Liberian Youth in Crisis: No Way Out Finds Many Deep in Trouble

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Just recently, in this very first part of October 2015, a prominent Liberia businessman, an exemplary family man, sent one of his young male staff members with money to the bank to dispatch to the businessman’s wife in America.

The young staff member thought the money too tempting, so he pocketed it and fled to Ghana! Now his photograph is flashed across newspaper pages as “wanted for theft”, even as he is being sought by the international police, INTERPOL.

To what avail? How far did he think that little stolen money would carry him?

In this very same October, several young people, some of them motorcyclists, were arrested in Ganta – why? Because instead of finding peaceful means to resolve their legitimate grievance – against ritualistic killers – they took to the streets looting and destroying properties acquired and built by hardworking and well meaning businesspeople, and even burning down police stations in Nimba.

These young people have quickly forgotten that just last year, some other young people from the same Nimba County landed themselves in prison after launching a violent attack on the Yekepa facilities of the mining company, ArcelorMittal, causing damages to the tune of millions of U.S. dollars.

The mothers of some of these young people being prosecuted, met and appealed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for their release, but she told them the matter was in court and the legal process had to be completed.

Oh if these Nimba youth had chosen a peaceful path to redressing their grievance! Oh if their mothers had taught them in their childhood that it is better to report a grievance rather than resort to violence to get justice.

Again in this very month of October, a 24 year-old man stabbed his roommate, another youth, to death and, purely in an act of cowardice, fled the scene and is now being pursued by Police. Did no one ever teach this young man, known as Emmanuel
Swen, to control his temper and handle problems peacefully?

Still in this fateful month of October 2015, an 18 year-old woman, Satta Morris, appeared in a Monrovia Court admitting to stabbing to death with a kitchen knife another female named Weedor Lamah. As it turned out, this act was committed in a fate of Jealousy and displaced anger. Satta did not accuse Weedor of having an affair with Satta’s lover, but she said Weedor “knew” that her niece-in-law was the one. So she took an action that may lead to spending the rest of her life in jail.

The first question that arises here is what kind of home training did Satta receive in her childhood? Was she ever taught to control her temper, and the danger of knives or any other lethal instruments when in a fit of anger? That kitchen knives are used only to cut meat, fish and vegetables and nothing else?

For a promising 18 year-old girl to throw away her own life and the life of another young woman is tragic indeed. It is clearly a symptom of other far deeper problems in our society. One of them is the lack of education. Both of these young women should have been in or own their way to school on Thursday, September 24, when the incident occurred.

We need to undertake an extensive interview with Satta to understand the circumstances of her life and what led her to murderous desperation. The background to her life could teach us many things about our society and what needs to be done to instill in our young people the knowledge of better and more wholesome choices in life.

Another problem is upbringing. Many people blame the poor upbringing of our children or the total lack of it on the civil war. During this war and subsequently we lost at least two generations of our children. Only a fraction of the young people in their twenties or early thirties came under parental control or adhered to moral values instilled by family or religion. The vast majority of our young fell between the cracks and had to fend for themselves. The struggle sent many of our young girls into early motherhood; while the boys hustled in whichever way they could, by hook or by crook.

It must, however, be said that many of our people, male and female alike, have found gainful opportunities in petty trading. This includes selling cold water, snacks, slippers, used clothes and other items on the street corners or in the middle of rush hour traffic. Many young men serve as roving cosmetologists.

We are thankful for the positive responses of such young people who find their way into business. These are people whom the Liberian Business Association (LIBA) as well as the Liberian Government, through the Commerce Ministry, should reach out to and offer training in simple accounting and business management to help them improve their marketing skills toward greater profits and opportunities for expansion.

Let us not forget the tens of thousands more young people in Monrovia and other parts of the country who are not in school and should be. The new Education Minister and other parts of Civil Society should strategize how to reach out to them and give them some education and training.

Many of these young people are illiterate, so we urge the government to invest in organizations like Alfalit and others engaged seriously in adult literacy.

It is important to point out or remember that it is not only the idle, indolent or uneducated who are engaged in criminal activity. What about the young man who eloped with his boss’ wife’s remittance? What about the many young people whose faces are seen in many newspapers saying these people “are no longer employees of” companies and anyone doing business with them “do so at their own risk”? These are highly educated and trained personnel, some holding managerial positions, even in banks.

To attain the positions these people held, they clearly had to have had good education and upbringing. But what happened to them? Why are so many of them now on the run?

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” In this case, Shakespeare meant Liberia. The sooner we cure the rottenness, the better, if we must set our country on the firm and irreversible path to sustained development and prosperity.

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