Friday, August 31, 2007

Road Show in Monrovia

From an email:

UNMIL Public Information/Community Outreach is launching a new initiative - Boutini Road Show - a mixture of music, comedy and dance to be held at densely populated spots in Monrovia weekly or bi-weekly. This Show will be launched by the Liberian Deputy Minister of Defence at 16-00hrs on Friday, 31August at Monco Business Centre.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Dialogue for Democracy" in Monrovia: Sept 5th 2007

Liberia Democracy Watch and the National Endowment for Democracy (US NGO) are holding a 7th edition of the “Dialogue for Democracy” series, under the theme: “Towards an Effective Criminal Justice System: Law Enforcement versus the Protection of Civil Liberties”.

Venue: Conference Hall, Ministry of Gender & Development

Gurley Street, Monrovia

Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Time: 10:00 AM -2:20 P.M.

Thanks Shelby for the tip.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Electricity Event at US Embassy Thursday

Monday, August 27, 2007

HIV Prevalence Lower Than Feared...Maybe

According to the new report, "Of the 1.5 percent national prevalence rate, there is high percentage among females, which stands at 1.8 percent, while males accounts for 1.2 percent. There is a higher prevalence rate in urban areas, especially Monrovia, [the capital] than the rural zones."
Less than 2% prevalence is low compared to neighboring countries. But there's considerable doubt about the results.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Call For PeaceCorps to Return

Thanks Callista for the link to this pretty convincing argument for the US PeaceCorps to come back and assist in shoring up the education and health systems:

  • Liberia was one of the first Peace Corps countries and one of the most successful programs for 27 years.
  • More than 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers and staff members served in Liberia.
  • Liberians, especially the new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, consider Peace Corps one of the most effective development groups ever to work in Liberia.
  • Peace Corps educators helped to make Liberia’s schools some of the best in West Africa, from primary through university.

Cabinet Reshuffle Details

The new foreign minister is Olubanka King Akerele, a former minister of commerce and United Nations diplomat with 20 years' experience, a statement said.

The country's Justice Minister Frances Johnson Morris has been moved to the ministry of commerce, while the former foreign affairs minister George Wallace becomes special adviser to Johnson-Sirleaf.
And something happened at the Ministry of Gender and Development, too. Anyone know the details?

AP Story.

Wow This is Stupid

MONROVIA, Liberia: The attempt to bring normalcy back to this war-recovering West African country was extended to girls' hairstyles Friday with a nationwide ban on weaves or hair extensions for students, education officials said.

"Things are rapidly going out of hand and we have to arrest the situation," said Education Minister Joseph Korto. "Girls wearing weaves and attachments pay more attention to their looks than to their lesson."

The penalty for breaking the rules is a US$1,000 (€735) fine.

Full story.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

World Bank Gives $37m for Ag & Infrastructure

The World Bank has agreed to finance Liberia's $37 million Agriculture and Infrastructure Development Project, which will entail the rejuvenation of the country's infrastructural capacity and agricultural development initiatives. According to Liberian finance minister Antoinette Sayeh, the project will also cover other initiatives, such as improving the management of the National Port authority, the rehabilitation of a water treatment plant in Monrovia, and the reconstruction of and maintenance of major roads and bridges in the region. The grant was given to Liberia in response to the nation's call for emergency funds, largely for the reinstatement and repair of war-damaged infrastructure. (Source: World Bank gives U.S. $37 million for old bridge, others/The Inquirer)

Breaking: Reshuffle!

BBC radio says there's been a big cabinet reshuffle in the Johnson-Sirleaf Administration.

P.S. NPR radio has a feature story this morning on the end of Temporary Protected Status for Liberians in the USA.

Liberia and the 'Resource Curse'

According to this BBC piece, there's a new report by something called Partnership Africa Canada, urging the government to use this historic moment to unshackle Liberian resource exploitation from Americo-Liberian minority control.

The government feels pressure to get industries up and running immediately. But there is a danger, the report says, that many of the elite "see the return of peace as simply a chance to return to business as usual, an opportunity to recreate the Liberia they and their forebears knew, and exploited, for more than a century".

Amputee Soccer Video at Wall Street Journal

The Amputee Football Federation of Liberia is a single, small answer to one of the most intractable questions in postwar Liberia: what to do with 100,000 former militiamen, many of whom started fighting as boys and grew up thinking that the unspeakable was acceptable.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

IMF Will Triple African Countries' Voting Rights

International Monetary Fund director general Rodrigo Rato has promised to triple the voting rights of African member states after acknowledging that their existing voting rights were inadequate. "We are conscious of the fact that current voting rights of African countries are insufficient and not representative enough", Rato said, adding that there was a possibility of appointing an African deputy director general. Although the African nations once enjoyed 11.2 percent of voting rights, their share has plummeted to a mere 2 percent over recent years. African countries have been protesting against calculating these rights according to financial contributions alone, and have implored the IMF to consider other factors, such as population and economic development. (Source: IMF promises to triple voting rights of African nations/AFP)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Snowe Gets Out on Bond

Disgraced House Speaker finally had his bond request honored yesterday. Accused of stealing a million bucks or so, I guess the court saw him as kind of a flight risk.

Mr. Snowe and some other ex-officials of the erstwhile National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) are in court for allegedly stealing from national coffers while in power.

He has been charged with "Theft of Property" for allegedly misappropriating over US$1M from the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) during his stewardship as Managing Director.

