MONROVIA-It was a sad evening when hundreds of people went to an open-air crusade in the borough of New kru Town when Zogoes or ‘criminals’ invaded the crusade in search of cash and other valuable material things to take away.

This led to the death of 29 persons, including pregnant woman, children, and others.  The Crusade was organized by   More Grace International Ministries, owned by Pastor Abraham Kromah, a Muslim who converted to Christianity and has been converting some Muslims into Christianity.

Eyewitnesses at the scene told this paper that when the Crusade was over, attendees decided to leave. But to their surprise, they saw a huge group of men with cutlasses, knives, sticks in their hands moving towards them to attack and take away their personal belongings.

“We were to the place last night. After the crusade, we just heard heavy noise from outside. Some people were running to come inside the fence because they said they saw Zogos with cutlasses and knives coming towards them. So, many of the people ran inside,” Samuel Wleh, a resident of the place said.

The stampede took place at the D-Tweh Memorial High School in New Kru Town, a densely populated area.

Zogos are people who abandoned their homes and live on the streets. They also engage in drugs and criminal activities as well.

Earlier on Thursday, Deputy Information Minister Jalawah Tonpo told state radio, LBS-Liberia Broadcasting System that the number of persons confirmed to have died was 29. The bodies were taken to The Redemption Hospital. Minister Tonpo did not give details at the time.

Another eyewitness, Exodus Morias, a resident who attended the crusade, told this paper the stampede began after a group of armed men rushed to the crowd in an attempt to stage a robbery.

“We saw a group of men with cutlasses and other weapons coming toward the crowd,” Morias said. “While running, some people dropped and others fell on the ground and walked over them.”

Bands of Liberian street gangs known as Zogos commonly commit robberies with machetes and other small weapons.

Some residents in the area have blamed the death of Zogos and also the inability of the security to provide protection.

“I will put this on the part of the Zogos. The government needs to take the responsibility for this death. It is the government’s right to protect its citizens. We are vulnerable in this country,” Teresa Marsh, a resident of   Benson Street said, and later expressed regret.

But the information Minister Ledgehood Rennie   debunked it;

‘To allow people get their freedom to congregate and assemble,    Just the other day we teargas people at the capital,  one major opposition leader says that it was people’s right to assemble. what is happening now is the same people’s right to assemble on that football field that caused the deaths.  You should blame the government for that?

So if you inform the government,   about people gathering in mass numbers, does not only refer to protestation at an assembly- but so that it can be managed and organized in a way that everyone’s personal security is secured.  When you do not do that,  people start having a mass gathering on the street of Monrovia, if we move on your first,  they will be saying the government is infringing on freedom of movement and freedom of assembly; and so let us be realistic with ourselves; we live in a society where people do not want to follow the rules.  When something happens, they want to blame the government.  Look again,  I say to you, Zogos on the streets, they are disadvantaged youths,  are not the so responsibility of government to remove them from the streets, these people come from homes,  and some of them come from well-known parents, so while it is true that government is making efforts, the president is even constructing homes for the disadvantaged youth to go there and learn a trade.  It is our collective responsibility, you get your immediate relative on the street, wayward people, and those things are happening, it will interest you to apply effort. Everything people blame the government, people dump dirt in their backyard, they will say,  government support to go in their backyard and clean the dirt,  to blame the government for new Kru town tragedy,  is scapegoating.   That is my official response.  To blame the Government is scapegoating. The pastor has the responsibility to ensure the protection and the wellbeing of the people, so it is not everything that government will be able to do, so people should know their responsibility for their personal responsibility.

We as a government have every regulation in place and the citizens, themselves are not wanting in respecting those city ordinance measures.

The President has visited the place, we will first investigate to see what actually went   wrong; when we review the public safety  measure so  that every measure  is put into place  so that there cannot be any recurrent.”

The actions of Zogos have been causing concerns in recent times. It can be recalled that last week following the final county meet between Nimba and Gbarpolu counties, several fans were attacked at gate four at the Samuel  Doe Sports Complex in demand of cash, phone, and valuable items. The police had to move on the scene to bring it under control.

In some street corners and entertainment centers, they are seen waiting to attack people if they refuse to give cash or personal items.

But others are calling on the government to further investigate the cause of the case as there could be other lead.

Tributes

Since the news broke of an unfortunate situation that caused the death of about 29 persons, messages of tribute have been pulling in from all quarters of Liberia.

Bomi County Senator, Edwin Melvin Snowe wrote on his Facebook page these words: “The news that 30 people died and several injured in New Kru Town, Montserrado County, as a result of STAMPEDE after a Crusade organized by Apostle Abraham Kromah yesterday, January 19, is sad and unfortunate – we herein, with heavy heart, extend sympathy to dwellers of New Kru Town, organizers of the Crusade, and the people of Liberia. May the good Lord console us in these difficult times – may he nurse the injuries caused us (Liberians) by this unfortunate situation.”

Unity Party, one of Liberia’s opposition parties in a release had this as their tribute to the family

“With heavy hearts, the Unity Party mourns the death of thirty (30) or more Liberians who died as a result of a stampede that occurred last evening in New Kru Town during a Crusade.

Today is a very sad day in Liberia and we ask all Liberians to join us in a blackout to mourn the loss of these lives which also included children.

Additionally, the UP calls on the Government of Liberia to speedily investigate the cause of the stampede that has cost us the lives of scores of Liberians who gathered to worship. This will help give closure to the bereaved family and friends, ensure justice is served where needed, and avoid future occurrences.

We extend our sympathy to the bereaved families and pray that God consoles them in their time of grief.

May the souls of all deceased Rest In Peace.

Junior Zuu, a father of a child who died in the stampede had these words to say as well:

“I lost my Son from last night’s crusade in New Kru Town, it’s paining me, you were sick for 3 months and we tried our possible best for you to get well.

Tuesday I called to find out whether you went to school and I was told you started school on Monday.

I was very happy to hear such news that you have started going to school, last night your mother took you to the Crusade, unfortunately, we lost you due to the attack from (Zogos) at the Crusade.  May your Soul Rest in peace, Son!!”

Reuben E. Rambo, a student of the Cuttington University said”, my condolences to the people of New Kru Town. Yesterday a tragic incident occurred leaving at least 30 persons dead… and some hospitalized.

The population of drunker (Zoko) is drastically increasing in our country, posing a grave threat to our national security.

Thirty persons would not have been dead if measures were put in place initially.

Let’s talk about the promised rehabilitation centers and vocational institutions. I vividly remembered that part of this government’s promise was to get these boys off the streets to rehab and vocational training, but I guess it’s another lie. Let’s also talk about our Drug Enforcement Agencies. Are they functional? Or are they compromising and perpetuating it for their own selfish gain?

WAKE UP SHEEPLE! I am outraged because those people who have died because of this senseless act had families and friends; they had businesses, dreams, and hopes. Today it’s them, tomorrow who knows?  We can’t keep walking with our wallets and purses in our pants, NO! It shouldn’t be like that. Nobody should live in fear because of another man’s reckless decision and nobody should die either.

To The GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA: It’s your fault that these people are dead and it is also your fault that we are having all these lapses. If all the heads of different line Ministries were functional, we wouldn’t have landed here. After 14 Years of the Civil war, we still don’t have peace in totality. What a shame!”

House of Representatives

The Speaker of the House of Representatives during their Thursday session sympathized with the family of those who lost their lives at the gathering.

Speaker Bhofal Chambers asked his colleagues and all those who were in the chambers to stand for a moment of silence for the victims.

After their session, the Speaker led members of the House of Representatives to Kew Kru Town, the scene of the stampede.

 

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