) and ‘Zogees’ (females). People could travel from far distances like Yekepa, Voinjama, Gbarnga and Buchanan to enjoy the beauty of Monrovia during the weekends at any time whether day or night.

The inhabitants were also devoted to their religious faiths and beliefs whether Western or based on native African traditions. To sell on Sundays was a like a ‘crime against the state’ because Christians (from adults – to- kids) would worship en masse on Sunday.

Liberians celebrated Easter as if it were a national holiday, although there was no proclamation from the Executive Mansion and or/ the nation’s Presidency.

The government, at the time, put measures in place that in a way that it was difficult to see marketers selling on said Holy-Day/ Sunday. The City police was powerful, no one dared to sell on Sunday. Then, on Friday, the few Muslims at the time, would follow suit, by shutting down their respective business establishments to attend Friday prayers.

Reports say Liberia was one of the peaceful and hospitable nations; if not the best at the time during the eras of former Presidents Arthur Barclay and William V. S. Tubman.

But, Liberians experienced the first 19th Century violence when the late President, Dr. William Richard Tolbert, then President of the World Baptist Alliance, was preparing for his own elections after he took over from President William V.S. Tubman, after 27 unbroken years of Tubman leadership of Liberia.

Tolbert served for a protracted number of years as Vice President to President Tubman who died in office in 1971.

Despite the political tension that effectively built-up in the late 70s, Liberia experienced less petit-crimes along the principal streets as people could walk freely in the streets even at midnight, with almost everyone respecting the municipal laws that governed Monrovia and its suburbs, then.

Inspectors from the various ministries and agencies regularly inspected restaurants, commercial food and health centers, supermarkets, stores among other facilities to ensure that operators of these institutions were in full compliance with the laws.

Goods brought into Monrovia were properly inspected and violators were fined or their businesses were shot down in line with the relevant laws of the country. No supermarkets and stores dared to defy government to not place price tags on their respective goods. Compliance with prices of goods were monitored and validated by authorities of the ministries responsible.

The Liberian Government, at the time, was firmed about imposing US$25.00 on violators of these prescribed regulations, and I can remember revenues generated from these lawbreakers were also used to improve the sanitation condition of Monrovia.

From food centers to streets peddlers, nearly everyone knew the way of living in Monrovia. Nobody dared to drop dirt in the streets of the city during our days as kids. The government had counter inspectors-meaning those who also checked on the inspectors; the counter inspectors were there to also check whether the inspectors were properly inspecting mainly the health centers, restaurants and supermarkets or stores. Goods without labels, indicating their country of origin were not permitted on the local market for sale.

Another good thing that we benefited from this little Monrovia was the family ties. The residents of Monrovia at that time were like one family, there was less tribal interest but only church or religious interest as well as fraternity which bordered on members helping each other positively. People only wanted to know which of the denominations one belongs and not what tribe/ethnic group he/she hailed from.

Even before some of us left for the concession areas like Bong Mines or Yekepa for schooling and other good initiatives, there was one orientation; your father is my father, your mother is my mother, your sister is my sister and on the parents’ side, your child is my child.

All kids also respected teachers of the other schools and would hide if a teacher of another school was passing during their playing hours.

Friendships were largely genuine and generally had no strings attached although there was no perfection.

Moreover, educational competitions were high among the kids of the various schools from Sinkor, Old-Road, Carey, Broad Street, among others. Both public and private schools students competed for high marks in their academic sojourn and were recognized based on academic merits. The JBC kept our bound as kids during our days.

But, today, things are unfolding on the contrary as most goods being importers are inarguably substandard, have no price tags or country of origin. Prices of the same goods brought by the same importers are changed the following week or so without any consultation or regard to the government and its people.

Foreign merchants are having their unscrupulous way in the commerce of Liberia, as the country’s inspectorate section appears weak either due to lack of support or unbridled corruption.

For instance, the same importers are engaged in both retail and wholesale of goods including those reserved by law, exclusively for Liberians, while at the same time, they are involved in foreign exchange businesses. Interestingly, authorities of the Commerce Ministry and other concerned agencies have consistently said they lack the will to control prices of basic commodities because Liberia has a “Free Enterprise System” and only “Market Forces” control prices. But the salient question many persons are asking is This: Why the Liberia market had standard goods at the time of Tubman, Tolbert and Doe (TTD) eras during which the now much-heralded “Free Enterprise System” was in also practice?

