-As Dead Relatives Wait In Vain On ‘Decoration Day’
By Esau J. Farr
The tradition of paying homage to the dead relatives on National Decoration Day otherwise known as ‘Memorial Day’ on March 13, 2019 took a dramatic twist at the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street in Monrovia when family members and loved ones turned their backs on their dead relatives without cleaning or visiting the graves.
The graveyard situated in central Monrovia is arguably the largest urban cemetery in the metropolitan area of Monrovia.
In time past, this graveyard was always a scene of attractions between and amongst individuals and families over ownership of one grave or another with some ending in fist-fight or bloodshed.
In 2009, the Government of Liberia under the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took a bold step in tackling the waves of damages that were been done to the graves at the cemetery by fencing it and assigning security personnel to curb the unwholesome acts meted out against the dead.
It yielded result to some extent, the disadvantaged youths (zogoes) most of them boys or men locally referred soon regained control of the graveyard turning it into a complete ‘ghost camp’ and a ‘no-go-zone’ by ordinary people.
Today, more than 90% of the graves that once hosted the loved ones of residents of Monrovia and its environs are completely empty.
It is reported that the disadvantaged youths or zogoes are alleged to have burst opened graves randomly and taken away skeletons of the remains of those buried and smoked them out.
Like any investigative media outlet, the New Republic visited several grave yards in and around Monrovia with family members and love ones showing respect to their fallen relatives, but the case of the Palm Grove Cemetery was quite different as the cemetery left unattended up to press time.
Some of the cemeteries visited include Congo Town Back Road, Duport Road, Bernard Farm-Kpelle Town, Brewerville and the Center Street Grave yards.
In an effort to ascertain as to why there was an unusual low turnout of family members to clean the graves of their fallen loved ones, one elderly man (Benedict Townsend) reluctantly told New Republic “I don’t even know why people didn’t come here today; because this is the first time since I have been here to see this historic graveyard to be very empty or poor on Decoration Day. ”
A disadvantaged youth believed to be in his late twenties who makes better use of the day to work for people by cleaning the graves of people’s relatives lamented saying, “I swear, I can’t understand this holiday because if that was before, my pot coming to boil like no body’s business”.
‘J-Boy’ as he calls himself told the New Republic Newspaper that this year’s Memorial Day is ‘sick’ to the extent that up to 4PM on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, he was yet to receive L$500.00, something he said could have tripled over the last five years.
Asked as to what he thinks may have contributed to the low turnout of family members to decorate their loved ones’ graves, ‘J-Boy’ said “maybe it is because of the alleged random burning of the grave yard by the Monrovia City Corporation which reportedly led to the cracking of some of the few surviving graves that got many weak not to turnout in mass as usual”.
The poor scene of the grave yard forced some of the few persons who lately went to identify with their fallen love ones to return home without walking through the grave yard for fear of being robbed by some of the disadvantaged youths as they were mostly seen pretending to help clean, decorate or re-print the graves and names of fallen relatives of people. TNR