By Thomas Kai Toteh ~ April 21 2006
"...The Liberian leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made public pronouncements over and over before and after her inauguration to recuperate and accommodate the youth so that they would become useful citizens in the new Liberia. Unfortunately, the recent early morning demolition exercise in Monrovia and raids on street peddlers is frustrating and falls short of her government’s policy of national healing...."
Every little thing counts. The saying goes that “Dry dog is sweet, but what will we eat before it gets dried?” By now it is palpable the new Liberian government’s priority is to give Monrovia a face lift. Every well meaning Liberian will agree that the nation’s capital is the only host to tourists and foreign dignitaries, and thus it deserves better sanitary conditions, to represent a dignified and clean people.
However, it is regrettable that the Liberian government has not considered some little but important things in the rehabilitation process of Liberia. Nearly all presidential candidates, including the incumbent president, vowed in their campaign speeches to heal the wounds and broken hearts of Liberians, especially the youth.
The Liberian leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made public pronouncements over and over before and after her inauguration to recuperate and accommodate the youth so that they would become useful citizens in the new Liberia. Unfortunately, the recent early morning demolition exercise in Monrovia and raids on street peddlers is frustrating and falls short of her government’s policy of national healing.
The recent demolition of stalls and make-shift market booths around the capital should have been in concomitance with a ceremonial relocation of all of the marketers in Monrovia. If the 90 days given marketers and street vendors were ample time to relocate, then the city government equally should have built a temporary mall within those 90 days.
The government is not ignorant to the realities in present day Liberia. Unemployment rate is very high. Government and private employees are underpaid. To sum it up, the high cost of living in Monrovia and the entire country is unthinkable. Moreover, majority of those affected by the raids and demolition are former combatants who chose to resettle their own lives instead of idly awaiting and complaining for immediate government’s rehabilitation programs.
As they were been forcibly removed from the streets, the vendors and marketers are not resisting, but they are insisting on an ample time to relocate. Their appeals must be considered because as a matter of fact, the government is responsible to create all necessary conditions for investments to come in the country so that the people can be employed.
Let us be reminded that our country is still healing. The majority of the young people in the streets are struggling to make ends meet so as to resist the temptation of living on criminal activities or being vulnerable to armed struggle. The market women sell to supplement the low wages of their husbands in government’s employ. The five and 10 year-old children are in the streets selling, not because they enjoy it, but to help provide for the homes and pay for transportation fares to and from work for their fathers in those government’s ministries. These are the realities in present day Liberia.
The government must study these realities and act quickly to build a temporary mall for the marketers so that life goes on uninterrupted. The order given to marketers to relocate their markets in the open during this rainy season suggests that the pledges made by the Sirleaf’s government to show solidarity with the common people would not hold when the first step towards healing stumbles.
Let the government also be reminded that the police had not had sufficient training to handle social issues in post war Liberia. Unleashing them to enforce laws in such situation could cause a backlash to the reputation of the government. During the raid it was reported that several vendors and marketers lost cash and goods, and police clashed with journalists.
The process toward national healing begins from the grassroots. The market women and yanna boys play an important role in sustaining our economy during the crisis and even now. Every little thing counts. We have heard of numerous financial donations to the country in recent times. It’s good to make our capital hygienic, beautiful, and civilized, but let the process be concomitant. Let the president or her designate cut the ribbon to a new location and ceremonially turn the key over to Liberian Marketing Association’s head.