Monrovia - Every second Wednesday in March is Decoration Day and Liberians from all walks of life will troop in their numbers to every cemetery in and around the country to clean and decorate their loved ones’ graves.
Scenes at every cemetery will be full of sorrow couple with some fun-catching activities.
But for the Palm Grove Cemetery, which is in the heart of Monrovia, has turned into a death trap and there wouldn’t be any fun as nearly all the graves are burst open.
Palm Groves, which is Liberia’s oldest cemetery, has epithets dating as far back as 1820.
The place has now become a death trap and a hood for hooligans, who are locally referred to as zogos.
These vagabonds have virtually opened every grave.
They live in the cemetery.
Their fearful presence is going to make it impossible for relatives of the dead to have a smooth trip down memory lane.
Few years ago, scenes of the Second Wednesday at Palm Groves had been very lively, including wailing, music, singing, dancing and people selling various merchandizes.
The Center Street, which divides the cemetery into two halves with each on Gurley and Lynch Streets, had always been full of people.
Individuals who went to the cemetery alone could easily hired people to paint their relatives’ graves and at some point, hired people to cry for their dead relatives.
Some people every year have to hire masons to redo their deceased relatives’ graves.
It was such a mixture of fun and sorrow; but this is not going to be the case on tomorrow, Wednesday, March 14.
Palm Groves has totally gone from good to bad.
The flow of sympathizers to the cemetery has dropped in recent years as a result of the presence of these miscreants, who are always posing trouble to peaceful citizens and deteriorating condition of graves.
Past governments pronouncement and actions to keep the place sacred have proved futile because of lack concrete actions from those administrations to keep the cemetery better.
Specifically, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime had promised to relocate the entire cemetery, but that decision was put to halt by the action of then Senator of Bong County, now Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Howard-Taylor.
In 2016, the most famous and historic cemetery came close to being demolished by the Special Presidential Task Force headed by General Services Agency Director General Mary Broh.
Madam Taylor wrote the Plenary of the Senate requesting the body to put halt to the ongoing demolition of the Palm Groves cemetery.
In her communication, she stated that the cemetery was established by law for the permanent hosting and the final resting place for people she describes as “distinguished citizens, respected patriot and ordinary citizens.”
“This trend of thought to remove our loved ones from their resting place should not be accepted, but instead designated burial places should remain as such, which shows our collective national respect for the dead,” she stated back in 2016.
Speaking to Frontpage Africa, many relatives are unwilling to go to the cemetery and give their dead relatives a befitting decoration.
Some have called for the place to be closed down while others opine that the government should best restore the image the place.
Philip Gibson, a Capitol Hill resident said he got his dead parents’ graves not far from where the first President of Liberia, Mr. Joseph Jenkins Roberts and his family are buried.
Because of the many opened graves he leaps over before reaching his parents’ graves, Gibson sadly said for the first time he will not be going to clean their graves.
Gibson continued: “I do not know what to do. The place has now become a death trap. Certainly, I do not think I will go there.”
“Something needs to be done about this situation or else someone who goes to clean their relatives’ graves might fall in one of those dangerous holes and get very badly hurt or get killed.”
Pokai Doe, not a painter by profession, but usually on Decoration Day, makes a lot of money from amateur painting of graves at Palm Groves.
Doe: “I will be going to Du-Port Road cemetery to work. Last year Palm Groves Cemetery was emptied.
"The way all the graves are burst, I do not think people will go there.”
Grace Tokpah, who sells water and soft drink (soda) at the cemetery added: “Last year the place was very poor."
"People will just stand on the main road and after looking at how bad the graves are will get back in their cars.”
“All the graves are burst open; everybody’s scare before they fall down in one of the holes.”
She continued: “I think the best thing to do is for the government to close the cemetery; the place is not safe right now.”