Eviction of Red Light Street Sellers, a Laudable Effort

 Street sellers at Red Light

Petty traders or street sellers at Red Light have come under what appears to be a shock to them when the government, through the Ministry of Public Works, began demolishing market stalls and clearing garbage at this entry point of Monrovia that has been an ever-busy commercial site for the past decade

Red Light, as popularly known in the Paynesville belt, got its name not necessarily as a commercial spot but a point where people who came from the hinterland to the city in those days would see the first traffic light directing vehicles to the Somalia Drive or the ELWA-Tubman Boulevard route; both routes that enter central Monrovia on Cape Mesurado.

By then, vehicles parked there for passengers to disembark to find their various destinations, but when the ruthless and atrocious civil war came, this area became a meeting point for commercial activities for people in the city state of Monrovia and “Greater Liberia” that was under the control of jailed former President Charles Taylor.  The northeastern part of Red Light became known as “Gobachop Market,” a homographic name created after former Russian President, Mikhail Gorbachev.  Former President Gorbachev was a world character in 1991 whose regime saw the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the last name sounding like “Go buy and Chop,” the marketers at Red Light use it to mean that they go and buy cheaply commodities brought from the hinterland, sell them to the third party businesspeople in Monrovia at skyrocketing prices and chop (eat) huge profits.

 When Taylor came to Monrovia in August 1995 as a member of the Council of State from his “Greater Liberia” territory, Red Light became and remained a serious market ground for thousands of people.  It has accommodated both legal and criminal businesspeople.  It is a point where all commodities including drugs are sold, as evidenced by the presence of thousands of young people whose future is in limbo because of drug addiction.

The belligerent businesspeople who observe no rules will spread their goods on the main road and on the sidewalks, blocking vehicles and impeding the movement of pedestrians.  Not only that, the marketers are responsible for the presence of stockpiled garbage at Red Light.  Just in recent days, the entire environment was filled with garbage that our reporter, Tina S. Mehnpaine, reported that people were using the dumpsites to dispose of their dead.  The Liberia Marketing Association that collects money from thousands of marketers to clean the garbage cannot account for what it collects and is unable to meet up with its responsibility to the marketers.

Some of the petty traders, amid the eviction, are exhibiting their usual contumacious behavior to resist the order as their friends are departing, arguing that the government has not built their market stalls to occupy and leaving one to wonder whether the spots that they occupied at Red Light were filled up and decorated before claiming them.

Roadworks are currently in progress at Red Light -- the stretch of road from Coca Cola Factory to Parker Paint, and the expected four-lane stretch from Parker Paint to ELWA Junction.  There is also the Somalia Drive four-lane stretch meeting the ELWA Junction road at Red Light.  The frustration in this great development is that the sellers at Red Light, being so recalcitrant, self-willed and carefree, usually dump garbage in the newly constructed drainages that the engineers have built.  The drainages are all clogged now.

As demolition begins and sellers are ordered to be relocated to the newly constructed and dedicated Omega Market, the Daily Observer would like to commend the government for the effort and encourage it to continue this until all the sellers leave this strategic point of entry to the capital.  Their presence at Red Light does not only impede the movements of people and vehicles, it also set bad impression for people coming to the capital to believe that Monrovia is filthy.

They always create pandemonium to the extent that people could lose their lives in the process.  In fact, we got reports that a seller pushed a blind woman on the road over the weekend and a truck crushed her body beyond recognition.  This is one major instance in addition to those mentioned to substantiate the decision of relocating the sellers at Red Light.

We also want to encourage the government to continue the demolition of shanty structures along the main streets of Monrovia and Tubman Boulevard.  We monitored with appreciation the demolition exercise that is ongoing near the James Spriggs Payne Airfield and the Tubman and SKD Boulevards, and hope that there will be effective implementation of the law to compel people not to return to what is being discouraged.  We also hope that the government will begin to regulate the traffic to the letter and reintroduce the restrictions that once forbade motorcyclists from plying major streets including Tubman Boulevard.

We hope the government also considers auditing the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) and the Federation of Road Transport Union of Liberia (FRTUL) to account for the monies they collect from marketers and drivers (respectively) in this country.   FRTUL, since its formation, has not built one terminal for drivers in this country, but continues to collect money from drivers in street places, and it is always in cahoots with drivers to inflate transportation fares. 

We say bravo to the government for its recent decision to relocate sellers at Red Light and demolish makeshift structures on the main streets of Monrovia.