Saturday, December 30, 2006

Little Liberia, NYC

Here's an informative 2003 Village Voice story on Staten Island's "Little Liberia" community. Do any of our readers live on Staten Island?

Thanks, Johnny.

The Case of the Forder Family

Thanks Amy for emailing about this ongoing story of a woman who's awaiting trial for the mysterious death of her young son in Oregon, USA. The connection to Liberia is that she and her husband moved here shortly after the kid's death. She was arrested when she returned to Oregon for medical treatment, and the husband is still here, supposedly. The couple, who have been foster parents in the past, reportedly work as Christian missionaries, and according to this detailed story from August, they have also adopted Liberian triplets. This blogger has lots of details.

These people are innocent until proven guilty. But it makes you wonder how easy it is for people to adopt in a developing country, and how much monitoring is done afterward. Anybody have experience with the adoption procedures for foreigners in Liberia?

Fingers Crossed for the Children's Party

High potential for disaster: the government is throwing a gigantic kids' holiday party at various sites around Monrovia on New Year's Day. Someone on the radio said they were expecting 80,000 kids to attend (!), likely drawn by the lure of a free meal. Last night I heard that the government waited until yesterday afternoon to start asking iNGOs for their help with logistics, and the government hospital was still looking for an on-call ambulance as of 10PM last night.

When the government threw its last kids' party on Founders' Day July 26th, the president later had to issue a public apology for logistical problems that caused some amount of chaos. But hey, if it endears the citizens to the government, and if a bunch of hungry kids can get a meal out of the deal, maybe it's worth it.

Hope all goes well!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Liberian Vinyl LP Records

I’m a record collector. Old vinyl records. It’s one of the reasons that I was enthusiastic to move to West Africa, to find some of those highlife and rumba and afro-beat classics.

But compared to all the other West African countries, Liberia is probably the worst one for looking for old records. First, there was never much of an indigenous recording industry here. Second, the historically limited purchasing power of the Liberian consumer means there was never a big demand for vinyl imports. Third, after 14 years of war, things were kinda destroyed. That’s not to say I haven’t found any, and that I won’t find more. (If you’re Liberian and you want to sell your old African records, email me!)

Most of the records you find here are not Liberian, but come from neighboring countries (esp. Ghana and Nigeria). But there are exceptions. And in the interest of cataloging some of Liberia’s past in audio recordings, I thought I would post some pics. I doubt these images are available anywhere else!

So far the one by Hawa Daisy Moore is the only Liberian music record I've been able to find, and the cover is missing! The others are spoken word.

Call-in Radio Show for Liberians Living Abroad

STAR Radio in Liberia is hosting a call-in show called "Voices From the Diaspora" on Saturday December 30th (tomorrow) at 5PM Liberia time. If you're a Liberian living outside the country, and you want to express your views on the country's development, call +231 077 104 411 or +231 06 471 425.

Downtown Redevelopment

Last month the government ripped up the decaying structures in the middle of Broad Street, the wide main avenue of downtown Monrovia. Then the other day I saw that much of the park area in the median of the road has been redeveloped with wrought iron fencing, street lamps, and ornamental plants. Should look pretty nice once the plants are grown up a little.

Dozens of men could be seen working on the project. Looks like some of the promised dry-season infrastructure jobs are now materializing.

What was she Thinking?

From a VOA report:

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says she takes full responsibility for including a gift of 500 dollars in the Christmas cards she sent to a number of media institutions in Liberia. A number of the publishers condemned the president’s action and returned the money. Earlier this year, in an unusual public criticism, President Sirleaf described some Liberian journalists as checkbook journalists. So was her 500-dollar check a true Christmas gift to the media or a bribe?

Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He said President Sirleaf was simply trying to share the Christmas spirit with the media.

“The president, you may or may not know, had been going around the country and had arranged for Christmas parties to be held throughout the country for children, and she had visited other personalities throughout the city. She visited hospitals and everywhere she went she gave a gift, and said well, members of the press are always part of our family. Let me extend to them a Christmas card and include 500 dollars because many of them would want to have Christmas parties for their employees. This was the pure intent of this,” Bropleh said.

Seems like it was a bad decision. By way of background, Liberian presidents have traditionally handed out symbolic presents to their constituents, and EJS has lately handed out bags of rice, etc., ostensibly paid for out of her own pocket.

What's the Best Day to Arrive at Monrovia's Airport?

Xmas Eve! All the employees are in a hurry to get home, and they shuffle you through in record time!

In related news, they seem to have put women into all the potentially bribe-seeking positions at the airport. This is an anti-corruption measure pioneered by the government of Mexico City in the early 1990’s, where they put women in all the traffic cop jobs. Bravo!

It was pretty neat to see dozens of Liberians flying home for the holidays, many of them probably for the first time.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


What ever happened to George Weah?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

UN on Sexual Violence in Liberia

Here's the report [.pdf] on the meeting about Sexual Violence in Liberia held at the UN Secretariat in New York City the other day, and discussed earlier.

