The Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE's) torchbearer, Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, says he will restore the dignity of 'at risk' young men and women, known as zogos, if elected president of Liberia. He told them that he takes serious exception to the designation 'zogos' because "it is demeaning to call citizens of Liberia zogos."
Speaking on the campaign trail on Benson, Carey, Randall, and Michelin streets in central Monrovia last Friday, Dr. Jones said his administration will promote a policy to address the plight of 'at-risk' youths. He believes that naming people based on their blacklisted social condition should not be accepted by leaders who have the country at heart.
"It signifies wrong perceptions that appear as if society acknowledges and approves of their unfortunate situation because such a perceived notion essentially undermines social cohesion and national stability, and undermines an inclusive development," he said.
"When I see you, I do not see zogos but a group of Liberians seeking opportunities to better their lives and regain their human dignity," Dr. Jones told the young citizens.
"Under my administration in a MOVEE led government, we will have you in dormitories to rehabilitate, train and reintegrate you into society. We will restore your human dignity and pride by providing you jobs and opportunities to prosper," said Jones.
Dr. Jones and Liberty Party's Charles Brumskine are two presidential candidates that have made policy statements on 'at-risk' youths. Brumskine was reported to have said that he would reintroduce a militia-type of program to recruit 'zogos' into the army, but his position received widespread criticism because that policy, according to a response by the Ministry of Defense, could erode public trust in and the image of the military.
The 'at-risk' youths are allegedly involved in the use of illicit drugs, which leads them into snatching handbags, cell phones and other forms of robbery. They are often car loaders, among the many other menial jobs they do.
To remedy the situation, if elected, Dr. Jones told them he would invest in a national housing program that would focus on providing a decent living for them, along with other poor Liberians, such as those residing in West Point (District #7, Montserrado County).
The National Housing Authority (NHA) is at present working along with the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) to build affordable homes for poor Liberians at the NASSCORP Village in Brewerville, outside Monrovia.
According to NHA's managing director Prince A. Wreh, the Government of Liberia has provided US$500K out of the US$1.2 million needed by the NHA, which has begun building 108 housing units on 12.5 acres of land with a one mile rehabilitated road access in the VOA community of Brewerville, for displaced West Point residents.
Dr. Jones said "Affordable housing for poor people will be a priority in a MOVEE led government. We can't allow a group of Liberians to live as if they are second-class citizens in their only country," Dr. Jones assured. "My government will take appropriate measures to provide shelter for all Liberians to live a comfortable life."
When Dr. Jones later visited Logan Town on Bushrod Island, he told partisans there that his view about humanity and love for fellow man has never changed despite his social status.
"I always feel attached to the people of Logan Town Community. My wife's parents used to live here and my wife and I used to live here, too. When we came back home from the United States, we came to live here. We are a part of the Logan Town family," Dr. Jones said.
Dr. Jones attended the official dedication of his campaign sub-office in Logan Town, District #15 Montserrado County.
At a well-attended political rally in District # 4, Montserrado County, he spoke to scores of supporters about his party's manifesto that is based on 'three clustered pillars': Economic Transformation and Infrastructural development; The Economic Empowerment of Liberians; and Job Creation. He said the economic empowerment of Liberians will be central to his administration.