Hardcore criminals and drug addicts, locally known as Zogos (for male) or Zogolyns (for female), may soon benefit from the new leadership of the Liberia Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) through a resettlement program which the newly-appointed executive director has said is part of the pro-poor agenda of President George Weah’s government.
The new executive director of LRRRC, Reverend Festus R. Logan, has promised to resettle those who he said have lost contact with their homes and decent livelihood.
Logan made the remarks at a turn-over ceremony as executive director of LRRRC from Cllr. Abla Gadegbeku Williams. He told the gathering that for too long society has neglected the need to incorporate and provide firsthand basic care to the many young people who have become victims of drug addiction.
He said resettlement is not only for people seeking refuge or transitioning from refugee life but also for those who fall short of escaping the many terrible societal entrapment (snare, trap).
“One of the things that will form part of my agenda is the formulation of programs that will take care of the basic needs of people we have stereotyped with names like Zogos. I believe that those individuals, who have left their homes and are sleeping at cemeteries, are internally displaced persons (IDPs). They need resettlement at all cost if our society is to be safe and secure,” he said.
Logan promised to consult with the United Nations High Commission on Refugee (UNHCR) on this “delicate and important matter” as he strives to re-brand LRRRC, which is seen as an agency of government only concerned about refugee issues.
“We pray and hope that the needed resources will come so that we will be able to provide housing and other basic needs that will lead to the rehabilitation of our fellow citizens. They need our help to be redeemed from the carnage of drug addiction, and live a dignified life each. We have the responsibility now to help them learn skills and become contributors to the rebuilding process of our country.”
Other issues he said will form part of his agenda are the capacity building of staffs and creating the necessary opportunities for everyone serving at the Commission to improve their lives while serving their fellow humankind.
“We are inheriting a task of reintegrating over 11,000 persons from our neighboring countries who have become Liberians by naturalization, after years of refugee life, as well as our fellow Liberians who have returned back home in recent times,” he said.
He pointed out that while there are huge financial constraints now on the CDC-led government, he will use his good office to seek President Weah’s assistance to move the offices of LRRRC to a more ideal location.
“We need a better and spacious office ground. We will work alongside the International Migration Office (IMO) to support UNHCR’s plans which deal with refugees. Refugees are part of our culture and we have to always remember that we are one people,” he said.
Logan said LRRRC will always be in consultation with UNHCR as it works on implementing all the major goals that have international relevance.
In her turning over remarks, Cllr. Williams expressed gratitude that a man of God has succeeded her.
“I am happy that Rev. Logan has come to succeed me. He is a man of God and has the heart for his people. I wish him well and pray along with him to succeed,” Cllr. Williams said.
She said peacefully transferring power not only at the level of the presidency but also at agencies of government in a professional manner is an important achievement in the country.
About her achievements since she took over as head of LRRRC, Williams said she inherited a refugee population of over 75,000.
“I am happy that under my leadership LRRRC transitioned from an emergency response agency to a development agency that is now reintegrating refugees. The refugee population has reduced from about 50,000 to 11,000. Most of them were able to return home in safety and dignity,” she recounted.
She said another achievement is that all through the outbreak of Ebola in the country, no refugee came down with the EVD (Ebola Virus Disease). “We created massive awareness in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and partners among the refugee population and that helped in keeping them safe,” Williams said.
She outlined lack of sufficient budgetary support as one of the challenges her leadership encountered. “We did not receive much financial support because, I guess, the thought was that LRRRC is only about refugees. And now that war was over, we were not given the needed attention to even integrate refugees who chose to become Liberians and support Liberian migrants who get stranded while on their way to Europe, Asia or somewhere else. We also have to care for asylum seekers because Liberians have sought and are seeking political asylum in other countries,” she said. She called on the 171 employees of LRRRC to respect Rev. Logan and listen to him as they consult on issues of interest to the entity.
For his part, the chairman of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Mulbah K. Morlu, said he is pleased that the peaceful transfer of authority from one leader to another has permeated the governance system of the country and hopes that it continues for eternity in Liberia.
“We are impressed that Madam Williams has played her part and turned over to another Liberian. We say thank you and, with God on our side, we know that there is another opportunity ahead of you,” Morlu said in praise of Williams.