Liberia marks its founding and independence amid challenges

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LOUISIANA, Liberia – Liberia is celebrating two major anniversaries this year – 200 years ago freed slaves from the United States arrived here and 25 years later they declared the country independent.

Amid Independence Day festivities on Tuesday, many Liberians say the West African country’s promise is not being kept and that too many of its people still live in poverty.

“Liberia has gone back 50 years or more,” says Richard Cooper, a 67-year-old farmer from Louisiana Township outside the capital, Monrovia.

“We’ve had government after government, people coming in and out of power, doing their own thing without consulting or satisfying the masses,” he told The Associated Press on a dusty road outside his two-room house.

“We put governments in power to meet some of our needs in return, but now the masses are suffering,” Cooper said, munching on popcorn. “Liberia should have been a better country if the leaders had the country at heart. The money is here; but where is he going? In the pockets of a few.

Nearly 20 years after the country’s back-to-back civil wars killed an estimated 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003, children in Liberia still yearn for the opportunity to go to school, he said.

Information Minister Lederhood Rennie, however, said big celebrations for these anniversaries are needed to boost national pride and honor the work of many to build the nation.

“This country has a rich history…Liberia was the pedestal of black independence south of the Sahara…other black nations saw Liberia as a shining nation on the African continent,” Rennie told AP as he supervised. preparations in the national stadium for the independence celebrations.

The United States has had a lasting influence on this West African country. The flag, constitution, form of government, and many laws of Liberia are modeled after those of the United States. The capital is named for the fifth US President, James Monroe, who was in power when freed slaves were repatriated.

Former slaves established an oppressive regime that ruled the native population with an iron fist from their arrival until 1980, when native soldiers led a military coup against President William Tolbert. Tolbert – whose family emigrated from South Carolina in the 1870s – was horribly murdered by rebel soldiers.

The prolonged trauma of civil wars followed, and then the reign of Nobel Prize-winning president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

A persistent problem has been corruption, which many believe is largely responsible for the underdevelopment and slow economic growth of an otherwise resourceful country of less than 6 million people.

US Ambassador Michael A. McCarthy was blunt in a speech earlier this year.

“We would not be good stewards of American taxpayers’ money, nor would we be good partners with Liberia, if we sat quietly and said nothing while bad governance and corruption continued unchecked. impunity,” he said.

US Ambassador to the United Nations and former US Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in a recent commentary on Liberia, said, “Corruption is an act of theft, pure and simple. It is a cancer in our societies. It is the government stealing from the people of Liberia, in the mouths of children… Corruption is a killer of democracy, and we cannot have that in a place like Liberia, which we rely on as a bulwark for the democracy in Africa.

International soccer star turned president George Weah has been accused of failing to deliver on key campaign promises to fight corruption and secure justice for the victims of the country’s brutal wars.

Midway through its fifth year, the Weah government has so far failed to attract foreign direct investment. Youth unemployment is stubbornly high and public institutions face enormous challenges. Health care is almost non-existent, as Weah and officials are frequently criticized for amassing wealth and building expensive properties.

Weah denies the charges, saying his government keeps its promises.

For all Liberia’s problems, many say the nation has much to be proud of.

“It’s the only country in the world founded by African Americans,” said Saqar Ahhah Ahershu, a black American from New Jersey who came to Liberia to celebrate his independence. “The feeling of freedom is what I feel in Liberia. Liberia is a feeling that I believe cannot be replicated anywhere in the world.

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