Thursday, March 29, 2007

Orphans in Trouble

Been out of town in Bong and Lofa Counties for the last few days.

Lots of newspapers are reporting on a new UN report about the abysmal state of Liberian orphanages.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cleaning House: EJS Dismisses Two

According to the Executive Mansion, those that have been dismissed by the President are Mr. Charles Dagosah and Mr. James Konuwa, Deputy and Assistant Ministers respectively at the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy.

The Executive Mansion said that the two senior government officials have been dismissed by the President for allegedly granting bogus licenses for mining operations in the country.

Friday, March 23, 2007


From a GoL press release:

The Liberian government has granted a hundred percent waiver on storage charges covering personal effects, humanitarian and medical items currently at the Freeport of Monrovia.

President Johhnson Sirleaf expressed the hope that the decision to waive all storage charges would alleviate the plight of ordinary citizens, returness and institutions.

The Ministry of Finance in consultation with the Office of the President of Liberia recently granted tax waiver on Land, Building, and Rental Income to all Liberian and non-Liberian property owners, dating back to 2005.

In related news, right on schedule, the government has started paying back its domestic debts from prior years. All the papers were full of happy quotes from businesspeople this week.

What's Going on with the Independent?

President Johnson-Sirleaf is reassuring the media, but as of yesterday, the Independent newspaper was still not being printed because of the Knuckles sex pic. Anybody know the latest on this? One of the high courts said this week that both parties should stick with the status quo for now, but the Independent's publisher was in the papers yesterday claiming that his printing contractor was told by the government not to print the paper. Will look for a copy today. Meanwhile, this kind of screeching doesn't help.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Travel Ban Being Flouted?

Just heard from a reliable source, who heard it from "someone who works in the airport" [my source wouldn't tell me how high up] that Former House Speaker Edwin Snowe and "many others" have recently been allowed to leave and reenter the country on multiple occasions, in spite of the UN travel ban against them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fellowships with Liberian Government

The Government of Liberia, working in cooperation with the JSI Research and Training Institute (JSI R&T) and the Center for Global Development (CGD), and through the generosity of the family of Ed Scott, is seeking approximately 5-6 Fellows to work in Liberia for one year. The Fellow’s role will be to provide timely and effective support as “special assistants” to senior Liberian government officials, primarily Cabinet officials, in a wide range of areas and activities.

Fellows will be employees of JSI R&T, a leading international public health organization, but will report on a daily basis to the relevant senior government official. They will receive a salary of $35,000 with housing allowance, health, dental, and evacuation insurance, and will be expected to work in Monrovia for one year.


UNMIL Mandate Extended

...for another year. But let's hope the peacekeepers stay for at least a few more.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Liberia Travel Magazine?!?

Expats I talk to keep asking, "Have you seen the new travel magazine?!?" Sure to be a collector's item someday, the pioneering first issue of Liberia Travel & Life has been selling at local supermarkets in the last few weeks. It paints an overly rosy picture of life on the ground, but you've got to love them for doing it. Bravo.

Scroll down on this page for a short peice on the magazine's publisher.

Liberia Stories Blog

Check out Liberia Stories, which I think is the only blog by a Liberian living in Liberia. And it's interesting!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Decoration Day 2007

Wednesday was Decoration Day, the day when Liberians clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors. We walked around in the Palm Grove cemetery in the late afternoon, after most people had already come and gone, and many graves were freshly repainted. The place is pretty crazy, with graves built on top of graves, and lots of broken or looted tombs. One of my friends even saw an exposed skeleton. The best-kept area of the cemetery is the fenced-in marker for President Tolbert, who was killed in a 1980 coup d'etat and buried along the nearby creek by the forces of Samuel Doe.

Chris Herwig photo taken a few days before Decoration Day.

Liberians in Israel Facing Deportation

Israel granted temporary protection in 2002 to a group of Liberians, who now number 86, including 16 children born in Israel. Most of them have been in Israel for at least 10 years, mainly working in the coastal city of Tel Aviv as cleaners and dishwashers.

Their protected status expires on March 31 and Israel's Interior Ministry has said it plans to send them home.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ledger Bookshelf: "Culture And Customs of Liberia"

Thanks Nicole for leaving us a copy of this 2006 book by Ayodeji Olukoju, which is a nice introduction to the religions, languages, media, etc. Essential reading for even the casual visitor, and much easier to read than the Stephen Ellis classic The Mask of Anarchy. If you read this along with the World Bank's Rapid Social Assessment of 2005 [.pdf], you've got a quick and useful education on Liberia.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lil' D

At a staff party for an international NGO the other night, they hired a team of local rappers, including 13-year-old Lil'-D, representing Old Road, Monrovia.

Liberia Ledger is proud to give you Lil'-D's world internet premiere (we think), with the track "Ehn U C It"*. As the CD-R cover declares in ball-point pen, "This track is so hot." The song discusses such contemporary Liberian problems as having a 35-year-old student in the 8th grade, teachers demanding money for good grades, and getting jacked for your phone while you wait all day for a taxi.

Lil'-D keeps it real; at one point in the party, his mom called to tell him to come home. If you need to get ahold of him, maybe give him a record contract, Lil' D's cell number is +231 (0)6 519 762.

*in US English, 'ehn you see it' translates to something like "Know what I mean?"

Good Ship in Monrovia

A giant floating hospital has arrived in the Port of Monrovia, carrying 400 staff for the purpose of repairing cleft upper lip & palate, crossed eyes, flesh-eating diseases, and other important surgeries that most Liberian hospitals can't do. Of course, this is a great thing, and they should be commended.

