By J. Patrick Flomo
(614) 707 3636
If we fail to provide boys with pro-social models of the transition to adulthood, they may construct their own. In some cases, gang initiation rituals, street racing, and random violence may be the result. Leonard Sax
The grotesque human carnage perpetrated by an unknown gang on church worshippers at a revival service in Monrovia last week is an abomination to a cultured people anywhere in the world. This wanton act of barbarism should cause outrage among Liberians everywhere at home and in the diaspora. But it seems not to be so. This is my most vexing question. Has human life become so valueless in Liberia that Liberians have become so desensitized to murder and mayhem? I remember a time when the death of an individual by natural causes caused great sorrow and solemnity in the community. Murder was extremely rare and when it happened, the entire community or city would be outraged and loudly called for the perpetrator/s to be brought justice.
The spree of murders that have happened in the past few years without vigorous investigation by the government seems to have encouraged other perpetrators to act with impunity. There have been calls from several sectors of the country and in the diaspora for a vigorous investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice and to avert the growth of gang organization in Liberia. While some of the killings have been described as rituals, the majority seem to be perpetrated by gangs. Studies of gang activity in other parts of the world like Latin America and parts of America show that gangs are menace to society.
The rise of violence in gang activity in Liberia is a new social phenomenon and calls for government and community action to root out this scourge. The January 19 incident that caused the death of 29 church worshipers and wounded several others was the most brazen act of gang violence in Monrovia or for that matter in the history of Liberia. We have seen the mayhem and terror caused by organized and entrenched gang organizations elsewhere in the world.
We should not delude ourselves that it cannot happen here like we deluded ourselves that military coup would not happen in Liberia. For example, in Latin America (Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Mexico etc.) and Africa (Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco etc.) gang violence is wreaking havoc on the society.
There are sociological causes of gang violence, i.e., poverty, poor education, the lack of job opportunity and training, and family dysfunction. The growth of gangs in Liberia poses an existential threat to the Republic’s fragile governmental institutions even though these institutions have existed for 175 years.
The President of Liberia has called for three days of national mourning and prayer. The President should be applauded for such action, but PRAYER is not the answer. Before Monrovia becomes like Lagos, South Africa, Guatemala, or Mexico, there needs to be a “Presidential Commission” to explore resolutions to avert the entrenchment of gang organization.
The fallout of the senseless civil wars of the 1990s are poverty, poor education, dysfunctional family unit, the lack of job opportunities and job training. These should have been the top priorities during the initial phase of transitioning from war to peace. But the Sirleaf government failed to do so and the Weah government is even worse. Thus, the growth of gang organization in Liberia continues to mushroom.
The existence of gangs in society causes FEAR, and fear generates apprehension, discontent, and distrust among people. When that becomes the norm, a single act of violence can lead to chaos and instability. With chaos comes anarchy and tyranny, and the result is civil war. Therefore, efforts to stop the growth of gangs in Liberia should be the priority of communities, religious organizations, political parties, and Liberians in the diasporas.
The January 19th incident should be a wake-up call to action to address these systemic problems of poverty, very high unemployment, poor education, and healthcare. If we do not do so while the growth of gangs in Liberia is in its embryonic stage, it is poised to become contagious and virulent. This starts with serious conversation among Liberians.
As the nation mourns this tragic loss of life, let us commit ourselves or resolve to fight corruption in government so that adequate resources can be appropriated to solving the problems of poverty, job training, job creation, poor healthcare, and family dysfunction. By doing so, these lives lost to gang violence on January 19th shall not be in vain. We know the problems and we know the solutions; we must now muster the WILL POWER to do the right thing for the people of Liberia. We must NOT let Liberia becomes like Haiti, where gang violence has infected all level of society or Colombia where the same violence has caused an exodus of citizens. Gang violence is one scourge on earth that must not become part of the social fabric of Liberia. This responsibility falls on us, the PEOPLE of Liberia.