First Saturday Alone Cannot Make Monrovia Clean


I could not agree with Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, the Head of Delegation of the European Union in Liberia more for being so bold in pointing out the dirty environment of Monrovia city.

By Prince Menkalo Gbieu, Contributing Writer

I feel the citizens and government must see this as a wake-up call to take charge and show leadership in waste management, beginning with every person, home and community and the government.

It is not rational for the public to shift responsibility either on the government to answer all the country’s problems or for the government to simply and supinely expect all of its citizens to be responsible for the country’s misfortune for making Monrovia homes of mice and swarm of flies susceptible to airborne diseases. It is much better when we are all appreciative of our moral responsibilities to ourselves and communities.

When Ambassador Delahousse bluntly said that Monrovia was dirty, I was embarrassed because such pronouncement from stranger brought shame to the entire country and not the government alone. Even though Liberian culture forbids stranger the freedom in the home of his land-law to speak out in deafening manner. But some time braved stranger can break silence like ambassador Delahousse did. He is amongst thousands of foreign diplomatic partners visiting or residing in the oldest independent city in West Africa who has broken the silence to cross the diplomatic bar publicly. Though, many foreign friends have seen how filthy Monrovia and its environs look, but they choose to praise the people and government, being restricted by diplomatic functions. The filthy condition of Monrovia is not unique to any regime; it’s a long time issue.

Although his assertion was true but I was extremely surprised for a diplomatic partner to make such a disclosure without any regard to diplomatic treaty that defines diplomatic frame work between independent countries and diplomatic missions. The treaty prohibits diplomat melting into another state’s affairs. As for Liberian culture, it teaches that a stranger cannot get himself involved into the affairs of another man’s home. I know this might be the culture in the diplomatic cycle too. I wonder if diplomatic cycle is still the same or it has changed lately. In diplomacy, I know that every country is construed as sovereign states; a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has dominion over a geographic area and is independent. I believe Mr. Delahousse spoke out of emotion and contrary to consistent diplomacy.

On the other hand, Liberians, either in position or opposition and “no position” who took on social media maligning the image of the country and amplifying negativism such as this one, should know too, that even developed countries are having challenges but their citizens, at most times devote to the spirit of patriotism. They always choose to promote good of their country; amongst these are commitment to hard work, initiatives and enterprises that move their country forward because the spirit of patriotism has no party and no regime but it is owed to country; regime or party is time bound. But loyalty to country and citizens are perennial. For this, citizens’ allegiance must always be to state and people.

In 2014, when Madam Mary Broh introduced the first Saturday cleanup day, she demonstrated patriotism toward making Monrovia a clean and healthy city. It was welcoming because at least she instituted a day to clean the city from the dungeon of engulfed dirtiness where citizens rely on donors without local commitment. The dependence syndrome in Liberia only suppresses self-initiative to the extent that most citizens look to government for everything. To Madam Broh’s plan for cleaned city, I have always asked myself, whether, the first Saturday cleaning up precepts introduced by her, was enough to clean the city of Monrovia when the city hosts approximately one million people whose basic needs for survival and economic empowerment come from goods wrapped and shipped in plastic or piece of cartoons.

We all know that most of what is consumed in the country are imported   in sealed container and parceled in papers for end users. When papers are discarded they normally circulate from one garbage site to another by zogos (strayed youth) or by flooding from one community to another.   I am not being empirical here to state exactly the daily tonnage of garbage produced by the growing residents in Monrovia. I have no statistics because it is not available to public. If I have endeavored to get one to inform my decision, I will end up in frustration – it would be gold dust to find. But what is revealing and sadly alarming from the diplomat’s statement is that Liberians living in Monrovia have ignored to care for their surroundings and government too has reneged to shoulder the moral responsibility to ensure effective garbage collection that enhances leadership in waste management that saves citizens and foreign partners from contracting diseases. The Government and its citizens need to know that commitment to cleaning up the city means protecting the citizens from health hazards.

Government anywhere at least functions to protect its citizens against harms not only with the might of her conquering military but also with the efforts she applies to ensure clean environment. This is achieved simply by commitment to garbage collection  to prevent her denizens against airborne diseases.

Liberians should not be spectators to environmental protection and hygiene. Our population is growing and the amount of waste created will also increase.

For instance, the demographic statistics from LISGIS obtained far back in 2008 states that Liberia’s population is progressive shooting from 3 million on its way to 4 -5 million. How do the citizens and government intend to tackle the issue of effective garbage collection?   What mechanism do homes and businesses in Monrovia use for garbage collection and disposal if national cleaning up campaign is executed one day in a month? Moreover, data from the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) published in 2008, showed Monrovia alone accounts for 29% of the nation’s population. Then, this means, out of 3.4 million the capitol city alone hosts approximately 1.1 million people. Furthermore, it is interesting to know that since LISGIS 2008 census final report, there is a progressive population growth in Liberia estimated at 5.2 million people.  Analyzing the statistics from 2008 and 2020, the population has tremendously shifted upward because birth rate too is doubling. As such government and citizens should endeavor to put in proper and consistent waste management plan with national support encroached by accountability to keep the city clean and healthy.

Additionally, we all know that the rate of migration to Monrovia keeps the city crowded due to the fact that the city is likely the center of happiness that favors employment, business and education. This means there will always be huge production of garbage piles between house where people live. In response, the government and citizens must institute moral responsibility to curb pollution and garbage abandonment in the streets.

With LISGIS’s census report on hand along with swelling trend of migration making Monrovia a city of 1 million inhabitants, the first Saturday cleanup campaign must not be monthly precepts but a daily hobbit else the most obeyed first Saturday hygiene day will prove further that not only the streets of Monrovia are dirty but the hearts and minds of its inhabitants.

Banking institutions must not only become custodians of the campaign to open bank to public at 10am on first Saturday. Cab-man and bike riders too must not treat the day as if it is even a national holiday. Businesses must not become robustly implementing for only first Saturday. And finally, moral responsibility and moral commitment to environmental hygiene must not be political, but it must be habitual and cherish by all.