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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Liberia Under President Tubman's Rule

This is a great video that shows the Republic of Liberia during President Winston Tubman's time in office. Although I am able to point out certain landmarks, others looks so well developed that they are difficult to recognize!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Review of Robert Calderisi’s The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working

What I’m about to write is not a book review in as much as it is a personal commentary on the ideas and suggestions of the author about the current state and future direction of foreign aid and international participation in Africa. At the end of The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working Robert Calderisi lists ten fundamental changes that are needed in Africa, some intuitive and straight forward, others more dramatic and profound. I have found two concurrent themes running through the ten changes mentioned and have categorized them into the following lists:

Governmental Accountability & Reform

  1. Introducing Mechanisms for Tracing and Recovering Public Funds
  2. Require all Heads of State, Ministers, and Senior Officials to Open their Bank Accounts to Public Scrutiny
  3. Require All Countries to Hold Internationally-Supervised Elections
  4. Promote other Aspects of Democracy, Including a Free Press and Independent Judiciary
  5. Establish Citizen Review Groups to Oversee Government Policy and Aid Agreements

Aid Reform

  1. Cut Direct Aid to Individual Countries in Half
  2. Focus Direct Aid on 4-5 Countries that are Serious on Reducing Poverty
  3. Supervise the Running of Africa’s Schools and HIV/AIDS Programs
  4. Put More Emphasis on Infrastructure and Regional Links
  5. Merge the World Bank, IMF, and UNDP

Whether or not the author purposefully made a distinction between Governmental Accountability & Reform and Aid Reform is exogenous of this discussion and could very well be just a coincidence of the themes I have chosen to use for my discussion.

Throughout Africa’s decades of problems, although differing greatly between regions, one common theme is often present, violence. I would challenge you to find a country, or group of countries, in Sub-Saharan Africa where violence wasn’t just another colour in the spectrum. Calderisi, in his ten proposed fundamental changes, does not mention one adjustment that would directly target fighting and infighting amongst Africans. Is this because Calderisi believes that violence is not a current problem in Africa, that its bloody history is a thing of the past, or that one or more of his proposed reforms would indirectly affect the levels of conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa? This can most definitely not be the case because, unless one is exclusively watching only American-broadcasted CNN, any half-read individual kept up to date on current world events knows that there are currently genocidal bloodshed in countries such as Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), among others.

Calderisi’s proposed adjustments will only combat violence if corrupt government is in fact the root cause of the violence itself. They do not take into account violence caused by ethnic hatred (Rwanda) or anti-imperialistic sentiments (Cote d’Ivoire). My experience with the mass populace of Liberians, and I can’t speak for the rest of the continent, and this is evident in the fourteen years of bloody civil war, is that they believe almost anything that is propagated to them by a person in position of authority. Imagine the positive effects that a capable government could have on a population in that type of condition. Could it be true that the phrase “violence as a last resort” is ringing true in Africa?

As I look over the two sub-categories of reforms proposed by Calderisi and reflect on the Liberian experience since the inauguration of Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the reforms that I have seen first hand fall directly under the category of “Governmental Accountability and Reform”. In Madame Ellen’s inauguration speech she spoke directly in favour of having all governmental officials declare their assets before and after leaving office as one mechanism to track possible corruption. The elections themselves were internationally-supervised, and deemed “free and fair” by Election Supervisors. Although protests were made by the presidential runner-up George Weah they did not stand. After some comments made by George Weah upon losing the election its difficult to take anything the man says seriously. The final reform that I can see taking place in Liberia presently is that of promoting a free press. Not much more than a few days following the swearing in of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a chalkboard news billboard called the Daily Talk was erected on Tubman Boulevard, arguably the busiest street in Monrovia. Every day, in the African sense of the word, a new message is carefully chalked on the board, carrying political, spiritual, and social messages updating Liberians on the goings on.

These findings are also backed up by survey results from a poll that I have created for the Kevin in Liberia blog. The question was, Based on your best knowledge, newly-elected Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has played a leading role in the improvement of which of the following areas?” As of January 28, 2007, 75% of respondents chose ‘Governmental Accountability’ as their response. ‘Infrastructure’ received 17% of the votes. To vote, see the poll on the right hand toolbar.

To purchase The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working, click here

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