Liberia-Street kids

The deprived kids running Monrovia's streets

APA-Monrovia (Liberia) By Terrence Sesay

Disadvantaged homeless boys mostly of school-going age commonly known as ‘Zogos’ in Liberia have overwhelmed the streets of the capital Monrovia since the end of the country's civil war.

They are a living legacy of the civil conflict that erupted in December 1989 and lasted until 2003 are still evident following more than a decade of peace.

There are many former ex-combatants of child soldiers who could not acquire the education they need to eke out an honest living are now found on the streets sleeping rough, mostly in abandoned buildings. 

During the day they load vehicles for drivers or wash car to eke out a meagre living while some of them look for passengers for commercial transports. 

The ‘Zogos’ swarm parking stations with their familiar shouts of ‘Gardnersville’, ‘Douala, ‘Red Light’, ‘New Georgia’, and other destinations for passenger vehicles.

Stingy drivers pay them ten Liberian dollars, while generous ones hand them 20 Liberian dollars for every vehicle loaded. 

At the end of the day, some of them earn up to two hundred Liberian dollars. 

Many ‘Zogos’ before now earned more than two hundred dollars per day, but due to the surge in their numbers on Monrovia's streets in this ‘Pro-Poor era, their earnings have dropped significantly. 

Life for the typical Zogo has gone from good to abysmal because he would have to compete or work with other street boys to load vehicles. 

This has sometimes resulted to conflicts between them when they load the same vehicles.

The slump in the Liberian economy which has rendered many parents incapable of fully catering to their children, has resulted to an upsurge in the number of car loaders on the streets of Monrovia and its suburbs. 

However, it is worth pointing out that the upsurge in the number of car loaders is not only because of the constraints many parents are currently faced with, but because of drug addiction and peer pressure. 

Youths from otherwise good homes who are addicted to drugs have been inspired by their peers to live on the streets like their more unfortunate peers.

Many youths nowadays take marijuana and other drugs can only underwrite the cost of drugs through loading vehicles, pick-pocketing and robberies.

Zogos are not just car loaders as perceived by many. 

In their desperation to earn money to purchase marijuana and other illicit drugs, they engage in pick-pocketing, and other criminal activities to raise the money they need to purchase drugs.

They are so desperate to earn money to buy drugs and food that they go to the extent of jerking the bags and phones of unsuspecting passengers an passersby. 

“A Zogo who usually loads a vehicle on Johnson Street in central Monrovia took a friend’s wedding ring from his finger while their taxi was in motion and fled the scene,,” a fellow passenger on a bus who identified himself an Calvin George told APA.

“I don’t like to deal with these Zogos. Even though we pay them anytime they load our vehicles, they will seize any opportunity to steal from you. I am a victim. A Zogo one day stole my money when I got off the vehicle to put a passenger’s load down from the back of the taxi,” a taxi driver identified as Saah Josiah who commutes from Duala to central Monrovia told APA.  

Some Zogos even steal passengers’ loads in the back of vehicles, especially in taxis which have no driver assistants known locally as  ‘car boys’. 

“A Zogo snatched my bag from the back of a taxi in Duala Market at about 8:pm at night upon our arrival from Grand Cape Mount County,” an aggrieved passenger who identified himself as David Karneh told APA.

Taxi and bus drivers are compelled to accept the services of car loaders, whether they like it or not, because if they consistently reject their role, the Zogos will identify the driver and break their vehicle's windshield at night. 

As a result, all taxi and bus drivers accept the services of car loaders. 

“Some time ago, my friend was driving his taxi on Broad Street at night when some ‘Zogos’ stoned his vehicle and damaged its windshield. You just have to accept them or you risk getting your vehicle damaged or you yourself injured,” Karneh said . 

A friend told this correspondent a very interesting story. 

“One day, in the Red Light Market in the Monrovia suburb of Paynesville which is considered a den for thieves, a 15-year old girl’s plastic bag containing some items she bought was jerked from her hand. Out of frustration and apparently to mock the thieves, she put faeces in another black plastic bag and held it and went to the same spot where the first bag was jerked from her. When she arrived on the spot, the Zogos again rushed on her and took the bag away. She fled the scene knowing that when they knew what was in the bag they would come back to look for her. Few minutes after she fled the scene, the Zogos came back and asked for her angrily 'where is that stupid girl’? They could not find her” narrated Quita Saybay who resides in Pipeline Community near the Red Light Market.

Many Liberians believe there is a need to get the ‘Zogos’ off the streets, seeing them not just as a nuisance, but a threat to peace and security. 

They engage in armed robberies as well.

Fayia Millimounoh,another taxi driver narrated: "One night my friend told me that at about 8:pm he was walking from Johnson  Street to Broad Street to get a taxi when two Zogos surrounded him. One of them pulled out a knife, put his hand in his shirt pocket and took away the two hundred Liberian dollars he had”. 

Many residents of the capital will give everything for the removal of Zogos who always appear dirty on the streets of Monrovia.

During the regime of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, plans were underway to remove them from the streets, but the problem was where to host them.

The government under George Weah faces the same question.

In the meantime, the zogos will continue to remain a conspicuous part of life in Monrovia and other Liberian cities.


React to this article