Zogos (Car Loaders) Return To The Streets of Monrovia
Monrovia – Car loaders have resurfaced despite harsh measures by the Liberian National Police to get them off the streets of Monrovia in order to minimize petty crimes.
Report by J.H. Webster Clayeh – [email protected]
At the tail end of 2016, the Liberia National Police announced several measures to combat crime, including the banning of car loader, known unofficially as Zogos, from the streets.
The move was met with mixed reaction with some welcoming it while others chastised the government for having no rehabilitation center. Many were arrested and jailed by the LNP but they have now returned.
In a conversation with FrontPage Africa, Inspector George K. Miller, traffic commander at the metro-II Police station on Center Street acknowledged that the car loaders were back but claimed that they are from Paynesville, not the usual ones.
“When they see us they can run away.”
“They are from Red-light, some are from Old-road; when we catch them we can beat them to leave the streets,” Inspector Miller said as he pointed to one of the car loaders who was farther from him.
But a tour by FPA showed that the assertion by the commander is far from reality.
Senegalese, Grandpa Dee, Slippery, Mackie Boy, Chuck Norris, Positive P, Teddy Ride (not their real names) and other are still in the street loading cars, washing cars and also begging and stealing despite huge Police presence during daylight.
Speaking to FPA, many car loaders at the intersection of Broad and Randall Streets and other parts of central Monrovia said they were arbitrarily taken from the streets when they don’t possess any income generating skills.
Many are addicts of narcotic substances, which makes it even more difficult to abandoned a life of crime, sex etc.
Senegalese is the most popular car loader in Monrovia but sees car loading as the only means for his family to survive.
According to him, the money he gets from loading car supports his three children as one is in school. He says he finds it difficult because he the Police chases him away.
With the presence of the Police, Senegalese stands at one side of the street to watch out for officers and at the same time for customers he finds car for.
Senegalese says unlike his friends, he doesn’t steal from people.
“The Police are just embarrassing us. People know me I do not steal from them; I find car for them, through that I can get “small thing” (money) from them to take care of my family”, he said.
Police Blames Taxi Drivers
In order to get the cars loaders from the streets, the Police have warned commercial drivers not to give car loaders money whenever they load their cars.
“I blame these taxi drivers, if they stop them from loading their cars or stop giving them money when they load their cars, I think they will leave the street”, Inspector Miller disclosed.
“They got to help us—we cannot do this alone. So you see, because these guys are not good to be in this part of the city.”
Drivers Divided over Police Warning
Despite the Police warning, taxi drivers are divided over whether to stop car loaders whenever they come around.
John Momo, a taxi driver said since he was warned by the LNP, he doesn’t let anyone to load his car.
“When I see them coming, I can tell them to not load my car but they can’t listen so I can just leave them but when my car gets full I can just pull up,” the taxi driver said.
“They can be vexed; they can cuss my mother and sometimes knock the back of my car.”
Another taxi driver, Sidiki Kamara, said more needs to be done in order to take the car loaders from the street, adding that stopping them from loading commercial cars is not the only thing to help them.
Kamara, who has been driving for years, says he’s friendly with many of the car loaders and cannot stop them from loading his car.
“Getting them from the street is not our business. I think more needs to be done. I was here when Police were arresting car loaders during the Christmas season”, Kamara opined.
“As soon they came out of jail, I saw them back in the streets. So, not because the Police say don’t give them money then I will stop giving them money.”
“In fact, passenger business can be hard to get sometimes; so if they find me passengers I will give them money because they work for it”.
Mercy Kollie, a resident of Gardnerville said finding vehicles to whisk her home can be difficult but car loaders makes it easier for her when she pays them.
She called for proper mechanism to be instituted to get them from the streets.
“If I cannot see them around, that’s it—I will still make my way home but if they’re around especially my son Senegalese, I will call him to find car for me” she said.
“The responsible authority needs to put their feet down if they want to get rid of this menace in our society”.
Not the way to solve the Problem
Sekou Konneh, assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Liberia, stressed to FrontPage Africa that government is going about the problem the wrong way.
“The way the Police or government wants to solve this problem is not the way to solve the problem.”
“Firstly, to solve a problem you must identify what is the problem. Grabbing them, jailing them is not the solution because what you are doing, you’re just treating the symptom of the problem,” Konneh said.
He attributed the problem to the 14 years of civil conflict. He added that most of the car loaders do not have the necessary skills to seek employment.
“Most of these people came from the war, during that time they only knew guns; they knew no other skills, they only knew how to loot, now we have a normal situation.”
“To be employed, you must have the skills,” he noted.
He added that the years of war had made many addicted to narcotics.
“There are challenges, the government has competing priorities, but you need a sustainable program for them.”