House Speaker Snowe says EJS is Trying to Oust Him

Just heard on the radio that Snowe (here's a previous post about him) says he has proof that the president is behind a plot to unseat him as House Speaker.

Firestone Called out in McClatchy Story

This McClatchy Newspapers story ran in several US papers this AM, describing the Firestone rubber plantation (Liberia's largest private employer) as a 'gulag of misery'.

I've never been there, but I have heard that in some ways, people have it better at Firestone than in other places, since at least there's healthcare and working schools. Firestone does a lot to maintain its image in Liberia, and they seem to enjoy a conspicuous amount of favorable coverage in the local newspapers.

Add'l $25m for Electricity

The money's coming from "international development partners", according to this uncredited story.

Energy ministry officials said the funding will boost the emergency power programme and will connect an additional 300,000 residents of Monrovia to the power grid.

The expansion of electricity will benefit residents of Bushrod Island, Paynesville as well as the city center, and streetlights will be installed on the main roads from the two main suburbs into central Monrovia.

Where do they Get this Stuff?

From a story about Liberia's first Christmas as a new democracy that showed up on multiple sites, credited to a German news agency called DPA:
"One thing I have observed over the years is that the Christmas season in Liberia increases promiscuity, especially among the young," says sociologist Matthew Kpehe.

"If you found it difficult to get the attention of a girl during the year, the Christmas season is the best time to get her. Even prostitutes reduce their rates during the Christmas season," he adds.
Why are Liberian men so obsessed with the issue of female promiscuity, and why are journalists such idiots sometimes?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What's Going on With the TRC?

First we heard the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was shutting down for lack of funds. Then there was a report to the contrary. Apparently there was a conference on the issue on Dec 20, where the head of the TRC said that the Liberian people and civil society groups have not been involved enough in the process, and that funders haven't come through either. How can this be happening? Is this going to be the first failed TRC?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays from Congo Town, Monrovia

Thanks Linda!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

US Newspaper Overview of Political History

"We fought to liberate this country from Charles Taylor. Now what have I gained?" said Abraham Kromah, 39, a former rebel commander who's getting by selling shoddy handicrafts in a village an hour's drive north of Monrovia.

U.N. Council Renews Liberia Diamond Ban

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 20 (Reuters) — The United Nations Security Council renewed its ban on Liberian diamond exports on Wednesday after finding that the West African nation could not yet track diamond-mining activity in its territory.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Health Survey

The government of the United States of America has made available about US$2.2m to the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) for the conduct of a health and demographic survey throughout Liberia.

The story goes on to talk about Amnesty International helping to develop a simplified version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whatever that means.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Liberia to get new US Malaria Money

President George Bush at the White House Summit on Malaria has announced Liberia as a new focus country for the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI). The PMI is an historic $1.2 billion, five-year initiative to control malaria in 15 of the highest-burden countries in Africa.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Times you Wish you had a Camera

Monrovia: Young Liberian man in a Confederate flag t-shirt that reads “Smart-Ass White Girl”.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Steel Deal Renegotiated

The original deal had been criticised by lobby group Global Witness, which said it allowed Mittal [Steel] to opt out of human rights and environmental laws.

Total investment has now been increased to $1bn and the government retains ownership of the port and railway but other details are unclear.

Congratulations to Global Witness on this apparent victory.

Monday, December 11, 2006

At the UN

Attended this event at the Secretariat in New York the other day, along with the Deputy Minister of Gender, local Liberian and international NGO people, and about 90 spectators. Lots of gruesome statistics and hard realities were discussed.

Bottom line is that the government is asking for 15 million bucks to implement a national plan of action for addressing gender-based violence (GBV). Given Liberia's current status as one of the world's worst places to be a woman, that seems like a bargain.

I was impressed with the Liberian abassador to the UN, who seems like the real thing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

M.I.A. in Liberia?

The music zine Pitchfork drops this tidbit about the British/Sri Lankan musician M.I.A.:

...she did post on December 3 about jetting "OFFFF TO LIBERIA. TO MEET X CHILD SOILDERS [sic]." She also shouted out Michael Jackson's "Liberian Girl" and posted what appear to be lyrics to a new jam.

So does that mean she's in Liberia?

Thanks Becky!

P.S. I'm in NYC and everyone is bashing this Blood Diamond movie about Sierra Leone, starts Friday in the US.

Chuckie Taylor in Court

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 — The son of Charles G. Taylor, Liberia’s former president, was charged Wednesday with two counts of torture and one count of using a firearm in a violent crime during interrogation of an opposition figure in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, according to a federal indictment brought in Miami.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Liberian Police Getting Guns

Nobody has been allowed firearms til now, not even the cops.

"I think the police will be able to help minimise the crime rate if they are armed. Criminals will be frightened," said a man in response to the move.

Friday, December 01, 2006

TRC Runs Out of Money?!?!?! (Update)

Liberia's Truth Commission Denies Reports of Suspension
30 November 2006

"It is not the reason it was put on hold," she said. "There is a lack, which will be amended now. But it was always planned to stop the statement taking to look at the prompts, to revise the prompts, and then take it up again."