On the family path, older people are no more respected and their pieces of wisdom which are often given to members of the younger generation are looked down upon or easily dismissed. Even for a child to respect his/her parent is like swallowing bitter.

The modern kids in Monrovia would publically challenge their parents, and at times, go to the extreme of attacking even their mother or father.
Mind you, single parents seem to be the worst victims of such rude and unserious children.

Thank God that government is taking some corrective steps on the so-called ‘modern days’ children “Super Friday” but just watch the various high school graduation programs around the city and you will see how our kids are indulging in extreme alcoholism and taking of illicit drugs at their own detriment. Their drunkenness often accounts for their increasing rude and violent acts; spewing of invectives, public disorder, among others. Some are addicted to all sorts of harmful drugs, although many of the drug takers hail from good or “well-to-do” families.

Everyone in Monrovia can attest to the fact that most children have become very rude towards their own parents and the society; it seems there is no iota of discipline in school, community and in various sporting arena, just to name a few.

For them, goodness should falls from heaven to them, as they imagine the endless luxuries of life including riding expensive jeeps, sports cars, and wearing the latest American, European and African clothing factions, living in condominiums and other luxurious apartments and housing units, and partying or making merry at first-class restaurants, among others but refusing to embrace good moral behaviors and quality education. Most of them know all but can’t even recite Liberia’s National Anthem.

There is no seniority in their modern days’ activities and they know everything; quick to ridicule their elders and fast to apologize for any wrong doing, only for said bad acts to be repeated over and over or days and nights with less remorse.

Apart from the family life in Monrovia, the sanitation crisis in Monrovia is too frustrating despite the demonstrated efforts of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) and its partners working to keep the city clean and green.

I can recall what my late father once told me that the late President William V.S. Tubman had a special crew to ‘polish’ the streets of Monrovia, and the government had strong city ordinances in place for dwellers. The city was cleaned on an hourly basis and citizens and residents were constrained to keep it sparkling and eye-catching.

There were little or no hard-core criminals that could attack you physically as now opposed to the case of the feared armed robbers and ‘Zogos’ nowadays who are busy terrorizing innocent and unsuspecting citizens and residents at nights and sometimes in broad daylight. Regarding criminal activities, I can remember that during Christmas Seasons, individuals believed to be criminals from neighboring Sierra Leone would, under the cover of darkness, come to steal in Monrovia. They were called or nicknamed ‘Freetown Bobors’ or ‘Freetown Rogues.’ Nightclubs were operating at all times and you could visit some of the leading ones such as ‘Coconut,’ ‘Black Sugar’ or ‘Shananna’ at any hour of the night. The police were empowered to protect lives and properties.

But guess what? Things have wrongfully changed for the worst. The people are no more united; criminals have formed part of the body politics of the City. The police are limited in terms of logistics and other necessary support to contain the criminals. Division within the ranks and files of the police force is one of the nucleus of the problems. The apparent lack of security guarantee at night, coupled with terrors from armed robbers and fearful ‘Zogos’ or ‘passenger 52’ is enough to rush you home before 7pm.

As if to make matters worse, the city is currently over crowded with more than one million inhabitants, many of whom have refused to adhere to the norms in any civilized city wherein nobody can just stand on the sidewalk to urinate or eat a banana and throw out the pealing in the streets with brazen impunity.

Filth still engulfs the major streets in Monrovia as we went to press with garbage effectively piled up in and around Monrovia and its immediate surroundings.

In some communities, grass or garbage has swallowed their yards, with the scent from dirt and human feces becoming the new cologne for a well-dressed gentleman who is discussing and debating national issues, even accusing the government of not doing much to improve the living condition of the Liberian people, but right in his backyard, huge garbage is stockpiled. For example, a minute walk to Soniwein, Center Street, Gurley Street, Waterside areas near the National Housing Bank among other places will surely expose you to hazardous scents from human feces and waste materials.

Sanitation is another chief factor in the alarming health hazard that has engulfed the city with all sorts of water borne diseases on the rise.

Until the people of this city revisit their ways of life and reflect on the good old days, by first abandoning the alarming envy spirit that overwhelmed the people of this land and be united in the growth and achievements of each other, its development will remain afar although I am not a doomsayer and /or pessimist.

We all must encourage high degree of discipline and hard work in the various sectors whether in school or in our work places and instill respect for all, but other than that, Monrovia’s development would be a mere dream which actualization may be very far or thousands of miles away.

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