Since the end of the civil war, Liberia has witnessed a terrifying increase in violent crime, and armed robbery in particular. These cases are often taken to extremes culminating in the additional violence of rape, assault and occasionally murder. The number of criminals involved in these activities has multiplied so rapidly that even with the active support of the over 14,000 United Nations troops the problem is still on the rise. The threat of armed robbery has become such a threat to security that it is jeopardizing humanitarian efforts to reduce poverty, scaring away investors, and preventing the return of the Liberian diaspora who fled the country during the civil war.
With the worry of the security forces being unable to cope with these unprecedented levels of crime, the people of this once peaceful country now live in fear. Ordinary people sleep with one eye open in fear of attack. Even the most fortified homes are vulnerable.
It has long been understood that the bulk of these crimes are being perpetrated by former combatants, trained by the various different warring factions, many of whom either did not disarm or were not properly demobilized and reintegrated into normal society.
One of the problems the aid organisations face is getting these highly dangerous young men off the streets of Monrovia and elsewhere, being able to stop them using drugs before reintegrating them with their communities and teaching them skills to provide an honest living for themselves.
The ability of Journeys Against Violence to remove these youths from the streets hangs on the presence of Joshua Milton Blahyi, a former warlord who used the nom de guerre of "General Butt Naked", who has been preaching a message of salvation and redemption in this deeply religious country. His personal story is one that reaches the lowest points of human brutality, but who, through a conversion to Christianity, is now beginning to atone for the evils of his past life. One of the key messages is that there is a way back for these war and crime hardened youths. They don't always need to be outcasts on the fringe of society for what they did or were made to do in their past. There is a hope of reintegration with their communities and families, and a chance to make a real contribution
Since launching the campaign, Joshua and his team have spent time with some of the more notorious criminal elements and the ghettos they live in, where their message of "surrender, confession and repentance” has led to them working with and rehabilitating of over 50 violent criminals who have embarked on their life-changing programme.
The success of this initial attempt has led the team to believe that a more large-scale rehabilitation of criminals is indeed possible and can be one of the most effective means of reducing crime, from which rapid investment and development can take place to improve the lives and wellbeing of a nation and population ravaged by over 14 years of civil war.