Friday, February 21, 2014

Monrovia Central Park Opens

I've already posted the building of the month for February, but I have something of another architectural review to post—more like something of a landscape architecture review.

Monrovia Central Park officially opened last week. The formal name is Chevron Monrovia Central Park —as a major source of funding for the park's realization came from Chevron Liberia Ltd, the local subsidiary of the San Ramon, California-based super major that is working some of Liberia's offshore oil blocks.

Monrovia Central Park isn't exactly central, in the sense that it is not located within the historic core of Central Monrovia, but is across the river, on Bushrod Island, and not far from what up until now has been Monrovia's only park-like setting: the historic Providence Island, which sits forlornly in the middle of Mesurado River, it's tiny surface a half-neglected barrenness bisected by the busy Gabriel Tucker bridge connecting Bushrod Island with Central Monrovia.

Heretofore, Monrovia has not had any other real parks: no dedicated public open spaces, other than the small, over-formal grounds of Centennial Pavillion Grounds There are a few non-dedicated open areas, such as the erstwhile make-shift football pitches at the end of the Spriggs-Payne runway, which were cordoned off in 2011 as the airport re-established control over its periphery. There is also the beach, although those are not exactly treated as public parks either by the public nor government authorities, who have made moves to wall off many beaches to the public in recent years, as has been previously noted on this blog. 

Monrovia Central Park is also not on the same scale as its Manhattan namesake. The postage stamp public garden wouldn't be hosting any carriage rides or ice-skating, even if the climate was more amenable. There's hardly enough space to kick a ball back and forth.

Also, the park suffers from a sort of over-intervention that is actually common to Liberian landscaping. There is far too much concrete, and far too little grass. These rough-shod surfaces take the shape of a surfeit of sidewalks and low walls, sitting areas where even the benches and tables are crudely cast in cement. This echoes the inner courtyards of many private residential and hotel compounds in Monrovia, which are often paved over into an unwelcoming expanse of hard surfaces, radiating heat.

There are some nice features added to the park, including several playground areas with slides and swing sets. The most monumental aspect is an enormous two-story palaver hut, the largest I've ever seen. There a number of smaller, thatched-roof stands around the perimeter, like picnic pavilions.

There is still a fair amount of grass and large trees, which is definitely a worthwhile amenity, and all-too-rare in comparison with most of Monrovia's compounds. Perhaps the most successful detail is the waterfront pavement, which acts as a sort of riverside promenade, which even includes a boat dock, perhaps for a future water taxi service, but also utilizes the Park's location, with a pleasant vista across the wide mouth of the Mesurado, looking south towards historic Central Monrovia and Providence Island.

Hopefully, Monrovians will be able to make use of the park, especially young children, and hopefully this is only the first open space that is formally set aside for the city's residents. Excerpted from the Executive Mansion press release:

The President challenged the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to ensure that the Mesurado River is cleared of garbage, to allow those boating to have a garbage-free environment at all times...
The President seriously frowned at the Waterside section of the river, where makeshift latrines are built along the bank, terming them as unacceptable and should be removed immediately.She also instructed the committee to include the clean-up of Providence Island, to make it a tourist attraction and, at the same time, to complete the construction of the monument on the island. When completed, the monument will address one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that such a structure be erected in honor of those who paid the ultimate price for peace in Liberia.President Sirleaf encouraged parents to join the government and its partners in the effort to create an enabling environment for Liberian children. The park, she said, will go a long way in allowing the Liberian child to play once again, where they will know no war. She called upon parents to be good partners in achieving this objective.

Satellite Photos ©Google, other images taken from the Monrovia Central Park's Facebook Page. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Building of the Month: The Ruin at Clay Street & Camp Johnson Road

One of post-conflict Monrovia’s primary architectural characteristics, featured through the M2M Architectural Tour, has been its ruins. The city is bookended by abandoned monuments, or rather monuments to abandonment—the never-was Ministry of Defense in Congo Town as you enter the capital, and the Ducor Hotel, situated both at Monrovia's highest point and atop the termination of the long Mesurado peninsula (with the oceanside Hotel Africa complex in Virginia as an eastward outlier). Megastructures of the country's former affluence and importance dot the cityscape: the Pompeii of Post-Conflict.

