By Lincoln G Peters.
Ex-senator of Maryland County, Amb. John Akel Ballout says the Government of Liberia continues to demonstrate little or no interest in tackling the influx and transport of illicit drugs, including the proliferation of illegal small arms across the country.
The former Maryland County Senator notes that the government has given the country and its people the impression that the illegal proliferation of firearms and influx of illicit drugs is none of their business.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with this paper at the weekend in Central Monrovia, he warned that the influx of illicit drugs and the illegal possession of firearms by criminals and disadvantaged youths across the country is a serious national security threat that shouldn’t be taken likely.
“I can’t say that the government doesn’t care about this or it’s a reality but that is the impression they have given to the public and they continue to demonstrate their inability and unwillingness to tackle these issues”, he says.
He adds that if the authorities don’t want this to exist, the government should stand up and eradicate this impression, adding, “This is a serious national security threat to the peace and stability of the country”
According to him, the government continues to make little or no efforts in the fight against drugs because they are attacking symptoms, instead of the roots cause of the problem.
Ballout also blames the proliferation and transportation of drugs on the vulnerability of Liberia’s borders, limited security forces, and underpaid system of security forces across the country.
He says 95 percent of those trafficking drugs here are Nigerians though others are involved too, calling a national debate on drugs that will make this quest a national priority because 70 percent of the population here are youth being victimized by the illegal importation drugs.
At the same time he notes that when the government of former President Sirleaf wanted to mitigate rape across the country, the legislature passed laws that were stronger and active, something, he notes, reduced rape gradually across the country due to the penalty attached.
He continues that if President Weah and his entire legislature are passionate about the fight against drugs, they will be willing to make the law non-bailable to deal with transporters, instead of dealers, and more resources, policy, and programs will be directed to national security to save Liberia.
“If the Government of Liberia is serious about the fight against illicit drugs transport in our country, they should have a combined fight of law enforcement officers to go after people who are dealing with social circle situation, including mental health state of youths across the country.
“Youths are vulnerable to the unending path of drugs use because our borders are exposed and security forces are limited and underpaid”, Ballout laments.
Speaking on the Duala Kuioway Community situation where disadvantaged youth allegedly exchanged live bullets with state security which led to the shooting deaths of three persons, he says calming down the situation is not enough, but there should be a more sustainable approach to ending the nightmare of drugs transport and uses that is damaging the youthful population.
“The more sustainable approach is, the government should have a stronger drugs law by making it a non-bailable crime. Establish technical and vocational schools and rehabilitation centers across the counties. Increase our security forces and stop underpaying them. Increase the budgetary allotment of security, mental health, and vocational training centers and rehabilitation program”, he recommends.
He points that arm rubbery activities are too many across the country because people are in possession of illegal firearms, which should also be taken seriously because citizens are living in total fear due to the inability of the government to provide protection and security for its citizens.
Ballout: “We established the small arms commission during our service to the country. Now, where are they? Are they no longer up to the task because the necessary support is not given? These are things we should look at.”
He says most of the security in the DEA are children helping to push drugs , adding that if you don’t have serious people in the security sector, Liberia will never have a peaceful society free of crimes because people will always be willing to compromise their value and principal for the trafficking of drugs.
“We still have a chance to end this situation in our country that is damaging the future of the younger generation. We can do this together but that can only happen once the government can treat the cause instead of the symptoms by focusing on a more sustainable approach to ending drugs trafficking”, he emphasizes. Editing by Jonathan Browne