Ahead of Decoration Day, Liberia’s Historic Cemetery Still Dilapidated
Monrovia – Every second Wednesday in March is set aside as Decoration Day, and scenes at every cemetery are expected to be full of reflections, as family members pay respect to their dead ones.
Report by J.H. Webster Clayeh (00231770745986)[email protected]
A few years ago, the second Wednesday of March brought scenes of wailing, singing and dancing for people selling various merchandises at the Palm Groves.
Center Street, which divides the cemetery into two halves, with each on Gurley and Lynch Streets, has always hosted the largest number of family members paying homage to the dead.
Individuals who went to the cemetery alone could easily hire people to paint their relatives’ graves and at some point, hired people to cry for their dead relatives.
But condition at the Palm Groves Cemetery, which is in the heart of Monrovia, will make families struggle to decorate the graves of the late relatives. This will be due to the deplorable condition of the graves.
Despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fenced and the Palm Groves cemetery, Liberia’s oldest and historic gravesite, it still remains a deathtrap. This cemetery Palm Groves dating as far back as 1820.
currently, all the graves have been opened by criminals and drug addicts.
For more than a decade, the place is home to addicts and also serves as a hideout for criminals. These vagabonds have virtually opened every grave.
Their fearful presence often serves as a hindrance to relatives of the dead.
Ahead of this year’s Decoration Day, workers of the city planning department at the Monrovia City Hall who were seen cleaning up the cemetery on Monday told a FrontPage Africa reporter that the place has lost its significance as a home of the dead.
Robert Hinneh, who heads the team of workers, said although the cemetery is a “deathtrap”, they had to risk their lives to give the place a facelift.
“You can see, if you are not careful you will drop in the hole. All the graves are damaged. With the place looking like this; how will people see their relatives graves tomorrow? So, it will be preferable that the government demolish everything and put in the stone but for now, I don’t think people who will come tomorrow will find their relatives grave,” he said.
Jacob Nelson added: “I think the government needs to demolish this place. Although it is a historical ground, you cannot find any of the graves close, every grave here are open wide.”
Nelson added: “You cannot find one casket, on bone or skeleton. So, no need for this place to be called a cemetery, it is not a cemetery, it is just an empty field.
“If you come and fix your relatives graves before you turn your back the Zogos them will burst the grave. What they are looking for nobody know. So, the government just got to relocate the place.”
Many argue that moves by the city government to keep the cemetery sacred have proven futile.
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime had promised to relocate the entire cemetery, but that decision was put to halt by the action of then-Senator of Bong County now Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Howard-Taylor.
In 2016, the most famous and historic cemetery came close to being demolished by the Special Presidential Task Force headed by General Services Agency Director General Mary Broh.
Madam Taylor wrote the Plenary of the Senate requesting the body to put halt to the ongoing demolition of the Palm Groves cemetery.
In her communication, she stated that the cemetery was established by law for the permanent hosting and the final resting place for people she describes as “distinguished citizens, respected patriot, and ordinary citizens.” “This trend of thought to remove our loved ones from their resting place should not be accepted, but instead designated burial places should remain as such, which shows our collective national respect for the dead,” she stated back in 2016.