Aside from these larger commercial complexes, there have always been lots of smaller-scale ruins across the city, from shells of sprawling split-level '70s ranches the fin-de-belle-époque to skeletons of historic mansions in town. If the hulks of five-star hotels and the unfinished frames of intimidating ministries are mausoleums of Monrovia's Cold War relevance, these domestic dilapidations mark the graves of personal tragedies: families and businesses fallen. 

Carey Street, 2008 & 2009.

In Central Monrovia, there have been half a dozen such ruins featured in the Architectural Tour over the last five years: a few compelling examples where an intact, multistory stone or concrete shell stood vacant amid the crowded, chaotic bustle of the town. a Victorian-style façade, still grayish-white with old paint and once-resplendent with double-height front porch, now rooflessly houses a carpenter's yard on Carey Street. About a block away, a grandiose triple-decker whose front entry had been built out into a video club and garment shop, the front parlor home to a wide, green plum tree that reaches up to the crumbling eves, a second vines over the back of the house.

Carey Street 2009.

The most magnificent of all, unquestionably, was the Ruin on Camp Johnson Road at the corner of Carey Street. Like so many of Monrovia's old buildings, its original purpose was difficult to ascertain, although by its size and location is was almost certainly an anchor of what was once Monrovia's fifth avenue shopping street. Taking up an entire lot, the four-story high structure had five wide windows all around, and some sort of interior circulation shaft, perhaps a central stairwell, or almost as if a larger building had been built up around the outside of a smaller inner building. Whatever the relationship between the two elements, they unmistakably recall an outer peristyle and inner cella of a Greek temple.

Camp Johnson Road, 2013.

The scene is made rather less like the Acropolis in Athens and rather more like Angkor Wat by the last and third element: a massive, vining tree, sprouting knottily out the inner sanctum and over the top of the concrete structures like a dome. At its ankles, like many other of Monrovia's ruins, was an arcade of small shops, a bustle of hustle: a baby-care store, a bar and restaurant with an enclosed sitting area, painted in bright lime green. If Monrovia is post-colonialism's Rome, than here is a scene of Canaletto, or at least of Hubert Robert, as the ordinary citizens reoccupy the old edifices, not to keep their livestock, but sell plastic toys and warm Club Beer.

Hubert Robert, French. Roman Ruins, c.1760.

This arrangement was an arresting site. First, like all of Monrovia's other war wreckage, it is ruin porn, less ironic than the Ducor and less hilariously menacing than the Ministry of Defense, as the previous life of the building is not evident. It is striking both for the visual orchestration, and that such a feral germination had proceeded with only disregard and accommodation, without intervention or mitigation—without anyone on the busy street around it taking any action to stop it.

But it has stopped. As of earlier this week, the concrete-block walls have been knocked down. A pile of rubble covers the twisted roots of the thick-trunked tree, which will undoubtedly meet the blades of chainsaw in the coming weeks.

Photo ©Glenna Gordon February 2014. 

What will come in its place here is not known: another cement shop front, with heavy iron doors, selling used mattresses or auto parts. Perhaps the second floor will be apartments. A diesel generator will run outback. One more store for Camp Johnson Road. Jobs will be created, commerce will commence: it will be another step in the march of progress and recovery, and Monrovia will become more like every other West African capital, with one less of its unusual sights.

Special thanks to Glenna Gordon for use of her Instagram photo. All other photos ©Matthew M. Jones.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Far West, A Mushroom City

I think I bought these flashcards on eBay a couple years ago. Printed in Italy in 1978-79, they must be part of a larger set of fast-fact cards on places around the world. They would suggest something educational, although in reading the short summary on the back suggests that either these were for an adult audience in the pre-digital age or that pupils from thirty years ago were under a much higher expectation for reading comprehension than would be the case today—with terminology like “autochthonous peoples” and “insalubrious districts” casually included the explanatory text. 

The card presents a dynamically industrializing state, with the orderly and ultramodern Freeport on the front, and much of the back discussing trade and economics. The tabulation of figures is also remarkable: Liberia exported 250 million dollars worth of goods in that year, 90% of which was iron and rubber, or around 800 million dollars in 2013 inflation adjustment. 

