Ceasefire Liberia: Thoughts On The 163rd Independence Day Of Liberia

Map of Liberia. Image by Flickr user MercyWatch. CC BY-NC-ND

Map of Liberia. Image by Flickr user MercyWatch. CC BY-NC-ND

Africa's oldest republic Liberia celebrated its 163rd Independence anniversary last month (July 26, 2010) and it is disheartening to see that after all these years Liberia is still is a developing country with all its problems. “The war-torn country is the first independent country in Africa, when it declared its independence in 1847″, notes Nat Bayjay at the Ceasefire Liberia blog. From Wikipedia:

It was founded and colonized by freed American slaves with the help of a private organization called the American Colonization Society in 1821-1822, on the premise that former American slaves would have greater freedom and equality there.

These colonists formed an elite group in Liberian society, and, in 1847, they founded the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modeled on that of the United States, naming Monrovia, their capital city, after James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States and a prominent supporter of the colonization.

So what are the problems in this war-torn country that had kept it from progressing? In fact Liberia started to walk backwards after the military-led coup in 1980. The country struggled with two civil wars which have killed hundreds of thousands of people and devastated the country's economy.

Now the country is battered with many problems including corruption. Nat Bayjay quotes Father Tikpor, the National Orator of Liberia:

Unless the government buries the deadly corruption virus that is currently eating the energy of the government, all else achieved will go down the drain.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia. Image by Flickr user Bahia. CC BY

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia. Image by Flickr user Bahia. CC BY

The Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called on the Liberian people to be united in the midst of county’s engulfed land disputes.

The issue of land disputes became a post-war crisis in Liberia, with Nimba County at the center of it, causing several misunderstandings that have led to fears of a potential return to war.

Although debt reliefs can be a boost for the country, they are not a panacea for Liberia’s considerable challenges, which are, according to Jahbulleh Cicero Dempster:

  • A sense of common national identify is required for the Liberians engaged in sectarian disputes.
  • There is this misconception among Liberians that aged old problems can not be solved. This needs to be changed
  • Many policy makers and planners propagate a system that exhibits cruelty towards the weak.
  • The difference between rich and poor is extreme- the privileged one percent, the rich and powerful, are negligent about the plights of the 99 percent of population, who live in abject poverty without sufficient food, water, health, education and sanitation.
  • The Liberian people must become active participants in the nation building process rather than being passive spectators.
A street of Liberia. Image by Flickr user Tweefur. CC BY-NC-SA

A street in Monrovia, capital of Liberia. Image by Flickr user Tweefur. CC BY-NC-SA

The citizen journalists of Rising Voices grantee Ceasefire Liberia are doing their parts in addressing the challenges by providing news and information on the anomalies in the society and the government. Nathan Patio Charles writes in Ceasefire Liberia Blog:

An independent investigation conducted by Ceasefire Liberia, in collaboration with Liberia’s Journalists for Human Rights and Good Governance (a) four month justice reporting workshop for students from several universities in Liberia, has discovered that the Monrovia Central Prison, popularly known as South Beach in Monrovia, is overcrowded. [..]

Crime continues to increase and the justice system in Liberia is notoriously slow, leaving the prison overcrowded with pre-trial detainees.

The Justice system seems to be a problem for the country. Nat Bayjay reports that Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) submitted its findings and recommendations to the National Legislature and accused the justice system as a hindrance to peace and reconciliation in Liberia:

“Reconciliation is a process, not a commodity that can be purchased in the absence without the building of a just and equitable society founded on the rule of law. There can be no peace without any justice”.

However, there are signs of progress in the justice system as the Liberia National Police have finally charged and sent to court a 48-year old, who raped a 13 year old girl in Central Monrovia, which sparked fresh violence.

Read more such stories in the Ceasefire Liberia Blog.

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