“We are not happy. Where is the Minister? Where is the Representative? Where is the Senator? Where is the Police Director and where is 102 [Dep. Police Director Abraham Kromah]? Where are the sirens?
Why do you treat us like this— because we are not human beings, too? Our people died too much in this country. We are not happy!”
These were the expressions of umbrage (resentment) and outrage on Saturday by the Chairman of the Liberia National Traditional Council (LNTC), Chief Zanzan Karwa, as the LNTC and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL), along with officials of the Incident Management System (IMS), oversaw the removal of 16 barrels of human remains and ashes of Liberians and foreign nationals from the Indian Community-owned Crematorium to the proposed National Cemetery in Disco Hill, RIA Highway.
The Chief was visibly emotional when he blasted what he described as the government’s insensitivity to the plight of ordinary Liberians and indigenous people of the land.
“If it had been the remains of a government official, the police would have sent a siren to escort the remains to their destination. But because the drums contained the remains of ordinary Liberians, government authorities did not care to come and participate in this important event,” he exclaimed.
“Where is the government’s representative? Tell the government that the traditional people, the [Liberia] Council of Churches and others are not happy with the way the government has treated us and our people,” he bellowed.
True to Chief Zarzar’s angry outburst, there was not a single high government official present at yesterday’s event and there were no reasons provided for their absence.
The traditional leaders had amplified the cries of ordinary Liberians to the government against cremating their dead saying it is not part of the Liberian culture and that it should be stopped. The government listened after nearly six months of burning thousands of Ebola dead when it became apparent that secret burials were continuing, contributing to transmission of the Ebola virus.
During the height of the infestation government had taken the decision to cremate Ebola dead as the virus spread rapidly among communities and counties and people were dying in the hundreds every day posing a serious challenge to the location of safe burial sites. Some Ebola bodies were dumped near communities, putting residents at high risk of infection.
During the removal ceremony last Saturday, the drums containing the remains of the Ebola victims were placed in a palava hut on the grounds of the new proposed National Cemetery pending final determination by major stakeholders, most of whom were not present at the yesterday’s ritual.
Women were seen sobbing as the barrels were rolled out from the backs of pickup trucks, which had conveyed them from the Indian Community-owned crematorium in Boys Town, along the Marshall road.
One of the women, who was weeping, was heard saying, “See how they treated our people, burned them and put them in drums.”
The drums and the palava hut were decorated with red and white colors, two of the national colors of Liberia.
Speaking earlier, Christian and Islamic clergymen, representing the (IRCL), admonished Liberians that if their loved ones faithfully served their Creator before their deaths, they are with their maker in the “great beyond.” Therefore the mourners should not be left without hope.
A combined choir and traditional singers, led by Cultural Ambassador Juli Endee, enlivened the occasion with both Christian and traditional songs, befitting the occasion.
According to statistics from Global Communities (GC), a US-based international NGO, which presently manages the new cemetery, at least 546 burials have taken placed there since the nation returned to burying its dead and stopped cremating in late December 2014. Of that figure, 445 claimed to be Christians, while the rest were Muslims. GC further stated that 105 originated from the Ebola treatment units (ETUs), 273 from communities and 168 from hospitals.
Of the 4,117 persons, who have so far died in Liberia as a result of the virus, at least 3,571 were burned at the crematorium.
Liberia has so far recorded a total of 9,249 probable, suspected and confirmed Ebola cases and was successful in discharging at least 5,132, since the disease was first recorded on Liberian soil on March 22 of 2014.