Liberian Now Blogs

 

Residents look on as the body of a man suspected of dying from Ebola lies in a busy street, after it was reportedly dragged there to draw attention to burial teams following days of failed attempts by his family to have his body picked up, in Monrovia, Liberia. (Daniel Berehulak—The New York Times/Redux)

In Aryn Baker’s recent Time Magazine article entitled Why The U.S. has a special responsibility to help Liberia with Ebola, he states

Dubbed “Another America” by American historian James Ciment in his recent book on the country, Liberia was founded by American statesmen in 1820 and populated, forcibly by some accounts, with former slaves. According to Ciment’s account, it was an attempt to rid the United States of its burgeoning population of freed blacks, which Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, then speaker of the House, called in 1816 “useless and pernicious, if not dangerous.” It was a kind of “ethnic cleansing” for a country uncomfortable with the idea of slavery yet not prepared to accept blacks as full members of society, Ciment said in a recent interview.”

 

This article does a great job of briefly explaining the historic ties that Liberia has to the United States and why it is imperative that we as Americans lend a helping hand to our Liberian friends in their time of need. I hope you will take the time to check it out through the following link: http://time.com/3394122/us-ebola-aid-focuses-on-liberia-not-other-affected-countries/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+time%2Fworld+(TIME%3A+Top+World+Stories)

 

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Liberian-MapThis Saturday is Liberia’s 167th birthday! Below is an excerpt from an article in the local Liberian paper the Daily Observer. You can read the entirety of the article at this link http://www.liberianobserver.com/editorials/liberia-167

“This week our beloved country turns 167 years old and what, besides our survival, do we have to show for it? Here again we face the age-old question, “What does the age of Methuselah have to do with the Wisdom of Solomon?” The answer is nothing.

And yet, we must thank God for our survival through all these decades of challenge. We started from scratch in 1847, just at the time we almost lost it, as the British were challenging our sovereignty. They were refusing to pay custom duties at our seaports. That is when Joseph Jenkins Roberts, with vision and passion, stepped up to the challenge and in January 1847 convened the Constitutional Convention.
The result was the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on July 26, 1847, followed by the first elections, when Roberts defeated the Convention, Chairman S. Benedict, to become Liberia’s first President.

The British, who had earlier challenged our sovereignty, were the first, in 1848, to recognize our independence. The British Monarch, Queen Victoria, invited President Roberts to Buckingham Palace and sent him back home with two gunboats.

But the young nation was yet to face some very serious challenges, not only the deadly tropical diseases, malaria included, that were decimating the small population; but also many boundary disputes, prompted by gunboat-backed encroachments on Liberian territory by the British on the Grand Cape Mount side (known historically as the Gallinas Country), and the French, on our Nimba-Grand Gedeh-Maryland sides. That is how we lost so much of our territory while our so-called Mother Country, the United States, out of whose belly Liberia was born, looked the other way, lifting not a finger to protect the beleaguered country.

And yet, here we are today–having survived 167 tough, demanding years, during which we experienced the most serious national test, the 14-year civil war. By the grace of God, we overcame it, and now face the challenge of maintaining and sustaining the peace and the democratic governance that have emerged. This sacred charge we must do EVERYTHING to keep.” (this article was excerpted from the Daily Observers editorial section. To read the rest of the article visit this link http://www.liberianobserver.com/editorials/liberia-167 )

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Leymah-GboweeAbout a year ago, Christianity Today, interviewed Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah  Gbowee. Gbowee, who is a Liberian, won the Nobel Peace Prize along with fellow countrywoman Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and another Yemenese woman named Tawakkol Karmen in 2011. In this interesting interview, with Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Gbowee explains how the centrality of faith played a pivotal role in her activism for Liberian peace. Below is a short excerpt from that article.

“Leymah Gbowee experienced the power of prayer after leading a reconciliation effort to eventually end her country’s civil war. In 1993, a dream led the peace activist to call a gathering of women that eventually formed the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative. The women prayed and fasted for the end of violence, denying their husbands sexual relations until the country reached a ceasefire. Former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s regime eventually fell, and Gbowee’s friend Ellen Johnson Sirleaf now leads the country’s democratic government. Gbowee, a mother of six who splits her time between different countries as she promotes peace, attends an independent evangelical church in Ghana and a Lutheran church in Liberia. Her book, Mighty Be Our Powers (Beast Books), describes how her Christian faith motivated her to continue to fight injustice. CT spoke with Gbowee about the reconciliation efforts that led to her winning the Nobel Peace Prize.” (The above piece was excerpted from the Christianity Today article titled The Ceasefire Prayer Behind Leymah Gbowee’s Nobel Peace Prize posted on 4/20/2012)

To read this Christianity Today interview in it’s entirety please click here

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BBC's-Evan-Davis-interviewing-Ellen-Johnson-SirleafAt the end of 2012, Evan Davis wrote a short article for the BBC entitled, Why it is Catch-22 for Liberia’s development hopes. This article does a great job of illuminating why it is so difficult for a country like Liberia to develop quickly.  Due to the multiple infrastructural and institutional deficiencies and because they are beginning from ground zero on so many fronts, it is impossible to see overnight change. It will probably take decades of diligent persistence and hard work to see the complete turnaround of this nation.