One of our intrepid LL reporters was invited to a "cocktail party" on the ship, which turned out to be a strictly juice-and-water affair. The ship is said to be something of a floating Christian village, with full families living and working onboard. The movie The Stepford Wives was mentioned in comparison. Sounds like a great milieu for a novel!

Saturday, March 10, 2007


One of the president's hobbies when she had spare time was to complete jigsaw puzzles. Two seen here in the entrance to her home. Herwig strikes again.


International Rescue Committee has a petition calling on the US congress to "make the fight against sexual violence a top priority for U.S. foreign policy and foreign assistance funding."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Hooray, Inquirer

Respect due to The Inquirer newspaper for today fronting the giant headline "WOMEN DEMAND SPEEDY TRIAL". Some 500 women marched against impunity for rapists in Monrovia yesterday, International Women's Day. This is unusual attention paid to one of this country's most glaring problems. And props due to the women who marched, of course!

Thoughts on Snowe

Former House Speaker Edwin Snowe has been on a downward slide in the media in the last few weeks, with his ouster from the Speakership, and his questioning in the embezzlement scandal at the national petroleum company. But it's remarkable how many groups and individuals still come out to support him on an almost daily basis, paying for newspaper space, making his case in speeches, etc. It just goes to show how far the patronage networks can reach, and how hard they are to break, once established. In the West, a figure with this much mud on him would be a political untouchable by now.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

News Roundup

Lots of stories of interest today:

  • South Africa is pitching in 4 million US bucks toward Liberia's foreign debt.
  • The Waterside Bridge is still broken, and it appears no work is being done yet on this vital artery of Central Monrovia. It has been months already.
  • The Independent newspaper has filed suit against the government alleging arbitrary-ness in the application of justice vs. the paper in the Knucklegate affair.
  • The local human rights NGO FOHRD gave an hysterical address the other day warning that the Ellen Govt is becoming a "dictatorship". Meanwhile, the US State Department says that for the first time in decades, Liberia is free of political prisoners or polically motivated deaths and disappearances. (Not that the current US government is any judge on such matters!)
  • Kenya Airways will start serving Monrovia via Accra, Ghana on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Contact +231 (0)6556693, (0)6554659, or (0)6534834.
  • 25 witnesses have been lined up against Charles Taylor in The Hague, and the ICC says he's in good health.
  • People have been stealing the new electrical wires in Monrovia, which is part of the cause for recent blackouts. Oh, and that the big new generator in Bushrod Island is broken.
  • Conservation International is launching a US$1.4m USAID program to create a Civilian Conservation Corps around Sapo National Park and to develop alternative livelihood options for poachers and illegal gold miners.

Happy International Women's Day!

Chris Herwig photo.

New Police Recruits at Dawn

They're trying to get the police force up to 20% female. Chris Herwig photo.


A Liberia Ledger exclusive: Ma Ellen accidentally kicks the ceremonial first ball of the new UN sports-for-peace campaign right into the face of a nearby journalist. Chris Herwig photo.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Downtown Scene

More on Lawmaker Wanted for Child Molest in US

According to today's New Democrat (now a daily, and in color!), Rep. Kettehkumeun Murray, who has hopes for the House Speakership, has turned down an invitation from the US Congress to visit the US. The story suggests it's related to the fact that the FBI wants to arrest him for attempted rape of a minor in North Carolina in 1996.

Snowe Questioned on Graft

Snowe spent part of Friday morning at the national police headquarters to face initial questioning on allegations that he failed to account for more than US$1 million, as shown in an audit report on LPRC during the two-year transitional period (October 2003- January 2006).

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Knucklegate Coda

I just love saying "Knucklegate". Anyway, the last chapter of the saga is that Knuckles was observed the other day with suitcases in hand, reportedly fleeing to the USA.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Liberia Watch

Never heard of this group, but it sounds good:

"...a coalition of Africa-focused organizations in the United States have [sic] appealed to Congress to provide $195 million in funding for Liberia's most urgent needs. The appeals were issued in a series of letters to key Senate and House members, signed by leaders from a number of organizations, including Africare, the National Council of Negro Women, the NAACP, the Academy for Educational Development, Africa Society, Constituency for Africa and Bread for the World, along with several prominent individuals including former senior State Department officials."

Their letter is reprinted here.

Know any Liberian Sculptors?

The United Nations Development Program has posted an advertisement asking for "organizations and/or blacksmiths to create a symbolic and public scultpture" out of weapons that the UN collected from combatants in the civil war. The contact person is Jenny Nielsen, UNDP, Simpson's Building, Mamba Point, Monrovia (email jenny.neilsen at

Government Apologizes for Banning Newspaper

The Inquirer newspaper today has an exclusive interview with Assistant Information Minster Designate for Information Services, Gabriel I.H. Williams, who says the Liberia National Police chaining of the doors of The Independent newspaper was an error and it will not be repeated. I wonder who gave the order in the first place. Does this mean The Independent will be back in action tomorrow?

Ex-President Bryant Charged with US$1.3m Graft

AFP story:
The government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said it had charged Gyude Bryant, a businessman who led the transitional government that operated from the exile of President Charles Taylor in 2003 to the inauguration of Ms. Johnson Sirleaf last year, with misappropriating $1.3 million during his term.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Government Ban on Newspaper Badly Handled, At Best

In a shrill article in the Liberian Express newspaper today, entitled "Media Crackdown Begins", there's one statement that to me rings true:

The closure of The Independent newspaper without according it the due process of law is reminscent of the regimes of Presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Taylor[,] when state security were ordered to shut down media institutions without recourse to the law.

Update: make sure to read the first response to this post! Good stuff.