Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Other Taylor Trial

Lest we forget, the trial in the Hague is not the only pending Taylor trial. Johnny tells me that the trial of Chuckie (not Charles the father, but Chuckie the son) Taylor in the US is being watched closely by human rights groups. Apparently Chuckie is about to be the first US citizen to be tried for some kind of torture offense, and if he's found guilty, it would set an important precedent for cases relating to Guantanamo, etc.

Woman Use

Any of our Liberian readers know anything about "woman use"? Apparently if a man lives with a woman, and he puts her out of the house after a time, she is entitled to financial renumeration for "woman use". Men complain that this causes some women to go from man to man hoping to cash in.

Charles Taylor Trial Starts Monday

...and Monrovia is knee-deep in journalists.

From a press release by Human Rights Watch:

Drawing on the experience of the trial of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Human Rights Watch said that conducting trials of former leaders involves significant challenges. These challenges include ensuring the trial is scrupulously fair, including the presumption of innocence, while managing sensitive and high-profile proceedings effectively. They also include giving appropriate focus to evidence of chain of command while providing evidence on crime scenes.

"We have seen that trials of former presidents are difficult business," said Keppler. "The Special Court's judges must guarantee Charles Taylor a fair trial, and also conduct proceedings efficiently."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

After Lunch in Tubmanburg, Bomi County

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Showdown Looming?

As previously reported here, the House of Representatives has voted to exempt itself from paying income taxes, as part of something called the Financial Autonomy Act. The President has hinted that she may veto the bill, and some lawmakers have threatened to override a veto. Interest groups are backing the president.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mural in Zarmeyan, Senjeh District, Bomi County

UNMIL Quarterly Report on Human Rights Situation

Focused mostly on prisons and the justice system.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

BET Guy Gives $100k for Liberia Education

"Liberia deserves American support, and African-Americans especially must come forward to reestablish the historic bond between our nations. The Sirleaf government is working tirelessly to create a better and more prosperous future for citizens. We bear a special responsibility to ensure that she succeeds." [More]
Press release from his company.

Refugee Repatriation Ends June 30, 2007

UNHCR acting on an MOU between the governments of Ghana and Liberia is offering the last opportunity for Liberian refugees to come home and contribute to the reconstruction of their country.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Report Card on Legislators Job Performance

Not so good.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

National Exam Cancelled After Leaks

The Liberian ministry of education has postponed this year’s West African Examination Council (WAEC) exams. The exams are given each year to sixth, ninth, and 12 graders in five English-speaking West African countries – Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. But according to the Liberian ministry of education, this year’s exams, which were printed in Nigeria, were characterized by massive fraud. The leakage has brought into question the credibility of WAEC and the overall security of the regional exams.

Ginger Wine, Duala Market, Monrovia

Squirrel Trap, Moore Town, Bomi County

The squirrel sees the fruit inside, touches the little cross bar and releases a tightly bent-over stalk. The wire loop closes and he's left hanging for the trapper to collect in the evening.

Me: "But what if someone steals your catch before you come back for it?"

Trapper: "Nobody steals your squirrel here."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Amputee Soccer Story

We see these guys practicing all the time.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lawmakers Show Little Shame

The House of Representatives has voted to reject a proposal that would have brought outside investigators to find the "ghost names" on its payroll. Apparently there are hundreds of redundant and non-existent persons on the House staff.

This follows a story last week where the House voted to remove itself from a requirement to follow anti-corruption financial guidelines set up by the government and its partners in the international community, the program known as GEMAP.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Analysis: Diamond Ban Lifted

The UN Security Council lifted the ban on Liberian stones last week. The Center For Global Development blogs on the Liberia diamond issue today:

This is potentially great news for Liberia. In particular, diamond revenues could be used to fund much-needed post-conflict reconstruction programs and create jobs in a country with an unemployment rate hovering around 85%. However, as my colleague Todd Moss and I have noted, the Kimberley Process can only do so much. And the transition from blood diamonds to “development diamonds” is much harder in a place like Liberia which has a high concentration of alluvial diamonds. Unlike Kimberlite diamonds (which require intensive, centralized operations), alluvial diamonds lend themselves to artisanal, decentralized mining, which leaves the Liberian diamond industry relatively open to smuggling and grey market transactions. This could threaten to rob Liberia of much needed revenues and undermine fragile state institutions.
Thanks again, Sarah.

Cemetery Story: Disappointing

Thanks Paulo for the link to this story in Slate about homeless people who live(d) in the Palm Grove cemetery, Monrovia. [Since the story was written, the cops have reportedly cleared out all the squatters.] My two cents: the reporter and photographer could have done a better job humanizing the phenomenon they're reporting on. Strikes me as just another look-how-crazy-these-Africans-are story. What is the value of showing the guys mugging with the skull? She doesn't even get the cemetery's name right. Tourists.

I read somewhere once that all foreign correspondents are liars. It's an overstatement, but the fact that they (we?) publish their work back home, far away, means that they're hardly accountable to the people they write about.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rep. Murray vs. the New Democrat

The New Democrat newspaper is embroiled in a public feud with Rep. Kettehkumeun Murray, a prominent lawmaker who is wanted in the US for alleged attempted rape of a minor in North Carolina in 1996 [previous posts]. The other day, the paper printed a photo of him standing next to another lawmaker who's accused of illegally using her duty free privileges to make a profit on imported goods. In response, according to the paper, Murray visited the ND office and made various threats. Editor Tom Kamara notes that under previous governments, such threats could have been acted upon swiftly. This is an interesting test for press freedom in Liberia, and I can't wait to buy today's papers to see how Murray is reacting.

"Indecent Dressing" Update

I promised some time ago to stop posting on this topic, but we heard on the BBC this morning that gangs of male youths in neighboring Guinea have been attacking, stripping naked, and in some cases raping young women who are deemed to be dressed indecently.

If Liberian churches and politicians keep up their sermonizing on this issue, I won't be surprised if this ugly trend spills over into Liberia.

US$1b Mittal Steel Deal Approved

MONROVIA (Thomson Financial) - Arcelor Mittal won clearance from the Liberian Senate to launch a 1 bln usd iron ore mining project following a contract renegotiation, a Senate spokesman said late yesterday.

The 25-year concession, which will generate more than 20,000 jobs once the mining operation is fully operational, gives the steelmaker access to 1 bln cu m of ore in the resource-rich west African country.

The deal, which was ratified earlier this month by the lower house, is a revised version of an Aug 2005 deal reached by a transitional government.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf rejected it as unfair when she came into office five months later.