As mentioned in a post from a few months back, 2010's figure was 823 million dollars, although a third of this was the offshore ship registry. The whole country had only 1.2 million people; Monrovia only 180,000. There are probably more than 1.2 million people in greater Monrovia today. My favorite sentence, unquestionably, is “…Monrovia, which until then had looked like a Western film city with twisted wooden posts, developed and acquired one of the finest ports of West Africa, which became a free port.” Great sentence, although I cannot imagine that the unfamiliar reader would be able to understand the connection between a wild west film set and pre-modern Monrovia. Although this was enough for the front of the card to declare Liberia “An African ‘Far West.’”

The card for Abidjan is perhaps even more fascinating. First, the image itself is so banal as to be mesmerizing; it seems to be calling attention to how remarkable such an ordinary scene of an office building parking lot was in sub-Saharan Africa before 1980. The back caption states that the block is “the Ivory Coast data-processing centre at Abidjan.”

The remainder of the back text is mostly devoted to an unusual description of Abidjan's socio-economic  “hierarchy” —the Europeans concentrated in the more attractive districts of Plateau, Cocody and Marcory, the industrial zone in Petit-Bassam. Then there are the majority-African districts: Adhamé, Koumassi— “high-rise towers of rented flats,” an intriguing image; and then “the ‘areas of spontaneous settlement,’ or shanty-towns.” 

Then: “as fast as these insalubrious districts are renovated to clear them of the slums, new ones spring up alongside to house the influx of immigrants from Upper Volta, Mali, Nigeria, etc.” The echo of an earlier, imperially-sactioned racism informs a modern sociological assessment. The final two paragraphs summarize the economic sectors in almanac form. “Abidjan really is a mushroom city,” it declares. 

These cards not only recall the pre-decline era of post-independence, when Africa hummed with progress and industrialization; for me they also remind me of early childhood memories, flipping open the family Atlas or taking down a volume from the Encyclopedia set, to look up a distant, exotic city or country, described in a handful of paragraphs. The brief, essential words conjured the cityscapes in my mind: “a tourist complex on the lagoon,” —what would a ten year old American kid see? Rare was the encyclopedia image of an African city in those days, and even if the entry had an illustration, it was but one small photograph in the decades before Google image search. It was left to interpretation, and the imagination.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Weather Forecast for Monrovia is: Yes

I don't pay much attention to the weather forecasts for Monrovia. The climate veers between Sauna and Steam Room for most of the year; the only relevant information to understand is that it is oppressively hot and humid, and will either remain that way for weeks (dry season) or a violent 42-hour downpour will start in a few hours (wet season). 

Despite only enjoy a few hours of mild weather per year, I do keep Monrovia as one of my cities on my weather app, more to just root for the home team than to consult for planning purposes. I've noticed, however, that throughout the year the weather app remains remarkably the same, and 90% of days forecast thunderstorms, as seen in the above screenshot. 

I don’t know what the deal with this is; is there is just poor radar and data-gathering (likely) or the computer models that determine which symbol wins out which day constantly put the possibility of a thunderstorm in such a high-humidity environment as great enough that the lightening symbol hits the jackpot day after day. Nonetheless, there are not thunderstorms here every day, especially in February, so even as minimally useful as a weather forecast for Monrovia is, the smartphone weather apps aren’t very enlightening in their present functionality. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The other Monrovias

Driving across the US for the holidays, I happened to pass a small town in central Indiana: Monrovia. More than 5,000 miles across the planet from the capital of Liberia, my journey to my brother's house happens to bring me to the exit of this little spot outside of Indianapolis.

It's not the only, nor the largest, Monrovia in the United States, of course. That would be Monrovia, California, a city of about 35,000 in Los Angeles county. It was named for an early California rancher/railroad real estate speculator named Monroe, and it especially prominent because it is home to several well-known companies such as Naked Juice drinks company and the corporate headquarters of the  beloved health food grocery store chain Trader Joe’s. There's also a Monrovia in Maryland, close to one of the main concentrations of Liberians in the diaspora around suburban Washington, but its not officially incorporated.

