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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