Blacked Out Charles Taylor Billboards

This happened about a month ago. As far as I know, these were the only pro-Taylor billboards in town.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wheelbarrow Story Rolling Along

This stupendous photoessay by Chris Herwig is featured in two glossy magazines this month: a (pricey!) Dutch design mag called DAMN, and the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society of the UK, Geographical. Text by me!

New CD of Old Liberian Classics

Songs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia
A collection of unique popular music recorded in 1948 in Liberia by ethnomusicologist Arthur Alberts. The music is a mix of genres echoing Calypso and early jazz (and includes songs made famous during the folk scare of the 60s like "Chicken is Nice," "Gbanawa," "Woman Sweeter Than Man" and "Hold Me Tight"), played by small ensembles (usually piano, guitar and bass, occasionally some hot horn work, too), and sung in English. Includes detailed notes and interesting photos. The 18 recordings, along with the accompanying commentary, showed the intricate connections between African and American music.


Speaking of which, I just won this item on eBay. I already have a promo copy of the record with no cover, but I wanted to read the liner notes. Apparently Gayflor lives in the US and still tours cultural festivals all over the world. The record has one really nice dancefloor jazz track like something you'd hear on Gilles Peterson's show. Cool you can see the Masonic Lodge in the background of the cover pic.

Very Slow Drawdown of UN Peacekeepers Announced

I like the slow pace of this planned drawdown, as announced yesterday:

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recommended on Thursday the more than 14 000 peacekeepers in Liberia be reduced by about 5 000 over the next three years, starting in October.

But Ban said it was "too early to determine" when to withdraw the entire peacekeeping force, which would depend on the state of the domestic police and army in the West African nation, which has been beset by years of large-scale corruption and warfare that spilled into the region.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Liberia Doc Makes it to Toronto Film Festival

Chris writes:

Did you hear that the film "Iron Ladies of Liberia" made it into the Toronto Film Festival? Heard there is a big screening at the opening of the UN General Counsel this fall as well...will be good PR for Liberia and Ellen.
The festival starts in 3 weeks. Here's a blurb on the documentary:

With the exclusive access, African director Siatta Scott Johnson and Daniel Junge follow President Sirleaf and her closest aides behind the scenes during their first year in office.
And here's a clip, where the filmmakers had access to a cabinet meeting. I wish we had footage of cabinet meetings in the US!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Three Thoughtful Expat Liberia Blogs

Emily, Rupert, and Molly from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government are working for the summer inside various government ministries.

Surf Movie about Liberia

"Sliding Liberia" [trailer at YouTube] follows a group of young surfers to Liberia in search of more than perfect waves. As they travel through the West African country, devastated by decades of brutal civil war, they record the stories of people they meet along the way----people like Alfred, a young boy who became Liberia's first surfer after finding a bodyboard while fleeing from rebels. Besides rediscovering a world-class point break that could be the best-kept secret in the surfing world, the surfers find something much more important----a way to travel responsibly in the 21st century.
Website coming soon.

In other Liberia cinema news, another crew was here recently making a movie out of this book.

And to continue the thread, you know that movie "Lord of War" with Nicolas Cage? Was it actually filmed in Liberia? I haven't seen it since before coming here.

Youth Peace Conference in Monrovia, Sept 20th, 2007

Registration is already past, but this looks like a worthy event (wait, read the comments! -Ed.):

The 2nd African Youth Peace Conference is a follow –up to the first Edition held on September 20 – 21, 2006 at the World Bank Country Office, Abuja, Nigeria, organized by Centre for Advocacy and Development in Africa (CADA Nigeria) in Partnership with West African Youth Network, Clean & Green Cities Foundation, Peace Corps of Nigeria, and with support from UNHCR Nigeria, UNDP Nigeria, World Bank Country Office Nigeria and Universal Peace Federation –IIFWP to Commemorate the WORLD PEACE DAY.

The focus of the 2nd Edition is to assess the contribution of the Youth in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa, with particular emphasis on the four issues identified at the first Edition as the root causes of Youth Restiveness in Africa, (i) Poverty (ii) Weak Governance (iii) Development choices (iv) Unemployment.
Link, with contact info.

Big Int'l NGO Stops Taking US Food Aid Funding

CARE, one of the world's biggest charities, is walking away from about $45 million a year in federal funding, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.
Fascinating story from the International Herald Tribune. This issue is important in Liberia, where local farmers can't hope to compete with US food aid imports. But it's a thin line; Liberia still has no food security, so at what point should food aid stop? The story really gets to the heart of the issue, that of the international NGOs perverse incentive to continue the practice in the interest of their own jobs. And don't get me started about that horrendous US Farm Bill.

M.I.A. Track About Liberia

I haven't heard it, but Sri Lankan/Brit singer M.I.A. has a song called "20 Dollar" on her new album, which she says is about her recent visit to Liberia.

The New AFL

The Wall Street Journal has an informative piece about the training and the trainers of the New Armed Forces of Liberia.

Thanks MarietotheD for the link!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taylor Trial Delayed Yet Again

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been postponed again after his new defense team asked for a delay until January 2008 to prepare fully, a court spokesman said on Monday.

Bong County Arms Cache Myth Busted

I've been out of the country for several weeks, but I heard on the BBC this AM that Gbarnga, Bong County had a tense few days recently when someone found a big cache of what were supposed to be illicit arms, which had rival tribes pointing fingers. Turns out the stuff was a bunch of scrap.