I just image little school kids in these towns' public schools, learning about the namesake capital city in a sweltering equatorial country in far-off Africa.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

All the other ways to write Liberian

The post from earlier this week featuring the Loma Language (also known as the Lorma or Buzzi) reminded me about Liberia's many alphabets, or more technically, its half-dozen scripts and syllabaries.

Liberia is unique among countries of the world, much less African states, for being home to six separate writing systems for the transcription of local languages. Bassa, Vai, Mende, Loma, and Kpelle have all been codified into their own writing systems since at least the mid-19th century, on a continent that has only a handful of other instances where languages adopted writing systems.

This is a big topic for a blog post, as whole books have been written on Liberia's writing systems and the corner of the internet devoted to linguistic anthropology and language history is a dense one. This page from the Christian Education Foundation of Liberia is an excellent summary of the invention of each of these writing systems, many of which can be specifically dated to a particular individual, a historic figure, most of whom report quite similar inspiration from God, usually in a dream.

In the case of Loma, Kpelle, and Mende (which is primarily a language of Sierra Leone), the invention of new syllabaries coincided with European mission efforts to instruct in Latin Scripts of English. These singular efforts by visionary inventors were undoubtedly inspired by one another if not the spread of English writing around them. Unfortunately, none of these fanciful efforts never seemed to get off the ground, as evidenced by Tuesday's post, a newspaper from the 1960s which transcribers Loma in the international phonetic alphabet, rather than its native-born script.

A Bassa Keyboard. Seriously.

In the case of Bassa and Vai, however, there seems to have been more success. Somewhat hilariously, the Bassa script is unhelpfully called Vah, which means, To Throw A Sign, which is such a wonderful way to describe a writing system, if unbelievably coincidental in its easily-confused similarity with its neighboring language.  There are other possible connections to the enigmatic Cherokee script, and the Vai in particular seem to have borrowed some symbols from Ghana's Adrinka Symbols. In later decades, Academics both in Liberia and in the higher educational diaspora took up the perpetuation of these scripts and their academic study.

A Table of Vai Syllable Symbols. 

But in my personal experience, I have to seriously sound a note of caution about these incredible alphabets: I have only once seen an indigenous script in use in Liberia: in a Bible of undated vintage, sitting under a dusty display case in the National Museum in Monrovia as an object of curiosity, not reference.

I have seen no signs, billboards, advertisements, newspapers, or handwriting in a native writing system in any corner of the country, although these have been reported at least as recently as the 1980s—missionaries from the Doe era report Vai and Bassa people using the scripts for communication. In present day Liberia, I really think the main concerns is learning professional English and writing skills to get a job. These scripts are beautiful, but sadly have faded from whatever erstwhile employ they regularly enjoyed. Today, the Bassa language is generally transcribed in the phonetic alphabet also.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What is going on with Executive Mansion, Anyway?

The last two posts from earlier this week reminded me that there is no real update on the status of the Executive Mansion, which continues to be officially unoccupied since the Taylor era. An article from last August echoes an article from a year previous, repeating the vague reasoning and on-going structural and fiscal delays preventing the President from taking up space in the Mansion either in a professional or residential capacity. 

