Everyone Has a Story (Liberia Archives)

 K. Lost both parents to the war at age 13.
Taught me how to play a card game called “AK47“.

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Liberians Go to the Polls


Tomorrow morning Liberians go to the polls for the second time since the end of the civil war in 2003.

16 presidential candidates are running for the executive post. But the two main contenders are Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and William Tubman (both Harvard graduates). (eh, couldn’t resist plugging that in). Senatorial and legislative seats are also up for grabs in this election.

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Local Economy Takes Root in Liberia (re-post)

Reblogged from Peace Dividend Trust – published on Sept. 28, 2011

How do corporations secure natural resources (such as rubber) in a sustained way over a long period of time – knowing that most resource-rich countries are also usually prone to instability? The way corporations have traditionally done so is by signing long-term deals with the government of the country (be it a democratically elected one or not) and providing some basic services to the employees it hires (usually as little as their company’s Corporate Responsibility allows) – Firestone style. This old model is attractive because it is financially viable.

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Liberian Hit Song

Cambridge.
Unpacking and reminiscing over the summer by replaying the Liberian Hit song “Dumyarea” by Junior Freeman and African Soldier, two young Liberian musicians part of a new music genre called Gbema (Liberian music gone through electronic treatment).

Here goes the catchy beat:

 Here’s what Liberiabeat‘s got to say about it:

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Happy 164th Independence Day, Liberia!

Liberia is the only country in the world to have gained its independence not from a colonial power, but from an NGO. Imagine the implications this has in terms of statebuilding?”
Hon. Amara Konneh, Liberia’s Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs

After claiming independence from the American Colonization Society in 1847, it sometimes seems that modern Liberia is battling to re-claim its independence from being an “NGO Republic”.
During the war’s 14 years, in the absence of a strong legitimate central government to report to, international NGOs were the ones calling the shots; their emergency relief services much needed by a population fleeing their burning villages and pillaged homes. Continue reading

Latex (the not-so-sexy kind)

“To you, Firestone is just a brand. Where I come from, it is someone’s life – everything they will ever know”
A Liberian friend

Firestone Tire and Rubber Plantation’s history is painfully enlaced with Liberia’s.
In 1920s, the Liberian government was on the verge of bankruptcy and under severe pressure from international creditors for repaying a US$ 2 million debt.
Along came Firestone. It bargained with the government for a lease of one million acres of land for one hundred years. The price? 6 cents an acre, plus 1% in tax on the value of the exported rubber, giving the company unlimited control over 10% of Liberia’s total arable land. Included in the contract was the infamous Clause (K), which conditioned the deal on a loan from Firestone to the government of Liberia of $5 million at an interest rate of 7% (that was 2% higher than the interest rate on any of Liberia’s other debts).
Cornered and careless, the government signed.

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Thoughts from the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

L to R: Hon. Min. Konneh (my boss), H.E. President Johnson-Sirleaf, Hon. Min. Pires

Last week I had the chance to attend the g7+ high-level International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding in Monrovia.

The g7+ (not to be confounded with the G7) is a group of fragile countries (including Liberia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and others) advocating the placement of peacebuilding and statebuilding at the core of international development.

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Liberian-Lebanese Relations

On my 2nd day here, I found it hilarious that I could chat in Lebanese to the supermarket owner in Monrovia (he, on the other hand was completely unfazed). It turns out there are thousands of them all over this place. They own hotels, restaurants, drycleaners, construction companies – you name it. They first came during the 19th century, as part of a wave of immigration fleeing the rough conditions of the Ottoman Empire. Their number reached 10,000 before the Liberian civil war and is estimated at 4,000 today.

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Identity

In the early 19th century, the US abolitionist movement designated Liberia’s coast as the spot to resettle freed American slaves. It is said that officials of the American Colonization Society forced a treaty upon a local king at Cape Mesurado (present-day Monrovia).
And so Liberia was founded in 1847 by Black American settlers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given their own brutal past, the former slaves enslaved the autochthones and went on to monopolize Liberian politics for two centuries. This layed the groundwork for inequalities so deep, that they triggered the 1989-2003 civil war.

Some Liberians think that reconciliation should start where it all started – by revising the symbols of the nation.
“Do we want an emblem that represents only 10% of our population? Do we want a flag that looks like the 52nd star of the flag of the ‘colonizers’?”

Liberia’s Governance Commission is tackling some of these issues as part of developing Liberia’s National Vision 2030.

How can policy makers help heal some of the deep wounds inflicted by the civil war without rekindling explosive tensions?

In Lebanon to a large extent, we’ve adopted the Ostrich policy. The reconciliation process “mousalaha” has been scattered and incomplete. As an illustration of the lack of collective memory, our official history book taught in public schools omits to mention the civil war. Given the persistent tensions and lack of common national vision, I’d say the Ostrich strategy does not work so well…

Curious and hopeful to see what would come out of the introspective work that Liberia is doing!

Why Liberia?

Liberia’s civil war ended in 2003 after fourteen bloody years that left the country in shatters.
I was born during the fifteen-year long Lebanese civil war and grew up witnessing my country’s imperfect reconstruction process. Twenty years after the end of our war, this process has resulted in a deeply unequal society and a government chronically unable to provide basic services to its citizens, even as Lebanon now classifies as a middle-income country.
Liberia is now firmly transitioning from emergency humanitarian aid to development planning. The coming years are crucial in setting the country on the track of permanent peace and sustainable development.

Source: @ACelebrationofW

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