Monrovia — In other countries, the gravesites of their first Presidents are historical sites, and tourists come from all parts of the world to see them. However, it is not the case in Liberia as the first President of Liberia, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, and his entire family’s graves are abandoned by the government and are lying at the historic Palm Groves, the most desecrated cemetery in Liberia.
The final resting place of Ghana’s first President is located in central Accra, Ghana. It is called the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and Mausoleum.
The museum hosts rare artifacts relating to Ghana’s independence and tours at the park give visitors the in-depth history of the Sub-saharan struggle for independence.
The mausoleum designed by Don Arthur houses the mortal remains of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his wife Fathia Nkrumah.
Ghana receives millions of dollars from tourists who visit Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and Mausoleum every year.
This is not the case in Liberia. The remains of former President Roberts, his mother Amelia Roberts, his brother Henry J. Roberts, his wife Sarah Ann, and children including the former Secretary of State of Liberia Hilary Teage were all buried in separate graves and placed in a fence at the Center and Lyne Streets side of the Palm Groves Cemetery.
For more than one century, the authority has been unable to develop the place to attract visitors and it seems not to be anywhere near this regime’s agenda.
Drug addicts have taken over the entire gravesite and have burst open almost all of the graves, something that has caused low attendance on Decoration Days of recent.
The Palm Groves Cemetery was established in the 1820s. It’s more than two decades now and almost every grave is burst open something that has caused many family members who have their relatives buried at the graveyard not to show off on Decoration Day.
A tour was taken by FrontPage Africa at the Palm Groves Cemetery on Decoration Day and observed that the place where the first President and his entire family were laid to rest was filthy.
Fatomah Sherrif, a drug addict was at the entrance collecting money from people who try to take a glance at the first President of Liberia’s grave.
He told FPA that no one came from the Monrovia City Corporation to clean the place. Unlike last year, this year, he and his friends volunteered to clean the grass from in and out of the graves’ compound.
“I and my friends cleaned the place to hustle (get money from people) for today,” Sherrif said.
He added: “Last year, the government people came here and clean the place. But this year, no one from the government came here to clean the place. You see the paint on the wall, it’s old paint.”
“The gate that was on the fence, criminals stole it from here. We want the government to support us to protect the place. I can clean the place so that when people come they can give us small money,” Sherrif furthers.
Let Government Relocate the Cemetery
Unlike before, thousands of Liberians on every Decoration Day trooped their way at the Palm Groves Cemetery to clean their relatives’ graves but a tour taken by FPA observed less than 20 individuals, if not looking for their relatives’ graves, renovating their loved ones’ graves as almost every grave are burst open.
Charlesetta Tugbeh has her mother buried at the graveyard. Tugbeh told FPA that she has planned to relocate her mother’s grave if the government doesn’t show interest in the place.
“I was brought here by two abled body men because the place is dangerous. I will have to relocate my mother’s grave from here because the place is not good. Decoration Day is the day to spend time with your dead family members but coming here, the place is not conducive,” she said.
Madam Tugbeh added: “Nowhere to stand, nowhere to sit, the place is bad. The bad scent, the graves are all open and nowhere to go through. We are finding it difficult to even come here and find our mother’s grave.”
“It is going to be hard for the government to recondition the place. They started at first but it was hard to continue. So, my suggestion is to relocate all the graves from here and find somewhere suitable out of the city. If you have your loved ones here, you can take their remains out and take them to the new spot that government locate and you can bury them there. That is the only thing that is right for the government to do.”
“This year, we found it hard to get here, maybe next year we might not even be able to reach here. So, if nothing is done by the government, will have to remove our dead mother from this gravesite to somewhere better because today is the day to spend with the dead,” she ended.
Palm Groves Cemetery Should Not Be Relocated
Unlike Madam Tugbeh, Andrew Nagbe has his father buried at the cemetery, and with all of the deplorable conditions he wants the government clean and protect the place from criminals and not to relocate the gravesite because of its historic nature.
“I would like for this cemetery to be cleaned and protected as you can see, the place looks bad but if the government can provide security, I think the place will be good because the place is a historical site and so, I would love to come here every time. So, I would prefer that government provides security for this place,” Mr. Maybe said.
“Decoration Day is a day set aside to give homage to our loved ones who had died and give their various gravesite a facelift and pay our respect to them but it is discouraging because most of the graves were broken into. And so, you must have the courage to be here. This is my father’s grave and so I’m here to give it a facelift.”
Victor B. Bestman said: “They burst the grave open wide, I got to bring bricks and repair it -everything that was in the grave was taken out. Every year that comes I had to fix the grave. I fix it last year and this year, I’m not well. My foot is hurting. To even reach here was not small for me.
If the government can try to clean the place, we will come to fix our family members’ graves back because we know the spot and we know the name of the grave. Let the government cut the grass. The place was better during the past administrations but now the place is worst than before.”
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