A recent addition to the Monrovia Visitors Map

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Press Secretary, Jerelinmik Piah, has disclosed that the Liberian leader's return to the Executive Mansion is contingent upon several conditions. Presidential Press Secretary Piah further disclosed: "When the time is ripe, and all of the conditions are met to return, you will know."He made the disclosure  as to when the Liberian leader will return to the Executive Mansion.The Executive Mansion, which is situated on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, is the official seat of the Liberian Presidency. It was constructed in 1964 under the regime of the late Liberian President William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman by 2,000 workers, including about a fifth of Monrovia's labor force, and 150 foreign technicians. The eight-storey Executive Mansion building, which costs US$20 million, has an atomic-bomb shelter, an underground swimming pool, a private chapel, a trophy room, a cinema, an emergency power plant, water supply and sewage system, among others.But the Executive Mansion was gutted by fire during Liberia's 159th Independence Day celebration on July 26, 2006. The fire gutted the nation's highest building in the presence of three West African leaders, at a time when then newly elected President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf switched on electricity to reach limited parts of the capital city. At the time, the cause of the fire at the Executive Mansion, according to South African forensic scientists, was electrical fault. Following the fire outbreak at the Executive Mansion, the Government of Liberia announced a closure of the Mansion, and President Johnson-Sirleaf relocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she has been performing official state functions for a little over six years now.Two years after the fire incident at the Executive Mansion, GOL on August 4, 2008 announced the start of renovation work with a plan to execute the work in phases, under the supervision of the local construction group, the Milton and Richards Architecture Firm, which in turn sub-leased certain aspects of the renovation work to other local construction companies including the Liberian-owned W.R. Maintenance & Janitorial Services located in Sinkor. The scaffold at the front of the building was at the time being erected by the Company, owned by Mr. William Y.E. Abourjeily.The cost of the renovation work was estimated by GOL to be USD$7 million. Out of that amount, USD$1 million was reportedly made available in the 2008-2009 base budget of the country, while USD$2 million dollars was said to be allocated in the contingency budget of the same fiscal year; bringing the total amount for the renovation work contingent on 2008-2009 national budget to USD $3 million dollars.However, Presidential Press Secretary Piah says following the fire outbreak at the Mansion, "We want to be sure that when the President returns to the Executive Mansion, she returns to a safe Executive Mansion." He stated that the presidency needs to be taken seriously, adding that there is a need for Liberians to be aware of several factors including reasons why it was gutted by fire, its age, the scope and dimension of the damage done to the Executive Mansion by the fire, compounded by what he calls the existing old age problems faced by the Executive Mansion.He indicated that the Liberian leader will return to the Executive Mansion in the not too distant future, but was quick to point out that "the safety of the President should be of concern to us, so we want to make sure that when the President returns to the Executive Mansion, she returns to a safe Executive Mansion.""You can be assured that the President will return to the Mansion, when it becomes very appropriate and all of the necessary requirements that we think should be met for the safety of the President and those who work with her," he among others added.

Rumors in Monrovia speculate that the President thinks the Mansion is cursed, what with the murder of Tolbert in 1979, the recent misfortunes of former President Taylor, and the fire as an augury against occupying the edifice. Whatever the reason, the Ministry of State is almost entirely housed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs next door, although I've heard the ground floor of the Mansion has some occupied offices. But for the most part, Liberia's largest, most grandiose structure continues to be renovated at a budget of at least a million dollars a year, but remains almost entirely unoccupied. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Executive Mansion and Capitol Building Spar (in a cartoon)

Yesterday's post reminded me of this cartoon by Eric W. Dennis, Jr., which appear in the Insight Newspaper in (if I labelled it correctly) October 2012, at the time of the induction of the new congress. using the Executive Mansion and the Capitol as symbols of the Ministry of State and the Legislature. Nice use of…metonymy? Funny detail of the streetlamp in front of the mansion, but odd that the face comes out of the side instead of the front. Nice dialogue too, including the popular African proverb,“When two elephants fight, the grass suffers.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

mɛ̃ɛsɔ̃ɔ niinɛi

Here's a gem that emerged recently emerged from the Liberian Observer last week: a reprint of the Loma Weekly, a missionary-run newspaper from Lofa County, published in the Loma (Lorma) language by Lutheran missionaries to encourage literacy. Seemingly type-set with a specialty phonetic typewriter tape, and featuring a wonderful illustration, this particular cover story explains the newly-completed Executive Mansion, which surely bewildered non-urban Liberians even more than it astonished more cosmopolitan audiences. The description is also delightful:

Below is the translation: 
The New Mansion 
The new Executive Mansion, dedicated on Jan. 3, is truly a splendid building, unsurpassed in its kind in Africa. It has eight floors and 310 rooms. It has a few stairways, but nine  elevators.They say there is meaning to the plan of the mansion. The curve of the building suggests the embrace of welcome extended to all who seek help from the Chief Executive. The building has its back to the ocean, suggesting the strength of the decisions that are made in the executive branch.There is a pool of water all around the building. The building contains 55 offices, a laundry, a clinic, a library, a theater, a dance room, a church, several kitchens, and a sewing room. The building is air-conditioned.President Tubman says the building should be as a proverb for the citizens of the country. As it is a splendid work, so we should strive for excellence; as it is a bold and giant venture so we should attempt great things; as it represents hard work and sacrifice, so we should not fear suffering in the performing of our noble tasks.
That fantastic description, and apparent quote from President Tubman, might make its way into the Architectural Tour. It's also interesting that “mɛ̃ɛsɔ̃ɔ  niinɛi” clearly sounds like Mansion—New, suggesting that both words were borrowed from English. Not surprising the Loma had no word for “Mansion” previously.

