Monday, November 24, 2008



Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

While roaming the streets of Monrovia one encounters many things, sometimes strange, mysterious and sometimes very interesting events that seem to be unimaginable. For those with hearts and minds for humanity come across sorrows while others may just move about. During those chores, it sometimes becomes a fortune to meet an old friend or a good friend and, to see entertainers –most of them in search of a bread to take home.

My observation has roughly concluded that three out of every twenty Liberians that roam the streets of Monrovia during the week must have some form of disability, or inability- blindness, physically impaired, mentally impaired and technically incapacitated (lacking in productive skills) - but LISGIS can prove me otherwise. These are really the people that most often come out with no specific routine or schedule for the day but with high hopes of taking bread to feed a family and keep life going.

This, in some ways, is indicative of the depth to which poverty have sunk into the lives of the people that it is becoming deep-rooted and finally accepted as part of life. Interestingly, it is prevailing in the midst of multilateral donor funding and acclaimed professional government with a much publicized poverty reduction agenda coupled with huge revenue intake. This unfavorable, yet prevailing state of affairs had involuntarily reduced thousands of our people to sheer mendicancy at the expense of the dignity of their humanity and personal integrity. Anyway, let’s get to the critical issue.

On a hot Saturday afternoon I encountered four blind Liberians who had come on what they normally term as field outreach – singing in street corners. The four blinds were engaged in a hot feud over the spot at the Carey and Lynch Streets intersection. One had claimed that the spot is his position and he gets his daily bread from there. The other, a lady in a counterclaim, averred that she had met no one there; therefore she is entitled to be there. The other two were peacemakers. One of the blinds being so farsighted suggested that a deal be agreed upon: One person use the location for three days in the week, and the other for the remaining three days excluding Sunday. The blind man who claimed ownership of the spot refused to accept the deal on grounds that the lady has always obstructed his normal ‘eating spot’.

I could not withstand witnessing what the people were going through. They attracted a huge number of people that stood witnessing them, some steering in laughter while some expressing sympathetic ululations. Even within the audience witnessing the blinds, there were some Liberians who still complain about the presence of unfavorable economic conditions that are making life unbearable.

But why will everyone complain in the country. The survivability of the physically, mentally and visually disabled and the technically unable who move around the streets depends on those that are both physically and technically able, and if the latter group complains of hardship, by extension, the disabled only survive at the general mercy of God.

Yes everyone must survive at the general mercy of God, but the segment of our society surviving on welfare needs special attention from the society – the state, religious groups, philanthropic organizations, and the family. These groups must work to ensure the upholding of the dignity of those people by providing better livelihoods for them that their survivability can not be dependent upon transitory incomes obtained from begging in street corners.

The empowering of those people economically through the provision of skills that will make them independent will not only take them from the street as beggars, but it will also reduce the state’s expenditure on welfare for the disabled. By extension that will in some way reduce burdens and stress on those that are able in a way that saving will increase in the economy.

Finally, it will also be important that relevant line ministries and welfare groups focus attention to the mentally impaired. The number of mentally impaired persons (mad men and women) is increasing steadily in the city of Monrovia and the country at large. Some of these people begin their madness with minor psychosocial problems that can be solved. But the absence of care through counseling and encouragement gradually leads them to a terrible situation of madness. This group of people needs to be catered to at a special center for mental rehabilitation where they will be properly monitored and protected from returning to the streets where they are abused, beaten, raped, and sometimes kidnapped.

-In the Cause of Democracy and Social Justice the Pen Shall Never Run Dry-