Liberia: Weah to 'Zogos' “Only You Can Make You”

According to the data of the national steering committee on the rehabilitation of at-risk youth in the country, there are an estimated 150,000 drug users in Liberia

Several projects initiated by the government and international partners, religious and charity organizations, have over the years been implemented in an effort to rehabilitate and transform the lives of at-risk young people in the country.

Despite all of these efforts, it still appears like nothing is being done, as the fight against drug abuse remains a challenge. The government, through the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) has continued to seize and destroy illicit drugs that enter Liberia through its borders and other ports of entry, in an attempt to reduce the negative impact of these drugs on the lives of Liberians.

According to the data of the national steering committee on the rehabilitation of att-risk-youth in the country, there are an estimated 150,000 drug users and over 10,000 ghettoes across the 15 counties of Liberia. The growing presence of at-risk youths in the country poses social-economic challenges, including the increase in the number of ghettos, an increase in street crime, armed robberies, threats to peace, and worse of all, the loss of a young generation of at-risk youths.

From 2020-2022, a total of 1,500 drug dealers have been arrested and prosecuted, with some pending court trials; good progress in the fight, but not still good enough. But the government of Liberia and its partners are not giving up on the fight; a fight that President George Weah believes can only be won in the minds of the at-risk youth themselves.

Speaking directly to them on June 30, at the National Fund Drive for the Rehabilitation and Empowerment of at-risk youth, Weah said regardless of the number of programs and construction of rehabilitation centers in the country by the government and partners, if an at-risk individual does not make up their minds to stay off drug, the fight against drug abuse will be a losing one.

“It doesn’t matter how much people help you, if you don’t help yourself, you will have a problem, because time is of the essence and doesn’t wait for anybody,” Weah said.

This latest initiative, a venture of the Government of Liberia and Development Partners, is aimed at addressing the ever-worsening plights of at-risk youth in the country to not only ensure a better future for thousands of citizens in this category of the population but also ameliorate socioeconomic and security risks they pose to the country.

Officially launching the Fund Drive, Weah said the at-risk youths of Liberia represent a clear and present danger, not only to themselves but also to the entire socio-economic fabric of the nation. The President pledged his government’s continued commitment to the young people of Liberia, mainly the disadvantaged youth, consistent with the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development and international covenants on youth and underprivileged people.

“I am excited today, therefore, to kick-start a series of national transformative measures under my administration to orientate, rehabilitate, and build the capacities of our at-risk-youth, through skills-based vocational training, as well as economically empowering them through jobs and business opportunities.

“After piloting and assessing the success of the SEED project, my Government has endorsed a plan by the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee and the One UN System for an at-risk-youth Empowerment Program that will further rehabilitate and empower them,” Weah said.

The proposed budget for the program is US$13,872,500. And the Weah pledged an initial US$1 million to the fund drive this year and an annual budgetary allotment towards the rehabilitation and empowerment of at-risk youth in the country. 

Road Map of the National Steering Committee

According to the national steering committee chaired by Youth and Sports Minister, Zoegar Wilson, the government’s commitment to youth development and empowerment through the project is broadly focused on four thematic areas: Creating the Enabling Environment, Training, Recruitment and Placement, Promoting Sports and Recreation and Social Protection.

The project, which is expected to last for 30 months, will be implemented in three phases. Phase 1 will focus on the selection, orientation, and rehabilitation of beneficiaries; Phase 2 on capacity building, vocational skills training, and social reintegration, while Phase 3 will focus on job creation and linkages to business support services.