Further details from the Observer article, including a sad detail which I've emphasized in bold:

...the Lorma Weekly was published in Wozi, Zorzor District, Lofa County on January 24, 1964 by the literacy program of the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL). The literacy program in Liberia was formally started in 1948 by the government of Liberia,   in collaboration with the Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal Churches. 
A renowned international literacy  expert named Frank Laubach was sent out to spearhead the program. He trained many Liberians in adult literacy through the churches.  Among those who did the program under him were Reverend Byron Traub and his wife Margaret, both of whom were part of the nationwide Lutheran school system.  They taught at Lutheran schools in the Meuhlenberg Mission near Millsburg and Harrisburg on the St. Paul River, at Totota and in Sanoyea, where one of their daughters,  Mae Gene Traub Best,  was born. 
The literacy program spread to Yandequelleh, near Totota and was later established in Totota Town, where the Lutheran Mission, elementary school and church were built. In Totota, the teachers worked in the Kpelle  language, and in Wozi,  they worked in the Lorma language. 
The Lorma Weekly was published in Wozi. The Wozi program was started by three Lutheran missionaries, Paul Slafford, Gerry (Gerald) Currrens and   Margaret Jim Miller, daughter of the lengendary American Lutheran missionary in Liberia, Ma Miriam Miller, mother of Margaret.  Margaret managed  with the program until  the late 1980s when she returned to the USA.
Mr. Yella Quaqua was the last supervisor in charge of the Wozi  program when, during  the Liberian civil war, the United the Liberation Movement for Democracy (ULIMO), under the command of warlord Alhaji Kromah,   attacked and burned down the Wozi Literacy Center, including the church.  Yella Quaqua was  killed during that  attack.  The Wozi  Literacy Station still lies in ruins.  The new Lutheran Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel Jensen Seyenkulo, said the church does plan to rebuild Wozi, but it will have to be a long-range, five to 10-year plan.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dragon Embarrasses Sinkor

Another recent gem from that monumental institution of journalism that is the New Republic Liberia, is this report from last week of a Dragon, which sounds a lot like a wooden figurine, discovered to be cursing a house in the 12th street community, Sinkor. The story doesn't exactly go anywhere from there, but that's sort of the point—that the below could be the subject of a group of people's panicked investigations, resulting in a published newspaper report. Again, I quote in full, emphasis mine:

