Kevin in Liberia

Its Purpose: to raise awareness of current social, political, ethical, and spiritual issues within a relief and development context in Liberia. Its effectiveness is simple: It relies on me, the author, to provide insightful, and often debate-sparking material that will encourage you, the reader to get engaged through comment contributions, emails, and promoting others to read, re-think, and respond to the important issues discussed.

I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom. ~ a prayer by Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Addressing the Poverty Trap - Imposing Outside Structures

Why is it that African countries such as Liberia struggle to re-build themselves? I believe a part of this can be explained away by the imposing of outside structres such as geopolitical boundaries created by colonialist powers - whether it be the French, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English and the like. Africa is comprised of hundreds of tribal groups (approximately 28 here in Liberia alone) and it was only after the colonization of what we now know as African countries that these political boundaries came into being; regardless if they are now ‘independent’ African countries or not. With the amount of dependency on the continent of Africa the term ‘independent Africa nation’ seems a near oxymoron. Presently you’ll find numerous examples of areas of African land that has been carved into pieces by colonialist governments without much, if any, regard for tribal idiosyncrasies, feelings of community, or senses of belongingness.

So what does this have to do with why a country might struggles to rebuild itself? I believe that with the creation of this political divide has come a social divide as well. Similar to this would be the institution or imposition of a Western rule of law onto indigenous or tribal rules of law. In Liberia, the current judicial system has essentially taken power out of the hands of the Town Chief and into the hands of a national judicial system whose basis for justice is more based around what we may know as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights than anything known to be tribal (whether or not I agree with either the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights or tribal styles of instituting justice is another issue).

Any time you impose something against someone's will, such as the colonialist powers have done with political boundaries and Western rules of law in many parts or Africa it will not go without consequence. I believe political boundaries and a Western rule of law are two tools that have prevented and are preventing Africans from culturally exercising what they know in the process of rebuilding.

Finally, the term ‘rebuilding’ implies that a country such as Liberia was once ‘built’. I suppose the better question would be to ask yourself “What would a ‘built Liberia’ look like socially, economically, spiritually, etc?”

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  • At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your observation is true but I believe the most prominent reasons for underdevelopment in Liberia and the rest of Africa is “lack of vision” and “egregious corruption.”

  • At 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It is easy to blame all of Africa's problems on colonialism, but the fact of the matter is Liberia was never colonized. I believe the true problem lies in the fact that majority of the populace is uneducated, all of the government officials are corrupt to the bone, and no one has the interest of the country at heart. Ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds corruption and corruption breeds hatred and hatred destroys the country.

  • At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I believe it is easy to blame all of Africa's problems on colonization, but Liberia was never colonized. Liberia's problems like in the fact that majority of the populace is uneducated, all of the government officials are corrupt to the bone, and no one has the interest of the country at heart. Ignorace breeds poverty, poverty breeds corruption, corruption breeds hatred and hatred destroys the country.

  • At 10:39 AM, Blogger Rod said…

    Hello I'm Rod and I study Human Rights in Sweden. I think both of you have a point, sadly Africa still struggles with rebuilding and I believe that it isn't gonna change over a night. Bad economy, as always, is due to the lack of schools and therefore many African children never even think of how to change the living standard in the country. Maybe they've heard many trying to do that but come to realize that without the economical support it might be a little much to ask for.

  • At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hello my name is Ann-Sofie, also a student of human rights in Sweden.
    I find what you are writing very interesting. But you really got me thinking when you wrote that "the term 'rebuilding' implies a country such as Liberia was once 'built'". Personally I know very little about different African countries and their history. But has there never at any point in the history of Liberia as a country been a situation better than it is today? socially, economically and spiritually that is. I feel quite ashamed about not knowing enough before I ask such a thing, but I have to ask if I want to know something, right?
    And isn´t there any form of middle-way to take when trying to rebuild? Instead of only following the western kind of thinking or the tribal kind of thinking?

  • At 7:44 PM, Blogger Lapa said…

    keep on going pall.

  • At 12:24 PM, Blogger Kevin Aja Fryatt said…


    I think your final statement rings very true thanks for sharing that.

    Liberia is one of two countries that was never 'officially' colonized but I would argue that in fact it shows a lot of the same similarities that a country that was officially colonized would show: 1. System of Government mirroring that of the USA, 2. Rule of law, if operating correctly, mirroring the USA, 3. (American) English as their official language, 4. An educational system mirroring that of the USA (if it was functioning correctly), 5. A flag that bears a lot of resemblance to that of the USA and 6. Now that it has its own government there are a lot of neo-colonial characteristics of the country as well.

    Its hard not to say that the USA is the grandfather of Liberia. Its wasn't the US Government that colonized Liberia but rather a bunch of freed slaves that imposed a lot of the same things as the US Government would have if they were the ones to enter the country back in the 1800s.

    Thanks for the dialogue!

  • At 12:29 PM, Blogger Kevin Aja Fryatt said…


    There have been times in Liberia's colourful history where things were 'better'.

    The point I am trying to get at is that what does it mean to be 'built'? Is that even an achievable goal? Does built mean to look like the United States of America? I hope thats not the goal we're aiming for because the USA has just as many problems as Liberia does...just in different areas. Western society should, by no means, be our benchmark.

    Why are African countries always looking to the West as an example of what their country should look like? Is this the best we can do?

    All questions to consider...

  • At 6:57 PM, Blogger WWG said…

    Hi, Good Blog :)
    Look from Quebec Canada

    WWG :)

  • At 4:58 PM, Blogger Gaillie said…

    Thanks for the update, Kev!

    Hugs to you!

    Mom :)

  • At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Happy New Year from Portugal.
    Literary Greetings

  • At 2:36 PM, Blogger Emily said…

    Very well said. I think we sometimes in the west forgot that we have just as many issues in different areas.

  • At 8:34 PM, Blogger DevCrossing said…

    Great post and comments. Are you still posting?

  • At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Kevin! enjoying your blog. I just noticed you left a note on my blog at long time ago, yeah Ted is my cousin, he's doing good, flying choppers.
    My french is coming good, though I had a good handle on it from school. I'm thinking of doing development work, but I'm not sure in which capacity. I'm fairly interested in linguistics, and will be doing a masters in the fall when I get back. Take care in Liberia.


  • At 8:19 PM, Blogger dom said…

    Hi, I hope you speak English, I'm after a Liberian flag, so if you wouldn't mind visiting my weird news site and plonking one there , I'd be very appreciative. Thank You, Have a super day!

  • At 4:04 PM, Blogger The pale observer said…

    Hi Kevin - GREAT BLOG!

    I wanted to touch base, let you know I really like your writing and let you know I’m adding you to my blogroll.

    I am a Canadian living and working in Ghana for the past 12 years. I travel to Liberia and write a lot about the region. Please check out my blog (and add to your list, if you like it that is!)

    All the best



  • At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I Kevin, I really enjoy reading your blog. It truly highlights some of the social ills affecting your country and I must say that Guyana, where I'm from bears striking commonalities to Liberia.
    Please check out my blog

  • At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great insight on liberia and colonialism. i could not agree more. thanks for you brillant blog.
    I am a US citizen originally from west africa, liberia

  • At 9:34 AM, Anonymous baresytapas said…

    I came to this place by chance, but I found very interesting. Greetings to all the people who visit this page.


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