Defiance, an Everyday Activity for Street Sellers

Street Sellers crowd a street in Red Light, defying government's order to relocate to Omega market.

“The police are taking strenuous action against people who will definitely just refuse to leave the Red Light when they are not supposed to be there and that is exactly what we are doing," says LNP spokesperson, H. Moses Carter.

When the Government of Liberia relocated street sellers and other marketeers from Red Light, where they have been stationed for decades, to the Omega Market, many considered it a major achievement for the Weah administration.

It was evident that the presence of marketeers in the area had grown out of control, with overwhelming traffic congestion, mountains of garbage, and rampant criminal activities that polluted the environment and obstructed the road construction that is currently ongoing from Parker Paint to ELWA junction. Yet, in spite of the mandate to make way for the ongoing road construction, engineers are finding it difficult to continue their work because their daily routine now begins with clearing garbage out of the newly-built drainages that street sellers and pedestrians are constantly dumping in there.

Since the relocation mandate was given, many street sellers did move to the Omega Market. However, many others have remained defiant to the government’s order, challenging police daily by bringing their goods to put on the main road, from which they were evacuated. They argue that they have no space at Omega. Some are selling from various street corners and would quickly pick up their goods to run when they see a police officer coming. 

The situation has made Red Light scenes of dramas. The police officers, on the other hand, are showing no mercy to the sellers when they get hold of them. If caught, the police would confiscate or destroy their goods. Despite this harsh treatment, the sellers are still resisting to relocate, claiming that business is slow at the Omega market.

LNP spokesperson, H. Moses Carter, said those street-sellers are mere violators and, as such, the police are taking strenuous action to ensure that they finally leave the area. 

“The police are taking strenuous action against people who will definitely just refuse to leave the Red Light when they are not supposed to be there and that is exactly what we are doing. You can rest assured that action is underway to ensure that they are removed from there,” Carter said. He acknowledges that when the police remove the sellers, they still return the next day to sell. “As the saying goes, the child that says their mother will not sleep, they themselves will not sleep. That’s what we are on,” he said.

The Chinese construction company, Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO)  after completing the stretch of road from the Coca-Cola factory to Parker Paint, could not continue the 6.1 kilometers, four-lane pavement from Parker Paint to ELWA Junction, due to the presence of the sellers, crowding the work area. 

Although parts of the road are paved, the stretch reaching the Japan Freeway remains untouched yet because the marketers refuse to make way for the new development. According to reports, the decision to relocate marketeers was precipitated by an alleged threat from the road engineers and funding agencies that if the government of Liberia failed to clear the Red Light area to allow the completion of the 6.1- kilometer road from Coca Cola factory to ELWA before 2022, the government would suffer some grave consequences.

John Zogar, Director for Highway Road Construction at the Ministry of Public Works (MPW), explained that CICO is unable to resume the road due to the heavy downpour of rain. Therefore, for now, they are only constructing the drainages. 

He added that the presence of sellers at Red Light will hinder the road works and that is why the government has embarked on a quick impact project to build four new markets for the sellers after which those refusing to leave will move to Omega. “The sellers are so used to the [Red Light] market and they don’t want to detach themselves from the old area. They feel that customers will always go to Red Light to buy from them. Because I try passing there many times and I see people still selling in the area.”

He added that when the road is about to start, it will be left to law enforcement officers to ensure that marketers leave the area. “That will be left with those responsible to enforce the law. We are carrying out whatever task we have to complete in order to make sure that Omega is ready and available so marketers can stop complaining,” he said.

When the sellers first moved to Omega they were facing difficulties in finding a place to sell. They first encountered a lack of warehouses and toilet facilities. Besides the three market buildings that could not accommodate the sellers, much of the land space at Omega is swampy and needs to be filled in to make room for more sellers. After days of public outcry, the Government came in with a promise to erect additional buildings and toilet facilities for the marketeers.