Paynesville City – Turtle Base in Red-Light, Paynesville was infamously known for being the safe haven for small scale drug pushers and addicts.
It also served as a home for some of the known notorious armed robbers, but it is no more – demolished by the police in a raid.
“I was abducted by the rebel forces and introduced to drugs and was forced to take arm and fight.
Some of my other friends can do other trade they learned: like -- driving, carpentry and masonry, but as for me, I did not learn any other trade but to fire gun.
If firing gun was a trade, they would not have disarmed us, so it is not a trade.” - Emmanuel, Drug Addict.
Bringing down the base, though has brought some sense of security to residents of the area, has not in any way put an end to the illicit activities carried out by its former inhabitants.
Most of them have moved into several ghettos in Paynesville and Monrovia, where marijuana, coco, Indian white and other forms of drugs are easily found.
Emmanuel K. Benson is a former child soldier; he has been on the streets for 18 years. He has no vocational skills.
According to him, the only thing he knows best is to fire a gun and operate any weapon. He is just one of hundreds of children forced into fighting during the country’s civil upheavals which lasted for 14 years.
“I was abducted by many of the rebel forces and introduced to drugs and was forced to take arm and fight.
Some of my other friends can do other trade they learned like -- driving, carpentry and masonry, but as for me, I did not learn any other trade but to fire gun. If firing gun was a trade, they would not have disarmed us, so it is not a trade,” he said.
Emmanuel once lived in Turtle Base. The place got its name from the attitude of the female turtle which hatches its eggs and goes its way – leaving the young ones at the mercy of nature and circumstances.
Emmanuel now lives in a ghetto community (Gblabah) behind the old Ministry of Defense on Benson Street in Monrovia.
The building was owned by for Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Green Freeman.
Emmanuel had just returned from helping cab drivers to find passengers in the bustling streets of Monrovia.
In his dingy gray T-shirt, Emmanuel sweats profusely. It drips down his face as if he had had just completed a marathon.
“I am sweating like this because since I woke up, I have not taken in my regular load yet. I will continue to sweat and feel bad until I take in my ‘bee’ [substance] to make me zekko [zeal], and feel on top of the world.
I take Italian White and coco to make me feel fine. Italian White is sold at LD$290.00 [US$2.90] and Coco, (A brown substance) is sold at LD$275.00, [US$2.75],” he said.
Emmanuel is not alone in such habit, but he is among 50,000 youth in Montesrrado County that are hooked unto narcotics and cannot help themselves, according to Eugene David, Executive Director for Liberians against Drug Abuse.
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica, Davies said, “According to our previous data we did in 2013, we had around 50,000 young people on drugs in Montserrado County alone.
We also found out that not everyone doing drugs in the ghettos is living on the streets, but there are other youngsters who are still living with their parents because their parents have some control to keep them at home.
They usually go into the ghettos and get their refill and go back home and sleep.”
Emmanuel has two children but does not know how they get their day-to-day meal and other basic necessities. He said his relatives do not allow him around the children – they see him as a bad person.
He has expressed the desire to start a new life and called for the intervention of the government for rehabilitation.
“We do not benefit from any government program, but when we were on Turtle Base over 60 NGOs or more used to go there and cook big pot of food for us, but we did not see what they were doing for us,” he asserted.
Emmanuel, like many drug addicts, who were previously interviewed while on Turtle Base, boasted of the area like one would do of a million dollar recreation center.
“I am the bone of Turtle Base,” Emmanuel intimated gleefully.
“I was among the first people who founded Turtle Base and we were the first to establish that place called Turtle Base to be what it is today."
"Even though we have lost over 30 or more of our friends, but we are still around to protect the ground.”
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a brain disease that affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior.
Because addiction is typically a chronic disease, people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.
On the other hand Catherine Mills, the only Rehabilitation Hospital, located on Rehab Road in Paynesville was destroyed during the civil war in 1990, leaving the likes of Emmanuel of no hope of getting medical rehabilitation to his addiction.
While Emmanuel is just an individual, there are thousands of traumatized youth in various communities engaged in all sorts of social vices that are craving rehabilitation.
Alas, they do not know where to turn.