West Africa

Marathons spring up in West Africa, possibly creating new source for distance-running talent

MONROVIA, Liberia — Prince Weah had no experience with distance-running when he signed up on a whim for a 10-kilometer race in Monrovia four years ago. Like many West African boys, he grew up with dreams of soccer stardom, though he quickly set those aside after unexpectedly placing first in the running event. On Sunday, 20-year-old Weah joined more than 1,000 other runners who took to the streets of this dilapidated seaside capital for the Liberia Marathon and 10-kilometer race, cheered on by hundreds of spectators lining the streets and even a military brass band. Star participant was President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Joined by U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac, Sirleaf donned jeans and sneakers and ran a short stretch of the 10-kilometer race, stopping early on when the course ran past her house. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner has previously said that “praying for the other runners” is a more effective use of her time than trying to reach the finish line. In remarks to organizers two days before the marathon, Sirleaf described the symbolic importance of the race for a country still recovering from a brutal 14-year civil war in which 250,000 were killed. Liberia is celebrating 10 years of peace this month. “Liberia, too, is in a marathon, a race of sustained peace,” she said. “With victory, you will reap the dividends that come from being a nation at peace with itself. Our goal for Liberia is to get to the finish line, to be a winner.” While Sirleaf alluded to the past, many runners were looking to a future when West Africa might emerge as a force in the distance-running world. The marathon event is one of a few to have sprung […]

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    Liberia: ‘Liberia’s Development Relies On You’ – USAID Mission Director Tells Private Sector Liberia: ‘Liberia’s Development Relies On You’ – USAID Mission Director Tells Private Sector

    Liberia: ‘Liberia’s Development Relies On You’ – USAID Mission Director Tells Private Sector

Liberia: ‘Liberia’s Development Relies On You’ – USAID Mission Director Tells Private Sector

The newly-appointed Director for Mission to Liberia at the United Sates Agency for International Development (USAID) says Liberia’s development greatly relies on the private sector therefore; the government cannot operate properly by itself without the assistance of the private sector. Remarking Tuesday, August 13, 2013, at the opening of a two-week trainings organized by the United States Agency for International Development (IESC\IBEX program) in Monrovia for commercial bankers, SMEs and TOT, Mr. John Mark Winfield revealed that health, agriculture, education, energy among others are key sectors in the development of a country that cannot be done alone by central government. Said Mr. Winfield: “The development of Liberia like any other country is implacably linked to you. It’s linked to the private sector and its ability to make a contribution to the development of a country. It cannot do without investors; it cannot do it without strong business plans. We are supporting small medium enterprises because they are key to the development of Liberia.” Speaking behalf of the Central Bank Governor, the Director for regulation and supervision department at the CBL Mr. Mussah A. Kamara thanked USAID Liberia for its continue support to the rebuilding process of Liberia. Mr. Kamara said there is a need to improve the current credit culture that exist in the Liberian banking environment, noting that dealing with the problem of nonperformance loans and poor credit culture requires a comprehensive strategy to cleanup bank balance sheets and make them fully responsible for their lending operations. Said Kamara: “To achieve this therefore, the CBL has instituted and continues to institute series of measures to address the poor credit culture in the country. In this light, the CBL has issued a directive to banking […]

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    Liberia: Mosquito Larvae Elimination – a Pragmatic Approach to Malaria Control Liberia: Mosquito Larvae Elimination – a Pragmatic Approach to Malaria Control

    Liberia: Mosquito Larvae Elimination – a Pragmatic Approach to Malaria Control

Liberia: Mosquito Larvae Elimination – a Pragmatic Approach to Malaria Control

On April 25 this year, World Health Organization (WHO) member countries especially those burdened by the malaria disease celebrated World Malaria Day. The annual celebration which began in 2007 is an opportunity for malaria affected countries and regions to share experiences, seek donor funding, and allow researchers and scientists to showcase advances in malaria control. In Liberia, the slogan for this year’s World Malaria Day was “Get Tested for Malaria before Treatment.” Implicit in the slogan is the focus on treatment not prevention. The centerpiece of Liberia’s malaria control program at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito bednets. While the use of insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets has proven to show positive outcome in malaria prevention, adopting it as the main malaria intervention strategy is insufficient and at best timid in the face of damning statistics on the toll of the disease on the Liberian population. A study by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 3000 children under the age of 5 years die each day as a result of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. Liberia’s share of those deaths is eight children a day. In addition, there are countless prenatal and postnatal developmental problems suffered children when a mother infected with malaria passes the disease on to her unborn child. On an annual basis, GDP losses in Liberia as a result of the disease can be counted in the millions, according to another UNICEF study. When we put all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak, with the use of bednets as the key malaria prevention strategy, we are, in a sense, waving a flag of surrender to an insect. We are essentially […]

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    Sahbu Interviews | Mass Grave Site, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Liberia Sahbu Interviews | Mass Grave Site, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Liberia

    Sahbu Interviews | Mass Grave Site, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Liberia

Sahbu Interviews | Mass Grave Site, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Liberia

“people were not expecting for that to happen in a church compound” We conducted these interviews last October at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, the site of a massacre in Liberia in 1990. Patrick Baysah and Matthew Goma shared their accounts of that fateful day. Near the end of this clip, Matthew tells the of story of his brother, who was killed during the massacre at the church. Hit play to learn more about one of the bloodiest chapters in Liberian history from two West Africans who know. Patrick on life: “Sometimes it is terrible. Sometimes it is fine.”

