By Joel Ramlill
I like where I live. I have not only food, shelter and water, but also friends, family, security, peace and leisure. This is not surprising, seeing as I live in Switzerland, which is one of the best countries to live in the world. But what if I wasn’t so lucky? What if I lived somewhere completely different? Somewhere like Liberia.
Liberia is a west African nation with an interesting story. The American Colonization Society believed that Black people would face lower levels of discrimination if they moved back to Africa. The nation is so influenced by America that their flag is very similar and their capital, Monrovia, is named after the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe.
We in the West often like to think that we keep in mind people less fortunate than ourselves. We donate to church, we donate to charities and we donate to specific causes. We have fancy gala dinners and auctions to raise money. We raise awareness for issues plaguing the world. But we also dislike watching the charity ads on TV, and flick through news channels depicting the crises in developing nations. We distance ourselves.
I am not in any way retracting myself from these accusations, but I try every now and again to be exposed to things outside the “Geneva Bubble”. A friend recommended I watch a Vice News documentary entitled “The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia”. This was the single most horrifying glimpse into another nation I had ever been exposed to.
A Vice news team lands in Monrovia where they proceed to pay off the Liberian prison guards in order to free a Warlord called General Bin Laden. Here is a key point, during the Liberian Civil Wars, rebel generals gave themselves aliases such as Bin Laden or Rambo in order to not be identified after the wars were over and to strike fear in their opposition. There was also General Mosquito (due to the mosquito being one of the most feared animals in Liberia because of the high rates of Malaria) and General Mosquito Spray who was fighting the aforementioned General Mosquito.
The city of Monrovia did not have a grid. The inhabitants of the slum of West Point defecated on the beach, contaminating the air and the water supply. A ten-year old child got high on cocaine and bragged to the reporters that he had held a woman at gun point and then raped her.
The Vice team then met up with General Butt Naked, a title attributed to him as he and his child soldiers fought naked to scare the opposition and appear brave. But the most shocking thing about this documentary is that General Butt Naked would sacrifice an innocent boy, rip his heart out from his back, make his child soldiers eat it. This man massacred thousands of people. At this point, I think I need to state that I am in no way making this up. This actually happened. To add to the sheer craziness of the country, General Butt Naked is now a relatively accepted priest under his real name, Joshua Blahyi.
I’m not saying that Liberia is an awful place. People do terrible things in war. But this. This is crazy. And I really can’t find a way to end this on a positive note. The GDP per capita in Liberia is still less than a thousand dollars a year and 85% of the population live under the poverty line. Contrast this to Switzerland, where the GDP per capita is around 65,000 dollars, with a high life expectancy, lots of civil liberties and it makes for rough reading.
I genuinely hope Liberia gets better. They have elections coming up and football legend George Weah is a serious contender. I hope for his country’s sake that he or his opponent can deliver drastic change needed to help the citizens of Liberia.
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