On Question of “Zogos” – When Solution Becomes Problem
On a sunny day, earlier this month, the streets erupted to sounds of laughter and rhythms of joyful emotions as youth at risk, popularly known as the zogos, were being chased from the streets and their homes demolished.
This was one of the earliest stunts by new Police Director Gregory Coleman which was supposedly persecuted in a bid to raid the environment of threats and ensure safety in the streets.
His action received high approval ratings from members of the pubic as they saw it as an air of relief.
It might present an air of relief but does it actually wield elements capable of ensuring the final solution to the zogos question?
The zogos are a constituency of youths, most of who were conscripted for participation during the civil war, as child soldiers.
At the end of the war, they evaded the chance to get an education or reintegrate into society and has chosen to live in the streets and fend for themselves.
Because of their long stay in the streets, they have been rebuked, ridiculed, and has implicitly outlived the chance to be coopted by society.
These zogos or youth at risk now live in isolation and purportedly look to drugs and marijuana for solace.
Multiple attempts have been made by individuals and organizations to reorganize their life but these advances have seemingly been at odds with their preference of a life made in the mold of their conception: intolerance to public opinion.
By this, they present an existential danger to our society, not only by their intolerance but because their thoughts are haunted by reminiscent of their past and drenched in making money by whichever means.
Hence, it was needful to devise a solution for the problem they pose also because they represent a veritable outcome of poor political experiments exercised during our years of conflict, but out rightly removing them from the streets doesn’t resemble a solution, neither is it a sensible judgment.
Chasing them off the streets equals wresting their chance of earning a livelihood and this essentially forces them to the extreme and into the communities to embrace the integration they once dreaded.
But the problem is, they might not be easily accepted by society nor be given the chance to make a coup at integration, and this might just drive them deeper into the depth of isolation, thus making them gullible for use by anyone.
This is dangerous prospect particularly because we are moving to an election which promises to be tension-packed and opened to extreme political experiments.
There are possibilities that they can be radicalized and used by people with interest in adding ugly dimensions onto our electioneering processes and destabilize the expectant smooth political transition.
Therefore, the Police needs to be more sensitive and understand that their preferred answer to the zogos question is a problem in itself because it does not answer the central question of what happens to the zogos after they leave the streets.
What the Police needed to do before banning the zogos from the street was to consider the background of these zogos, the risk they pose to our society, and contrive an objective solution which will condition them for smooth integration into society.
They could have worked with stakeholders and organizations to provide counselling services for these zogos and add onto them some valuable skills through vocational education which will add value to their pressence in the communities and transform them into positive citizens.
But the Police choice of taking the last lap of the solution as the first has muddied the chance of finding a perfect solution to the zogos question.
What is appropriate now is for stakeholders in the social welfare sector of our society, to conceive a coherent plan for the transformation and reintegration of these youth before it gets too late.
Ernest Duku Jallah is a student of the University of Liberia reading Economics and Public Administration and a stalwart of the Student Integration Movement (SIM). He is a youth leader and social activist – [email protected] or 0776969691