-Says RDY Boss, Decry Gov’t Crackdown
The head of a group under the banner Retrieving the Destiny of the Young (RDY), Mark Merriam says drug addiction is dangerous than the deadly Ebola Virus Disease that killed hundreds of people here in Liberia.
Speaking in an interview in Monrovia, Merriam said the Ebola Virus Disease was just a killer disease, but drug addiction is a serious societal problem that will destroy Liberia’s future leaders if not addressed quickly.
“Drug is worse than Ebola. If you think Ebola is worse, you are mistaking. Ebola just came and killed people, it’s a curable disease we all know that, but drug will kill the next two, three, four generations if we just sit as a country without taking appropriate actions to rescue those addicted to drug. If we do not fight to save our children right now; I am sorry we will have a lost generation,” he said.
Merriam who was once addicted to drug for 16 years, further decried the number of school going kids who are becoming addicted to drug daily.
He said following tour of several ghettos across the country recently, it was noticed that over ten school going kids were becoming addicted to drug on a daily basis.
“If you take a tour, go up Ducor, go to the High schools. See the number of young people especially students in the name of Super Friday or social life. You don’t know what they are doing there. So everyday about ten kids are becoming addicted. And that is a whole generation right there. They have children to take care of tomorrow. They are the future leaders. They are supposed to take over from the next government. So, if we don’t build the foundation and fight against drug, I can only say to you the next generation will have no foundation,” he indicated.
According to him, drug addiction is a serious societal problem that needs the collective efforts of all citizens including the churches.
At the same time, Merriam says the mass arrest and detention of drug users by the Liberian government in recent days is not the best way to solving the problem.
He indicated that while it is true that the government is under obligation to maintain law and order, the mass arrest of drug users, will only increase crime rate across the country.
“When I see police or the Drug Enforcement Agency arresting these people, I think about my days in the ghettos. That is not the way forward. Although I agreed that it’s their legal reasonability as a national security, I want the government to know that there is a big difference between just arresting these guys and psychologically working with these people to help them become useful citizens,” he indicated.
Merriam warned that the criminal rate will continue to increase unless government work with relevant institutions so as to properly rehabilitate drug users.
Recently the Liberia National Police (LNP), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arrested several drug users, following some massive raids of ghettos across Monrovia and its environs.
Speaking with this paper, LNP spokesman Moses Carter said the raid is intended to reduce crime across the country.
“The activity of the police today is as a result of the recent wave of armed robbery that have engulfed our country which is inimical to the survival of our citizens. And the Inspector General being aware of the fact that our people need to live in peace, decided to launched this operation of raiding ghettos,” he said.
Carter indicated that while it is true that President George Weah has a real plan to rehabilitate drug users, there is a need to carry out the exercise so as to curb criminal activities.
Though the LNP spokesman did not give the total number of people arrested during the raid, he informed that police will depend on information from the drug users so as to arrest the peddlers, something Merriam strongly differ with.
In a related development, Merriam said government should formulate appropriate plans to crackdown on drug traffickers and not the users. He noted that drug users are victims as such appropriate programs should be developed to rehabilitate drug users.
Merriam is therefore recommending harsh punishment for drug traffickers, who traffic banned substances into the country.
He also highlighted stigmatization as another impediment discouraging drug users to reunite with their families.
In some cases, he explained that some families were refusing to accept their relatives who were once addicted to drug for reasons best known to themselves.
Through the help of Christian Aid Ministry according to Merriam, his organization was able to rehabilitate about 80 drug users from various ghettos in the country.
Christian Aid is partnering with his organization to provide some basic technical skills to drug users following weeks of intensive rehabilitation.