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“Liberia losing manpower”

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Young Liberians victims of drug addiction staged a peaceful protest outside President George Manneh Weah’s office Monday, 12 November demanding establishment of rehabilitation center, as their coordinator warns that Liberia is losing manpower over the growing number of drug addicts here.

“Liberia is losing manpower. These are the very young people who will build this country, if we cannot address it now then we say when? If not the pro – poor government than who?” Mr. James Koryor, Executive Director of Consolidated Youth for Peace and Development told the NewDawn outside President Weah’s temporary office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.

These drug addicts, most of whom are engaged in car loading, picking on dumpsites, sleeping at unprotected cemeteries and involved in other uncomfortable street activities to sustain their drug habit are referred to here as Zogoes, an unofficial nomenclature identifying wayward folks here.

“All of them on drugs right now, let me tell you. No, they have not stopped, nowhere to go, that is why we are calling for a national rehabilitation program,” says Mr. Koryor.

Under a national rehabilitation program, Mr. Koryor says he wants government to get these young people treated at hospitals, taught some skills and get them reintegrated into society.While some of the protesting Zogoes were being interviewed, some of them comprising males and females were in the background saying: “Zogoes are heroes.”

Their spokesman Mr. Koryor laments that the young men and women are tired of abusing drugs and have seen the need to call on government for national rehabilitation program for them.He says they are dying on a daily basis, and much more could happen if drugs abuse is not addressed here by government.

According to him, there are thousands of young people engaged in drug abuse, and some of them are even making kids in the ghettos.One of the Zogoes interviewed, Ephrim Freeman says he wants President Weah to look into their case by establishing a rehabilitation center so that it will be used to get them off the street to stop.

Freeman says he has been sleeping at the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street for more than 10 years.He says as a result of the live they are living, he and his peers have been sleeping at the cemetery without fear that any evil could befall them.

Since 2004, Freeman says he has been abusing drugs and nothing has changed.According to him, he graduated from St. Matthew High School in Logan Town on Bushrod Island and he has two children.He says out of peer pressure, he got into drug abuse but he now finds it difficult to leave it, thus pleading with President Weah to come on with strong drug laws and create rehabilitation center to take them off the street.

“You know this life, when you are getting into this life, you can’t really know. But when you get into it, it is very hard to leave,” Freeman explains.“You can take a day to get into it, but to move from inside it can take you almost seven, eight years,” he says further.

Freeman says he regrets the years he has wasted in abusing drugs.Another Zogoe interviewed, 32 year old man Gabriel Logan, says he graduated from high school since 2005, and adds that he has been abusing drugs for 27 years now.He says he has an eight year – old daughter, and he is tired of using drug substances because it is not helpful for him.He pleads with government to help take them somewhere for some time to enable them to stop drug abuse.

According to their petition that carries a theme: “Zogos are Heroes,” the drug abusers say over 80 percent of substance users in Liberia are young people between the ages of 13 to 35 years.

By Winston W. Parley

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