July 26th – President Sirleaf

August 3, 2009

Well folks, after the recent life changing experience and re-birth 🙂 I am trying to get back at it!  So, let me start with the recent national celebration that took place in Liberia this past week.  The 26th of July is the Liberian counterpart to July 4th in the U.S.  It is the annual celebration/anniversary of the formal establishment of the Republic.  Being here really brings you to a reality of understanding the difference between developed, developing, under-developed and post conflict countries.  It is also easy to get desensitized to international issues when you see the saturation of madness on tv in the states morning, afternoon, evening, and night.  But, as we were preparing to start the days activities a reminder that Liberia is post conflict showed up.  Liberia is one of those countries with one of the highest number of UN troops in the world.  While we were standing there, they started to show up to prepare for the arrival of the President.  Pretty interesting to see…

UN Troops

I pretty much just stood off on the side checking things out and observing.  I watched them secure the area even with metal detectors to make sure all was good for the arrival of the President.  President Sirleaf was coming to Cuttington for the dedication of the Madame Suakoko monument I posted on earlier but also to dedicate several new projects on campus.  As you can imagine, when the President comes…so does Chaos…never-the-less, things went well and it was really wonderful to see her up close and in action.

Troops Searching

After the UN did their thing…the Liberian National Police started to show up…what a sight 🙂  Of course at this time, security came up to me to ask me what I was doing standing over on the side taking pictures…who exactly am I?  Showed my Id…and, things kept moving right along…

Nat Police

Quite a crowd showed up!  Dignitaries, UN observers, Politicians, many locals…but the traditional dancers were awesome.  I have some amazing video to post one I return.  I would upload it here, but it would take so long I would probably miss my plane next week.  If you are looking for a camera, check out the LUMIX/Panasonic DMC-ZS1…small camera, but ridiculously powerful and has amazing quality…ok, enough with the commercial!

As I was saying, the dancers were amazing…had to take this picture though…Check out the guy with the Gold Hat and the drum in the middle…Traditional hat and outfit…look at his feet…Nike Shoes?  East meets West…tradition meets modernization…? Traditional African Drummer with Nike Shoes on?  Man….Just Do it?  Well, at least they weren’t Air Jordans…let’s hope anyway 🙂

East.West

I took so many wonderful pictures of Her Excellency Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.  Some call her the Iron Lady as a descriptor of how strong she has to be to bring this country back…and she is doing an amazing job of it.  But, many Liberians call her ‘Old Ma’…when you see her in person you see why…she has this spirit and demeanor about her that just calms everything down…like when you were a kid doing something that you justified to yourself, but know good and dag on well…ok, the old Malik would of cursed here…you didn’t have any business doing it…but then, ‘Old Ma’ shows up and instead of arguing about it, she just looks at you, you drop your head and just walk away…that is her…her spirit is most captivating…I really enjoyed this part of just standing accross from her and snapping pictures while she talked…absolutely fascinating…she has the type of presence that makes you sit down and think about what you are doing even if you aren’t doing anything 🙂

Pres II

This is the President taking a shovel full of dirt at the Madame Suakoko monument ground breaking…tell me that isn’t a great picture 🙂

Pres III

Just had to add in this picture of ‘my man’ with the ‘gat’….he had a look on his face that said…”don’t know body make a move until I say so”  🙂  Just kidding, very curtious…very professional…just reminder, that Liberia is post-conflict, and in a world with so many competing interests, you can’t rely on assumptions of civility by others…there is too much at stake!!!  Considering that there has been more than enough war here…this was a refreshing sight!

Sec

Just throwing in a pic of a UN soldier from the Bangladesh Contingency…They were out in force…to help make sure it was a good day!

Sec II

If you keep up with international news, then you are familiar with the current trial of former War Lord/President of Liberia Charles Taylor.  Well, when he first started his insurgency after receiving his training from the guerrilla training camps sponsored in Libya, Taylor set up shop in Gbarnga and also used Cuttington University as a training facility for his crew.  After the initial celebratory activities at Cuttington, the next day we proceeded up to Gbarnga for a more formal activity.  This is the county administration building where the even was held.  If you do some reading or are familiar with West Africa, then you know that many of the klans have secret societies that they use to transfer their culture from one generation to the next.  This has become challenged and for the most part has experienced some change because of the influx of modernization…but out in the interior of the country you still see signs of it…at some of the traditional dances you will see images of the ‘Devil’, ‘Forest Devil’, ‘Forest Thing’…being Kwii  :)…I don’t have full knowledge of it all, but I have read rather extensively…and it is most interesting…I’ll post more on Kwii at a latter time 🙂

Event II

They were most excited…I mean these folks stood for hours at a time…just waiting on the President to come…it was amazing…if you look in the crowd you will see some absolutely amazing colors in their outfits…it was a sight…again, I have amazing video that you must see…I’ll post in a little over a week.

Event I

We then entered into the main hall…where 1,000 people participated in the official ceremony…the head of the ECOWAS committee was present…the President of Equatorial Guniea was there, along with the first national orator who also serves as a provincial chief…I believe he was somewhere around 96 years old…I’ll bet you he has some stories to tell…plenty of wives and plenty of children…and obviously plenty of naturally occuring aspirin or earplugs 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Event

It was long…felt like I was in church…in fact, I started thinking about sneaking out of church and going down the street to the store to use my offering money to buy some grape Now & Laters…I’ll just take the beating…then, I rememberd…they don’t have that here…sorry dad!  🙂  Anyway, once President Sirleaf got up to speak….man, ‘Old Ma’ rocked it!  She got everyone all fired up…She has got the gift…and believe me…if you know anything about the history of Liberia…even just over the past 20 years…you know…’Old Ma’ is what is needed here!

Sirleaf Speaking

Ok…I have got quite a number of pics…I’ll be posting them on my web-site once I get back…in the mean time…I’ll post again…hopefully by Weds.  I’m still crazy sore…but, as Celie said in the Color Purple…’But, I’m here….Dear God…I’s here”…. 🙂  Amazingly…people have been coming from everywhere just to come tell me they are sorry…and are apologizing for the accident with such sincerity you would think they felt they were responsible for it.  Such beautiful people in many ways…I’ve taken notes on that…and on my last post…will talk about some of that…

In the mean time…next time you get a chance…that little goat you see on the side of the road when you are driving…take him home, get some peppper, some onions and a few other things…I have really started to like the taste….laughing…

http://www.takingownership.org

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