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    Inside LACC Asset Declaration Verification Report Inside LACC Asset Declaration Verification Report

    Inside LACC Asset Declaration Verification Report

Inside LACC Asset Declaration Verification Report

Since the formation of Liberia’s republican governance system, public service has largely been regarded by most Liberians as shortcut to prosperity. When an official leaves public life without owning huge properties and colossal bank accounts, he’s regarded a stupid person. This quick-wealth mentality of Liberians toward public service not only sustains the culture of loot, plunder and thievery by a few persons but also leaves a majority of citizens in squalor and underpins the country’s political and social upheavals. To tackle these consequential effects of corruption in the public service, the postwar government of Liberia has made it nearly obligatory for all officials to declare their assets before accession to public office—something scores of them have already done. But a probe of the declarations unveils something startling: many officials failed to comply, some provided half-baked information, and even though others complied honestly. The Analyst looks at a report published this week by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission. The LACC says out of the 63 officials of Government from 7 ministries, agencies and public corporations who had declaresod their assets to the Commission, it has booked several persons for misrepresentations and unexplained wealth accumulation while others could not be verified for various reasons and some officials failed to cooperate. The Commission also announced that it could not complete the verification of assets of some officials. In a report published in Monrovia, the LACC sais while its verification exercise portends tremendous opportunities for success in the fight against corruption, there were difficulties due to the unscrupulous behaviors of some officials in the asset declaration process. The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is the cardinal Government of Liberia (GoL) Agency charged with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting acts of […]

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    Mud Huts: Resourcefulness of the People Observed Mud Huts: Resourcefulness of the People Observed

    Mud Huts: Resourcefulness of the People Observed

Mud Huts: Resourcefulness of the People Observed

During our most recent trip to Liberia, Africa, the Sahbu team spent most of the trip on a 6 day backpack adventure deep into the jungle. One of the things we became curious about was the methods of building construction. There were many small towns deep in the jungle that we visited along our trek . Most of them were not accessible by vehicles of any kind due the impossibility of crossing the rivers. The only means of crossing the river was by manmade canoes and thus everything must be carried by hand including food, clothing, and of course building materials. The buildings, or “mud huts” as they are called, are built from the only materials readily available. First long straight sticks are collected from the jungle. Bamboo was used typically.   The sticks were lashed together in a grid spacing the sticks about 10’’ horizontally and vertically. With the grid complete, the native soil was mixed with water to create a mud that would be packed into both sides of the grid. This type of building was expected to last 10 to 15 years after which a fresh mud pack would be in order. Towns closer to the difficult river crossings often had corrugated metal roofs. Carrying the metal to the towns further from the river was not practical and those roofs were made of palm leaves. We especially enjoyed the palm leaf roofs and their picturesque qualities, but much more upkeep is required if they are to keep out the heavy rains of the African jungle!

Sahbu to Attempt Rescue of Two Liberian Girls from Slavery

Sahbu will attempt its first-ever rescue mission to release two young girls from captivity-forced labor in Monrovia, Liberia, at the end of the month. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRLog (Press Release) – Jan. 23, 2013 – PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — Sahbu, will attempt its first-ever rescue mission to release two children from captivity-forced labor in Monrovia, Liberia, at the end of the month. Mitch Weight, founder of Sahbu, will travel with colleagues to Liberia on January 30 with the resources necessary to have Zoe (age 6) and her sister Baby (age 5)  released from an enslaved life of hard labor. Strategy and tact are in the honing stage, as this much anticipated mission is only a week away. Mr. Weight learned of these two young girls on a trip to Liberia last October. He met many children, including Zoe and Baby that are currently enslaved, and is determined to rescue them. Since that trip, he has been working with social services in Liberia, developing a plan to return these girls to their family and to provide them with scholarships for school – hoping also to establish a process to rescue additional enslaved children.

Education is Key in Liberia

When Sahbu visited Liberia in October of 2012, they learned something…that education is the key to a better Liberia. Enjoy these interview snippets with squatters, child prostitutes, pastors, school founders, and students to learn more about the real life situations these people face in Liberia. Follow us on Facebook and visit our site.

Liberian Child Soldiers

Pat: This morning we met with a group of former child soldiers. The horrors they faced and atrocities they committed during Liberia’s 15-year civil war are unimaginable to most Americans. One man told us of a rape he committed when his SBU (small boy unit) attacked a university campus in Monrovia. Years later, the woman he raped spotted him on the street. She spoke out. He ignored her cries. Another man, David, had a more gruesome story to tell. As a child soldier high on heroin and cocaine, David made a bet with a boy in his unit on the sex of a woman’s unborn baby. After killing the woman “with a bullet,” David said he used a bayonet to slice open her stomach. It was a boy, and the man I interviewed won 1,500 Liberian dollars, about $15 U.S. today. He told me that incident remains one of his biggest regrets in life.

A Visit to Bong County

Mitch: Started the day at 4am…we drove 3 hours out to the jungle (Bong Mines is the name of the area), and met with Chinese Mine officials that are supposed to be renovating a school, but aren’t getting it done (they got mining rights in exchange for fixing a road, a school and a hospital…none of which are done). We negotiated to get a town hall meeting next week and to have Lifting Liberia help direct the project. We went to the Bong Mines High School and met with two girls on scholarship with Lifting Liberia. One of them, Roselane, had been taken advantage of by an older man who promised to pay her school fees in exchange for sex (she never got them paid, but she did get two babies…and no way to feed them). The other girl, Fatu, had been making charcoal in the jungle (cut down a tree, chop it into pieces, wrap it in leaves and grass, dig a hole, start a fire in it and drop the tree parts in it…burn for a few days until it’s charcoal…oh, and sleep next to it on the ground all the time so nobody steals it).