Witches and wizards are humans and their missions are devilishly diverse, so to speak. They are jugglers who maneuver in all forms, be it at night or day, to pursue destructive courses. Some develop images used to carry on cherished depravities against others. Juju, dragon, voodoo are symbols of evil crafted by man to get at their targets. As they do, others are standing up to them, challenging their powers and exposing them in broad daylight. 
Residents of 12th Street in Sinkor last week witnessed one of the frightening happenings when a "man of God" dug out what is said to be a juju planted by another resident. Reporter Bedeskoe M.N. Tumbay, reports A well-crafted man-like wooden image apparently developed by "wicked ones" to torment their targets, was brought to light last week in the 12th Street Community of Sinkor, sending shocking waves of apprehension down the spines of residents. 
Residents awoke to a very disquieting and scandalous noise concerning the discovery of the incredibly fearful wooden image tied with black thread and cowry shells, soaked in concoction and planted in the soil, at the window of the home of the one of the community residents. 
It was an occurrence akin to an outbreak of instability as some residents whisked to the scene, and others, especially residents closed to where it was dug, took to their heels.The carefully crafted wooden image was said to be uncovered by one Pastor James Baryogar of the Holy Church of Christ in the Jobah Community following a tipoff by one of his members. 
The "man of God" told this paper hours after the discovery of what the residents referred to as "dragon or traditional medicine," that he had been invited by one Elizabeth Bedell, a member of his congregation a day before the Thursday he showed up. 
Upon his arrival, he said, he discovered that something had been planted at the back of his congregant's house. He did not say whether the woman who invited him was aware of the presence of such there, but noted he was called by her after she has seen his performance in one of the many communities he has been working for years. 
"The image resembling a carved wood with four cowry shells neatly designed and striped around the body with a humanlike-face was tied in a black cloth with strains of black thread that looked incredibly fearful," he said. 
"I have been doing this since 2006 when I opened my church and can move from place to place discovering medicine and dragons in every part of Liberia; so this is just one of the many things I have discovered and presently I am on my way to another area for the same job." 
He said the woman had complained that she has been sleepless nights, with nightmares, snakes and other evil spirits tormenting her in the day and at night. 
"When I told Madam Bedell that there was something planted by her window, she and the occupants in the house did not believe it, but after we started digging, I realized that the medicine left the ground and entered the ceiling," the pastor said. "I further told them that I was going after it and at that moment, it left the ceiling and came back to its normal position where it was planted." Asked as to how he got it, he said "I poured holy oil and water on the spot and it got weak and I later pulled it out to the amazement of everyone." 
The Pastor Baryogar further said the "dragon" has been embarrassing residents of the community for a long period of time and has even led to the death of a child from the same house. 
"It has been in the yard for a long period. Last year, it even killed the grand daughter of the owner of the house; it can to take on many forms, sometimes it changed to a lizard, snake and even crab, it also changed to a naked nightmare taking the form of an old man having sex with her in dream," he said. 
According to the Pastor the alleged dragon has also been living on blood of the people in the house and other community dwellers, stressing it always disturbed occupants of the house and the community at night. 
At the same time, Pastor Baryogar who burnt the "dragon" minutes later, has accused one Kollie, the owner of the house of being the mastermind of the dragon. "The old man who owns the house is aware of it because he is the owner who hosts such tenant and two of them were in the deal, and if it was not by the grace of God, by now all those in the house would have been dead," he noted. 
Ironically, Madam Bedell who invited the "man of God" to the house happens to be wife of the owner of the house, that is accused Kollie. Explaining her ordeal, she said she experienced strange sounds at night which prevented them from sleeping for a protracted period of time. Like Madam Bedell, several residents of the community complained of enduring sleepless nights for months and that they heard sounds of moving animal and other creature in the community.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Liberia's New Capital City: A Fiasco?

Having just shared a printed op-ed about the saga of the supposed-new administrative complex in ELWA last week, this op-ed from last week in The New Republic Liberia is effusively written and nicely summarizes the noises that have been made in the last two years about the vague and quixotic plan to move the capital of Liberia from Monrovia to the forested village of Zekepa, an under-developed, remote settlement at confluence of the borders of Grand Bassa, Bong, and Nimba counties, an arbitrary yet mythic location in the center of Liberia.  This apparently remains merely a random fantasy alluded to for unclear reasons, as covered in this blog in mid-2012, and absent during more recent public statements, such as the President's State of the Nation Address last month. Quoting the op-ed in full: 

