Liberia was afforded a rare glimpse of international media attention this week when United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the capital Monrovia and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Photo of Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson and Hillary Clinton by Glenna Gordon
Glenna Gordon, a Monrovia-based American journalist who was involved in a training workshop for Liberian bloggers, notes in an article for Time Magazine that the United States government has given Liberia over $2 billion since 2003, “the highest number of aid dollars spent per capita anywhere in the world.”
Most of the news articles about Clinton's visit to Liberia focus on the basic facts about Liberia. Writing for Xinhua News, the Chinese government's official news agency, editor Li Xianzhi observes:
Liberia is a country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and the Atlantic Ocean. The history of Liberia is unique among African nations, notably because of its relationship with the United States, according to Wikipedia.”
Few, if any, of the articles quote Liberians or describe what everyday life is like in the capital city Monrovia. For that you will need to consult Liberian bloggers.
Ruthie Ackerman is a freelance journalist who is writing a book about Liberian refugees living on Staten Island in New York. Rather than simply writing about the refugees, however, Ackerman wanted to help them tell their own stories. With a small amount of funding from Rising Voices she started Ceasefire Liberia, a blogging platform for Liberians living in Staten Island and Monrovia. Much to her surprise the Monrovia-based Liberian bloggers have so far contributed more content to the website than their New York-based peers.
Nat Nyuan-Bayjay, a Ceasefire Liberia blogger in Monrovia
Writing from Monrovia, Wellington Railey has described the life sentence handed down to 23-year-old Nigerian Chuku Diwl Afika who was convicted of murdering a Liberian youth after a scuffle outside of Apple Night Club. Nat Nyuan-Bayjay, Ceasefire Liberia's project manager in Monrovia, posted his photos and observations of two opposing protests related to Liberia's controversial Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Describing the pro-TRC group of protesters Bayjay writes:
The demonstration, widely believed to be a state ‘stage-managed’ demonstration was held under the auspices of the National Consciousness Movement of Liberia (NACOMAL), a pro-advocacy group and well organized as hundreds of people flocked upper Broad Street downtown Monrovia where they assembled as they were transported from various suburbs of Monrovia in arranged commercial buses.
A view down Broad Street in Monrovia
Nyuan-Bajay also published a post on Clinton's visit titled “Clinton Reaffirms US Support To Liberia: Pledges US$17 Million But Wants Action on Corruption.” Most impressive though has been Nyuan-Bajay's investigative reporting on issues like Bushrod Island's recent water shortages. He also routinely collects opinions from ordinary Liberians on issues ranging from the death of Michael Jackson to Independence Day celebrations.
So far Liberians living in New York have shown less interest in text-based blogging, but are enthusiastic about video. Garretson produced a 4-minute video about his son on his way to school. Some of the members of Ceasefire Liberia in Staten Island belong to the hip-hop collective Genocide which performed at Park Hill Day last month. Their manager Liz shot this video of their live performance. You can hear another Genocide track on the most recent Ceasefire Liberia video of a celebration of Liberia's Independence Day in Trenton, Jersey.
Stay tuned to Ceasefire Liberia to learn more about Liberian realities on both sides of the Atlantic.