Palm Grove Cemetery: Decoration, Desecration, Decoration…

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Garbage dumped at a section of the Palm Grove Cemetery in Monrovia.

…Despite MCC’s effort to restrict violators

Wednesday, March 14 will be celebrated as ‘Decoration Day’ and Liberians will troop to the various cemeteries to clean up the graves of and pay homage to their late beloved.

There will be tears, followed by drum beats to memorialize their loved ones.

But the perennial desecration of the various public cemeteries continues despite the effort of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to prevent that from happening.

While the observance of Decoration Day is at least two weeks away, a visit to the Palm Grove Cemetery early this week by the Daily Observer found out that the MCC’s efforts have somehow paid some dividends. The regular maintenance crew that collects garbage on the streets provides some passive form of security, which tends to have significantly reduced the level of abuse committed against the cemetery, compared to previous years. Also different strategies of fences have been erected to secure the cemetery but also give it a face-lift.

Fence shows overgrown weeds at the Palm Grove Cemetery

In spite of all the MCC’s efforts ensures that the cemetery is not abused, residents — at least some — around the Center and Gurley streets areas appear unprepared to play their part to keep the cemetery clean as a place of eternal rest for their dearly departed.

During the visit, it was found that certain portion of the cemetery is used by some community members as a garbage dump while others use the place to respond to nature’s call. And while, still, the elements have cracked into many graves, others are ‘deliberately’ broken into to make way as ‘sleeping places’ for many wayward individuals, otherwise known as ‘zogos’.

An MCC worker, who identified himself only as Dominic, told the Daily Observer that while the City is working to ensure that the cemetery regains its hallowed presence, many people in the communities around are making it difficult for the MCC.

“When we worked on one side of the cemetery, that is cleaning up what some residents had dumped here,” Dominic said, “we returned to where we started and found out that someone had dumped some more dirt there.”

Garbage dumped at a section of the Palm Grove Cemetery in Monrovia

This situation, he said, has continued and as a result, their efforts to curtail the desecration of the cemetery are not being realized. “It is a hard job,” he said.

Add to this are those wayward individuals who have made a portion of the cemetery their dwelling. “They are seen over there,” Dominic said, pointing to another part of the cemetery where the marauding persons are lodged. “We don’t know what to do with them.”

The use of some part of the cemetery and particularly some graves as sleeping places for some homeless or wayward persons is no news. The prevalence of drugs and other addictive substances that are easily available in slum communities, many people say, is responsible for negative changing attitudes in some young men and women who are comfortable to use graves as sleeping places.

And, of course, many of the young women survive on prostitution: many told this newspaper that they are hopeful that President George Weah’s Pro-Poor Governance should have some means to rescue them, because they are tired living in the cemetery and sleeping in graves.

So the challenge to maintain a hallowed ground for the dead cannot be realized a year after by those charged with the responsibility to do so because, as some of the residents told the Daily Observer, they don’t have areas to throw their garbage and therefore they are forced to use the cemetery as the garbage dump.

Another challenge is the perennial destruction of the recent fence built by the MCC authorities, following the removal of the concrete walls by the Presidential Task Force, under ‘General’ Mary T. Broh, former Mayor of Monrovia and Director of the General Service Agency.

This portion of the Palm Grove Cemetery fence was broken by unknown persons

While MCC officials spoken to could not unveil any future plan for the Palm Grove Cemetery, the overgrown weeds, the continued dumping of garbage and the use of the cemetery as toilet and sleeping place should be a major concern for government agencies and ministries accountable for the youths as well as for dignified environments for the living and the dead.

But for the general population, March 14 will be observed to honor the memories of departed loved ones. Yet, as it turns out each year, many will come face to face with broken and empty graves that are occupied by those that the Liberian society has rejected and forgotten.

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