As did in 2006 before the rest of world that her government would unremittingly wage war against corruption, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to an overwhelming approbation, stood before the National legislature in 2012 and made a solemn proclamation about the relocation of Liberia's Political Capital, to Zekepa, the convergence of Grand Bassa, Nimba and Bong Counties.Growing population, climate change and erosion were cited as reeling factors. One year later while performing similar constitutional duty, she re-echoed similar commitment with resounding punctuations. Considered as national nostalgia, many expected full-blown report on the status of the project. But too bad, either knowingly or unknowingly, the President made no mention of it in her 2014 Annual Address. "So, what's at stake? Has it become a fiasco?" The New Republic, finds out.2012 has since elapsed but some of its grandeurs remained stocked in the bottomless parts of humans across the entire globe, but for Liberians is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's pronouncement concerning moving the Capital to the center of the country. . President Sirleaf informed the nation that her administration was in the middle of arrangements that would lead to the moving of Liberia's oldest political capital city to Zekepa, a convergence of three counties with identical links, Nimba, Grand Bassa and Bong."I am talking to every single citizen of this great nation when I say: our progress belongs to you, and the future is yours for the taking, a future in which the process would have started to move the capital to the center of the country. Given the effects of climate change and expectation that rising sea levels will threaten coastal cities, including Monrovia, we will have concluded the plan to move the Capital City to Zekepa, where the territories of Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba converge," Madam President said in 2012 with boomeranging applauds and standing ovation.Not stopping there, the President whose victory in 2006 over other potential politicians hinged on her credentials, reassured Liberians in 2013, a year after the initial pledge, that in developing ment For many, it was one of the president's commitments since assuming office and |Liberians, especially her religious followers exhaled that she was ready to demonstrate her true colors, as a developer. "Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro-Tempore, in my Annual Message to the Sixth Session of the 52ndNational Legislature, I informed your Honorable Body and the Liberian people that in response to the expected effects on population growth, climate change and the expectation that rising sea levels will threaten coastal cities, including Monrovia, in the decades to come, we had decided to commence the process that could lead, eventually, to relocating the Capital City to Zekepa, where the boundaries of Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba converge.Two years on, we have commenced the research and planning that will enable us to make the decision as to how to proceed with the Zekepa project," she said in her 2013 Annual Message.At the time, she noted that a small task force had been set up and charged with conducting the research, technical analysis, master planning and design that will be essential to the comprehensive development plan for the proposed city of Zekepa. Apparently being aware of the ambitiousness of the plan, and considering Liberia's financially squeezed state, madam Sirleaf said "This is not a quick project. This is a long term project.""The Task Force will spend the next six months in the primary stage of research, after which I will consult with your honorable body regarding a greater national involvement and the way forward in achieving this objective."Since these enthralling remarks of 2013, analysts are concerned that not the President, or any official of her government that has ever made it his/her business to bring to the knowledge of Liberians the status of the project, and the extent of the design and planning work mentioned earlier.What also brings the credibility of the project into the question, according to those spoken with, is her inability to disclose names oaf individuals that comprised the task force."The President made the disclosure in January of 2013. The six months she talked about have since elapsed and there is no information, absolutely, as regards the outcome of the design and planning work. I hope this is not a fiasco,' remarked one Peter Kiadii, who said he is political commentator"It is also troubling that she did not make any mention of the new capital project in her speech on Monday to the |National Legislature."That the Madam eschewed talking about the project which is of interest to all Liberians, speaks volume, he said, and argued that she willfully avoided doing so because "nothing is being done there."President Sirleaf's state of the nation address lasted for over two hours but many said it was only a repeat of things she has said over and again in past annual messages.However, the Liberian government disagreed that the Project is a fiasco as many tend to perceive it. Commenting on the state of the new capital project, Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson told this paper via mobile phone exchange that progressive actions were being taken.Without specifying actions so far taken by the government, he said, there are intended to actualize the President's vision of moving the capital. Minister Jackson who said he was in the middle of work, noted "detailed will be communicated to you in subsequent time."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Liberia for Beginners

Now running into it's fifth year, AARP-territory for most weblogs, Moved2Monrovia is not an easy thing to define anymore, but one thing it is not is a beginner's perspective. There's a recent Tumblr (how second-decade-of-the-21st-century) that is dedicated to that experience: Liberia for Beginners, which has been posting since October. Although it features a good heaping of gee-whiz-President-Sirleaf-and-oh-Daily-Talk type of stuff, who am I to look down my nose at the young whippersnappers? I was one once, too.

This contemporary perspective in-and-of-itself is interesting too, as in some ways there is no better measure of the transformation between the Liberia of then and of now than each crop of fresh-faces lands at RIA, and what the post to the web. For a more compact example, check-out the brief flourishing of Liberian Summer, another Tumblr which flashed across the sky in mid-2011 to coincide with a development student's summer internship in Monrovia. Amazing how quickly the potholes-and-pehn-pehn Liberia has transformed into the pad-Thai-and-Pintrest Liberia.

Welcome to Liberia and to the internet, kids.
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