Saturday, August 11, 2012

Liberian Expat

This morning while I was volunteering in a foodbank in Mass., I was teamed up with an older gentleman from Liberia to clean and bag produce and stock shelves.  My 78 year-old friend had emigrated to the Boston area 15 years ago but still managed to return home every couple years. My new friend's most recent trip was last fall during the elections.  It was great to swap stories about Liberia and get his perspectives on Liberian politics and it's future.

My new Liberian friend was proud of his president but accepted the corruption of her son and other warlords that managed to secure a place in government as part of politics.  He also spoke highly of a new bridge built by the Chinese but deplored the state of the rest of the roads in Liberia.  In the end he was left wondering how the government could be fixed and said he feared a return to chaos after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf steps down at the end of her second term.

Another interesting point he brought up was the foreign control of the Liberian military.  Not only is it being trained by Americans, but the highest leadership is Nigerian.  When I visited the Liberian Army barracks in 2010 I met a Nigerian Command Sergeant Major who showed us around the base.  He took pride in leading the Liberian troops and the Liberian officers seemed smart, motivated, dedicated.  However, my new Liberian friend thought foreign control of the military was extremely dangerous.  He was worried that the Nigerians knew all of Liberia's defense secrets, capabilities, and weaknesses and that made them especially susceptible to a Nigerian invasion (I dont think that is likely).

It was an interesting circumstance to discuss Africa, in a foodbank that gave away tons of food everyday, as we worked stocking shelves with more food that could probably be found in all the stores of Monrovia.

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