Below is a short excerpt from this article. To read the article in it’s entirety please click on the link underneath the excerpt.  Embedded in the full BBC article is a short seven-minute audio interview with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which Evan Davis conducted for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“It all comes down to the many different Catch-22s of development. Let me give you an example of the sort of thing I mean. For industry to settle in a country you first need electricity; for electricity, you need some trained workers; for trained workers, you need some schools; for schools you need some money; for money, you need some industry…. The general point is that Liberia starts from the disadvantage of having multiple disadvantages simultaneously. If we had any one of the country’s problems, we would fix it pretty quickly – if we had no electricity, we would be able to build some up pretty darn fast. If we had no schools, we would rapidly create some.” (The above excerpt was taken from the BBC article entitled Why it is Catch-22 for development hopes by Evan Davis

To read the BBC article in it’s entirety click here

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Liberia-an-uncivil-warIn the summer of 2008, I first saw this powerful documentary about the Liberian Civil War and I knew I would never be the same. It was confirmation to me that loving Liberia would be something I would be doing for years to come. If someone wants to begin to comprehend what Liberia has been through and why it has such a long way to go, be sure to rent this unforgettable film.

ITUNES PLOT SUMMARY

“In the summer of 2003, Liberia, America’s oldest African ally, is in total chaos. Stunning in its access and images, Liberia: An Uncivil War offers a compelling behind-the-scenes account of the internecine military conflict that destroyed the nation.

The film splits its time between the regime of the corrupt President Charles Taylor and his supporters in the capital city of Monrovia and the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) as the rebels advance on the capital after taking control of much of the country with their army of predominantly teenage soldiers, some of whom engage in ritualistic cannibalism because they believe it will protect them against their enemies.

Charles-Taylor22There is no protection for the tens of thousands of innocent civilians caught in the escalating conflict–just pleas and prayers for an intervention from the United States–an intervention that would not come. In Liberia: An Uncivil War, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Jonathan Stack has crafted an unforgettable tableau about a country and people on the verge of implosion.”

To rent this film from ITunes click here

 Pictured to the right is the cruel dictator who ruled throughout the Liberian civil war, Charles Taylor.

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liberia-rising-2030For the past few years my wife has worked with a few refugee families from the Middle East who have immigrated to America in search of a better life. It is inspiring to see the hard work, determination and camaraderie of these soon to be new Americans. One can’t help but be moved by these folks who have little in terms of material possessions but lots in terms of the development of their most precious asset – personal character.

There is something so compelling about human struggle and witnessing those who never give up in spite of their current circumstances. Just as these new American immigrants will one day see their children have a better life because of their current sacrifices, today there is also a tiny nation in Africa battling to become a middle-income country.

liberiarising2030Last year, the Liberian government finalized Liberia Rising 2030, which is a detailed plan embedded with regular benchmarks meant to steer Liberia from its current per capita income of $280 to a per capita income of between $1000-$2000 by 2030. This ambition plan is derided by some, ignored by others, but is beginning to be passionately pursued by many who matter.

Liberian-billboardThere is a noteworthy op-ed, by Dr. Musa Dukuly, on the allafrica.com website. Dr. Dukuly analyzes the 2030 plan and what it will take to actually get there. In this piece one learns that Liberia is already on the path toward self-sustainability. The next generation of Liberians will one day join with the next generation of first generation American immigrants in seeing how the struggle of their parents paved the way for the better life they both one day will have.

To read the op-ed piece on the allafrica.com website click  here

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this-child-will-be-great-book-coverThis Child Will Be Great – Memoir of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

If Liberia really is a country on the rise and not a mere cliché of this overused phrase, then the primary reason for this will be because of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

President Sirleaf famously became Africa’s first female president in 2006. In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civil award, for her personal courage  and unwavering commitment to expanding freedom and improving the lives of people in Liberia and across Africa.

And in 2010, as the only female and African Head of State, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was named by Newsweek Magazine as one of the World Top Ten Leaders. One year later, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.

Now quite a few people have an impressive pedigree and a cabinet full of notable awards. But the story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is unlike most other stories. Even though she enjoyed a relatively happy childhood, she came to know hardship at a young age, especially after her father suffered a stroke. This was one of several misfortunes that young Ellen would encounter. At age seventeen she was married to an abusive husband, yet through it all she refused to become only a victim.

As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, encounters trial after trial you learn about her character, which is painstakingly formed into something beautiful. Yet, it is not only her story, which we learn about in this honest and inspirational memoir, but the story of Liberia itself. From its founding in 1822 by freed American slaves to the 1980 military coup that splintered the country to the horror and total anarchy of civil war which devastated and destroyed her beloved nation, President Sirleaf gives a compelling account of where Liberia has been and where hopefully it is headed.

ellen-johnsonFor anyone who ever hopes to begin to understand Liberia, this is the place to begin. President Johnson Sirleaf’s ability to see and clearly distill the big picture of Liberia past, present and future is a gift to us all. This venerable lady of Liberia is one which all of us could learn many life lessons from and at the same time learn a little more about the exceptional land of liberty known as Liberia.

Loving Liberia,

Dave Tippit

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