An offshore free-for-all

The Africa Report
Accra, Freetown and Monrovia

Brightly painted wooden fishing canoes are as much a feature of West Africa’s coastline as its crashing waves, sandy beaches and palm trees. Millions of people depend on fishing for their livelihoods and for food. National economies and foreign-exchange earnings are given a boost by vibrant fisheries industries. Yet at least one fifth of the catch is lost to illegal fishing, a problem that has been assessed by the Marine Resources Assessment Group as costing up to $9bn worldwide and $1bn in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Continue reading An offshore free-for-all

How one Liberian helps others speak out

Christian Science Monitor
Monrovia, Liberia

Activist: Aloysius Toe helped start a network of volunteers that reports human rights abuses in Liberia (Tugela Ridley)
Activist: Aloysius Toe helped start a network of volunteers that reports human rights abuses in Liberia (Tugela Ridley)

Aloysius Toe’s wife and children were crying, huddled together as a gang of armed men beat at the front door threatening to kill him. He could not call the police because the armed men were the police. Mr. Toe’s crime was speaking out against Charles Taylor’s violent regime in Liberia.

On that October night in 2002, Toe listened as 19 policemen kicked in the door and smashed up his house looking for him. When they did not find him, the officers dragged his wife into the street, threw her in the back of a truck and sped off. Continue reading How one Liberian helps others speak out

U.S. military expands role in West Africa

Christian Science Monitor
Monrovia, Liberia

Ready, fight! A marine gives two Liberian soldiers a martial arts lesson last month aboard the USS Fort McHenry (Tugela Ridley)
Ready, fight! A marine gives two Liberian soldiers a martial arts lesson last month aboard the USS Fort McHenry (Tugela Ridley)

Brightly painted tattoos snake down Sgt. Joe Palko’s outstretched arms as he separates two fighters in protective headgear and boxing gloves.

It is morning onboard the USS Fort McHenry, a 600-foot amphibious landing ship, and US Marines are teaching martial arts on the “Well Deck” deep in the ship’s hull. Staff Sgt. William Sudbrock restarts the timer and a group of Liberian soldiers watch as their comrades lay into each other. Continue reading U.S. military expands role in West Africa

Americans go a-wooing

The Economist
Monrovia, Liberia

In the dying days of Charles Taylor’s murderous regime in Liberia, the American navy moored off his capital, Monrovia. Some 200-plus marines came ashore to secure the American embassy against trigger-happy rebels and crowds of panicking civilians alike, as the city burned. Five years on, American forces are back, in the shape of an amphibious landing ship 190 metres (600 feet) long and a smaller high-speed catamaran. Continue reading Americans go a-wooing

Keeping the country afloat

The Economist
Monrovia, Liberia

In a smoky office on Bushrod Island, the ashtray on his desk brimming over with cigarette butts, a shipping agent explains why the tiny west African nation of Liberia has the world’s second-largest fleet registered under its flag. “The rules change from country to country and they get laxer and laxer all the way down the chain until you reach Liberia,” he says.

Continue reading Keeping the country afloat

All-female unit keeps peace in Liberia

Christian Science Monitor
Monrovia, Liberia

Behind rows of razor wire, a machine gun peeking over the sandbags is trained on the road below. This is just one of many fortified compounds in the Congo Town suburb of Liberia’s war-ravaged capital, Monrovia. But this compound is different, because everyone inside – from the armed guards to the cooks responsible for the inviting scent of curry that wafts around at lunchtime – is female. Continue reading All-female unit keeps peace in Liberia

While aid trickles in, Liberians get creative to make ends meet

Christian Science Monitor
Monrovia, Liberia

The walls are missing and the ceiling is snaked with cracks. When it rains, puddles form on the uneven concrete floor over which a twisted jumble of extension cords and power strips weave toward a small diesel generator chugging away in the corner.

It’s a typical workplace in Monrovia, the overcrowded capital of this war-ravaged West African nation, and it’s home to the grandly titled Association of Liberian Professional Secretaries and Clerks, where rows of customers learn to type on old computers. Continue reading While aid trickles in, Liberians get creative to make ends meet

Free at last?

Sunday Herald
Monrovia, Liberia

Sugar Hill, Monrovia, and the pungent smell of exhaled opium wafts out of the glassless window of a wooden shack. Close by, a young boy sifts through a field of rubbish looking for plastic bottles to re-sell, while behind him another child squats to defecate among the smouldering junk. There are no toilets here – no schools, no jobs and little hope.

“I’ve been living here for 15 years and nothing’s improved,” says Iota Trotman, 35, a trainee mechanic and father of four. Continue reading Free at last?