FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

15 August 2014

Liberia: Drug Addiction & Criminality - Ex-Combatants Steal to Survive

Monrovia — Liberia's civil war is over, but the aftermath of the war is being felt with youths who actively participated in the civil war now addicted to drugs and are involved in criminal activities. Blama Davis, an ex combatant, now a drug user says consuming drugs are becoming a common food for him which he cannot go without.

"I got involved in drugs at age 10, because it used to make me active on the war front when I used to open the pregnant woman's stomach to see the child's sex. Because when you take it, you have no control of yourself," says Davis.

Davis, 33 has now turned to 'street jacking' to support his drug habit. Born March 8, 1980, Davis takes in narcotics such as 'Italian white,' 'duji' and cocaine and he says he started taking drugs 1990 when he joined the rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of Charles Taylor.

Many youngsters like Davis joined the Small Boys Unit (SBU) of the NPFL during the early years of the brutal civil war in Liberia, when Charles Taylor, as rebel leader in 1990, recruited many child soldiers as young as eight where they were fed with drugs and given guns to help in the warfare.

Now with the war over and no job many former combatants have turned 'car loaders' on major streets of Monrovia in the name of finding public vehicles for citizens to get home. Many citizens fall prey to them as they usually street jerk people; snatching away valuables such as cell phones, wallets and jewelries from citizens.

Demanding that journalists interviewing them pay US$5.00 for their time, twenty four year old Veyea Flomo, wearing a dingy looking T-shirt, with eyes half closed from his recent drug refill, is another drug addicted ex-combatant car loader, who got hooked on drugs as a 12 year old child soldier, fighting for the NPFL.

"When I am high on drugs I feel like I am on top of the world and everyone is under my feet, but when I don't take it, I feel like killing somebody for their money to buy drugs," says Flomo.

"I like Italian White and 'duji' and I have to smoke 4 or 5 loads a day to be satisfied. This is why I steal, snatch phones and hijack women and take their handbags just to get the money. Because when the drug is leaving my system, I can be desperate to do anything."

The plight of Davis and Flomo are similar to many other ex-combatants around the country who have become addicted to narcotics and are now engaged mostly in street robberies. Hence, due to continuous harassment of many citizens, including business people, most working people in the nation's capital, Monrovia usually go to work after 6:AM and leave the streets before 6PM for fear of being hijacked and robbed.

There is no program designed by the government of Liberia (GOL) to address the plight of the many ex-combatants whose drug addiction has led them to these habits as there are no drug rehabilitation programs in the country.

"The intake of dangerous narcotics, sometimes leads to brain damage or mental instability," says Dr. Peter Coleman, former Health Minister of Liberia, now a Senator at the National legislature. "Without the proper mental facility, that the Country now lacks, to treat these youngsters, they may become far more dangerous to the Country's security," Dr. Coleman further lamented.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), whose responsibilities include stopping the illegal use of narcotic drugs and rehabilitation of offenders, says it does not have the capacity. "There are no drug enforcement laws on the books, but only public health laws and it is not strong enough to arrest drug traffickers. So drugs illegally enter the Country through Sea Ports, Airports and border posts," says J. Togbazee Kpadeh, DEA Public affairs officer.

Liberia a drug transit point

In June 2011, the U.S. State Department's report says most of Liberia's illicit drugs are smuggled from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. But the report also points to Liberia becoming a significant transit point for drugs en route to countries in Europe and Asia.

"The war against drugs is on and we are winning, because just the other day, a lady was arrested at the Roberts International Airport with narcotics, when she was in transit to Morocco," says Sam Collins, Director of Press and Public Affairs, Liberia National Police (LNP).

He said that some drug dealers see Liberia as a soft spot to transport their goods. Collins disclosed that the LNP has arrested several car loaders from ghettos in Monrovia, adding that their looks would make one feel sorry for them, because of the bad state they are in when the drug is leaving their system, with no refill.

"It is sad to say that these harmful narcotics are affecting the youthful population of the Country, because these substances are mixed in Kayan (locally made cakes with peanut and farina), and sold to kids, while some is cooked in soup and served at parties." He added that ghettoes were raided by the Liberia National Police (LNP) in August 2013, and several arrests were made from homes and ghettoes within Monrovia.

In August, 2013, a 35 year old female Suspect Hawa Massaquoi was arrested from the Freeport Community in Monrovia and was Charged with unlawful possession of Marijuana worth 220 grams value at LD$180,000. While in August 2013, a 34 year-old male suspect identified as Varney Fayiah from the Free Port Community was also caught with 2.89 grams of Heroin worth LD$ 3,755.00 and he was also sent to court, as was done Suspect Hawa.

In agreement with the DEA, in the absence of a strong Drug Enforcement Law, Collins says his fear is, perpetrators like Fayiah and Massaquoi would most likely walk out of court free without being prosecuted.

At the same time, both Flomo and Davies want to leave the street and live normal lives, but the absence of a rehabilitation center in the country makes it difficult for them to ever be 'normal' again, as the last facility, was destroyed during the early years of the civil war. "I am not happy being an addict but it is very difficult to leave the habit, because if I don't take it for two to three hours, I get very sick and desperate," says Davis.

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