Columnists Features

Liberia: Dicing with death – courtesy of Press TV


Liberia, Liberia! Oh, Liberia! Where is your liberty? What happened to your birth rights? What did you trade them for? Extra-ordinarily weaned very early in 1847, and now aged a staggering 195 years – except only for your fraternal twin, Sierra Leone, aged 229 – you are the political first-born of all the 54 siblings birthed by Africa.
Despite this to your credit, you bear the grim portrait of an orphan shattered, battered and forsaken to perish in the long forgotten backwoods of mother Africa. You have moaned and moaned, but no-one looks at you. Unmoved the whole period you have called more loudly, how will they regard you now, when your voice has hopelessly ebbed to its faintest?
Oh, so you forgot that you are Africa’s first-born? Shall I rightfully say your predicament only renders credence to the maxim “the first will be last and vice versa”?
See, Mama Africa ceased bearing a long time ago even if, in her senility, she shocked us when in 2011 she bore your younger sister: tender and still fledgling South Sudan. I have a hunch this last-born might soon catch up and upstage you although she, too, worries me by the numerous ills blighting her formative years. Yes, her teething is fraught with tempests threatening to sweep her also from a well-founded upbringing.
In fact, you, Liberia, and Leone missed the opportunity, either by choice or unbeknownst, to fashion yourselves into aesthetically flamboyant images of America and Great Britain, respectively, the two developed Western giants that cloned you in the uterus of Mama Africa to settle my dear brothers and sisters set free from the wicked bondage of Slavery.
For instance, what I today descry of infrastructural beauty, say of Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa ushers my imaginative faculties into what should-could-would have been of you both…
To the historically lost, Liberia, capital Monrovia, and Sierra Leone, capital Free Town, are the two oldest countries in Africa founded and named specifically as countries long before even the Scramble for Africa and the resultant 1884-85 Berlin Conference was called to slice Mama Africa into colonial protectorate property of Europe’s powerful imperialists.
At the mammoth expense of achieving grandiose futuristic development, both countries were fated to suffer catastrophic civil wars (Liberia 1989-1997/ 1999-2003; Sierra Leone 1991-2002), the impact of which would forever horrify not only survivors but also posterities of the two nations, including the very soil upon which the unprecedented maiming, butchery and blood-splash were committed with such unimaginable callousness any prospects for healing are mere theories.
Rivers of blood would have long fused with the hue of earth, but the numerous souls of our brothers and sisters slain in genocidal style – left to decompose in the streets and be cannibalised by stray dogs OR perchance meet with very slim luck of minimal dignity to be picked and buried in mass graves – conspicuously corroborated by the grim physical evidence everywhere of single, double and even multi-amputee survivors discount every likelihood of healing, closure and erasure of memories both in this life and the next.
While I may not know to what extent both countries have recovered from the horrors of their respective civil wars and rebuilt themselves, the case of Liberia tugs more strongly at my heart.
November 26 last year I stumbled on an exclusive scoop documentary very aptly titled Dicing with Death, courtesy of Press TV of Iran. In fact, it is all thanks to my 12-year-old son, who, for his age, just bewilders me by the dexterity with which he locates free-to-air television channels each time they disappear from the grid because satellites beaming them would have drifted far afield in orbit.
Because the DStv channels bouquet does not house Press TV, I would time and again ask the lad to also connect the open-air decoder to play catch-up on Press TV and, if it would not show, ‘bully’ him to hunt for it using his rocket motor skills and those Frequency codes best known by him, either Vertically or Horizontally…
Brethren, sorority, Liberia shall really need big-time help from seasoned donors (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) and fellow African countries in form of capital projects, donor funding, artisanship through volunteer missions, gratis or without much fuss about repayment for now.
Dicing with Death is a fully loaded compact documentary summing up the undiluted hardship of African life, the episode of which commences at Monrovia and dangerously trudges its full agonising 300-kilometre course of, I surmise, six days up to the monumental relic town of Greenville, whose hangover from the ravages of war is quite tearfully impacting.
Fofana, the chief protagonist, emerges on the scene as a young driver whose tested intrepidity and the die-hard indefatigable stamina of his old, rusted 4X4 Toyota Hilux exceed all expectations in the most atrocious, unforgiving weather conditions, not so much an issue per se, but made much uglier by endemic corruption whose virus kills any prospects of good roads, drainages, bridges and, generally, modern infrastructure.
Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, our mother, can only do her best for a country nearly obliterated by the two wars. I have great faith in the African spirit, which mostly espouses helping carry one another’s burdens: the ‘Haves’ filling the empty bowls of the ‘Have Nots’.
Thus, in the name of true Afro-oneness, the regional blocs from this end – Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Economic Community of East African Countries – could liaise on how to synergise with the West African bloc, ECOWAS, to render a multi-faceted tonic to Liberia.
To perfectly contextualise the plight of a country with a picturesque name, how many know that in 1830 as Slave Coast (Nigeria), which has so advanced today it brushes its shoulders with the First World in Space Intelligence and Exploration, was only having its Niger River gates opened into the Atlantic via the Nun River at the Oil Rivers Delta by explorer Richard Lander and his younger sibling, John – from Bussa Rapids, where pioneer Mungo Park had earlier died in 1806 trying to solve the Niger Mystery – Liberia (formerly Grain Coast) had already moved so fast ahead of everybody else she had a newspaper, Liberia Herald, publishing for 17 years ahead of her independence? The American spirit!
Hence the question begs: How far would Liberia have come today in all fairness?
Yes, every African nation has its woes, but a look over the shoulder back at Liberia (and Sierra Leone) by the fast-paced flagship bearers should inspire a new ray of hope to help reshape the duo’s destinies. And for me, Press TV and Fofana surely must be medalled; they both are masterpieces! But war, war, war! How many times did I call to you? That is how much I exponentially detest you!

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