True partisan, or just a social outcast in a Unity Party T-shirt?
By Hannah N. Geterminah
The mantra that the October 10 Presidential and Legislative election in Liberia is critical and therefore demands the involvement of every citizen, has captured the attention of a man that is believed to be mentally challenged. Recently spotted donning a political campaign T-shirt bearing the images of Unity Party front runners Joseph Boakai and Emmanuel Nuquay, the man demonstrated that despite his condition, he was quite aware of what is going to happen in Liberia on Tuesday, October 10.
Though he appeared to be in a happy mood and allowed his picture to be taken in the busy commercial district of Paynesville Red Light, this reporter took precautions in engaging him with dialogue.
Yet one could not help but wonder how many like him are out there, highly unlikely to participate in the political process due to their poor cognitive state.
Mental illness is a prevalent condition in the country and for the past twelve years, not enough has been done by the current administration to provide medical treatment, accommodation and other support to address the living conditions and welfare of Liberians who suffer from mental illness and their families.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental disability as the loss of function at the level of the whole person, which may include the inability to communicate or to perform mobility, activities of daily living or necessary vocational activities.
Throughout the city of Monrovia and its environs, many young and older Liberians of both genders afflicted with mental illness roam the streets of their communities in search of food, begging for money or looking for a place to sleep without being driven away due to their offensive appearance and behaviors.
On the Unity Party T-shirt worn by the man in question was written the famous Boakai slogan, ‘Think Liberia, Love Liberia, Build Liberia’. It could not be ascertained if the man, who has perennially roamed the streets of Monrovia, understood the meaning of those words.
“I think he knew what he was doing,” said a Unity Party supporter. “I think that sector is one area that the future government should pay great attention to because despite their tragedy, they are Liberians too.”
During the voter registration, there were no reports that citizens with mental illness showed any interest in the process. “Naturally, [such person] does not act normal because some tend to be afraid of people,” a young woman told the Daily Observer. “But with the new administration coming, we now have a chance to make something good come out of their situation.”
Said a young student attending the University of Liberia: “The critical nature of the October 10 elections should convince all of us that we should not overlook anything that affects the Liberian people.”
Besides Vice President Boakai, almost all the political parties talk about making Liberia better. Yet it is hard to assume that, this time around, the “crazy people” as the mentally unstable are commonly referred to, will not be forgotten in the new government’s agenda to improve the living conditions of all Liberians, including those who are challenged in any way.