Wednesday, July 26, 2006


On Tubman Boulevard, Congo Town, Independence Day 2006.

When the lights were tested on Monday, July 24th, the rejoicing in the streets was very much like it was the day we heard Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had won the Presidency. Even those of us who use generators here could not help but cheer. It's wonderful to see that we, as a nation, are moving forward.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Justice for Saah Samukai

At last! After a lengthy trial, three suspects were convicted today for the murder of Saah Samukai.

After Saah's funeral last October, we stood with his mother in the hospital and didn't know what to say (see "Heaven Cried Too"). Back then I don't think we even believed justice was possible; people literally do get away with murder here all the time. Case in point: the convicted men are only three of the 11 armed robbers that attacked the Samukai family that night, and if Mrs. Tamba (as I call Saah's mother) had not thrown acid on one of them, they may never have been caught.

I didn't know what to say that day in the hospital, but a month later, when I saw an ad in the paper for a short-term media consultancy on an arms control project, I knew what I had to do to be a part of the solution. That short-term consultancy has turned into a full-time communications job and news of the verdict makes it extra sweet.

Although the frontpage headline of the Daily Observer says the killers face hanging, it's hard to believe that they will have to pay for their crime. Is this really the beginning of a new day in our justice system? Will there really be justice for Saah Samukai? We can wait and see, or we can rise up - individually and collectively - to make sure justice is served.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Welcome Public Notice

A welcome notice on a new light pole near the YWCA, Congo Town, Monrovia. Liberia has not had public lighting for 16 years!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mexco Zidane's Ataye Shop

Ataye Shops are a fairly new phenomenon here in Liberia. "Ataye" is a strong tea served in tiny glasses. The fun is in the mixing of it. The server puts the already brewed tea in a small plastic cup, puts in some sugar, and, instead of stirring, he pours the tea from the plastic cup into the glass and vice versa several times (in a very long stream) to mix it.

Ataye shops have become men's clubs ("because women don't like the strong flavor of the tea," someone explains to me) and are always alive with discussions, debates and answers to Liberia's problems. Today, at Mexco Zidane's Ataye Shop on Maryland Avenue in Harper City (Maryland County), the talk is about who should win the World Cup. I'm not really following the argument but I hear the words "Ronaldinho" "Brazil" "Portugal" "France" and something about unequal match-ups and some country taking all the African players. Mexco (aka Mohammed) offers me my very first glass of Ataye. I say no at first, but he insists and I accept. It is strong, but surprisingly sweet and not at all unpleasant.