Friday, March 16, 2012

The Freedom Struggle

A Jinkins James Advanture
Seated and determined to complete the 10th grade at the Victory Chapel Academy this year, Jinkins Janmes, 21, narrated how he became a rock crusher to support his education and himself. “My aunty Rita brought me to Monrovia from Douplay in Nimba County to attend school in 2005. She paid my tuition for just one semester and told me I was responsible for myself. That was how I got into this struggle,” He explained to the Insight. In 2007, two years after selling doughnut for his aunty, Mr. James gained his freedom from Ms. Rita who was only providing him with shelter and less than enough food to survive, as he sold her pastery from one point of Paynesville to another. According to him, since then he had been trying to achieve academic education the best way he could by venturing different types of business. Taking up time from crushing a stockpile of huge igneous rocks, Mr. James futher explained that he sold earrings and later became a masoner-helper to raise money to attend the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC), where he study tiles laying and masonery, while he lived with friends. Though crushing rocks without the approprieate mechinery is a difficult task, the young James said it was better because he can now pay his own rental, buy clothe and food, and most importantly pay his own tuition. “Thank God I left Aunty Rita’s House, today I can take care of myself and things that I need. You may ask while I am bursting rocks instead of doing masonery, the answer is simple. It gives me fast money than working as a masoner helper,” he said. Asked if he had the opportunity to work with the cico during the renovation to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Congo Town about 1.5km away from his Kpelle Town home, Mr. James said he did not work along with the company because they were offering low wage. “In a week’s time, If business is not good, I make about three thousand dollars (L$3,000) from selling rocks; if business is good I make up to five thousand dollars (L$5,000). While should I leave that to go work for seventeen dollars (US$17) weekly,” Mr. James asked. He said with the rock crushing he was sure that he would not drop from school because people around the country are untaking construction that required crushed rocks which means he would not run out of money to meet his needs. Mr. Jinkins James considered himself as an underprivilaged young person who have made significant strides despite the oppression he suffered from his aunty who decieved his parents that she was bring him to go to school. “I will like to tell people up country to know who they are giving their children to because I am a victim who is still hoping to make my people happy the day I meet them,” he warned. The act of some rural parents letting their children come to Monrovia with an aunty or uncle in order to acquire education goes a long way back into history. During the early 1890s and before then, settlers visited the hinterland of Liberia and adopted children of the aborigines; some of those children became prominent people in the society then and today. However, many more like Jinkins James became mere house helpers who did not find their way “back to their roots.”

Liberians Pay Homage to the Dead

Cemeteries around Liberia Last Wednesday received an influx of families, friends and love ones who when out to paint the tombs and clean the graveyards of their falling ones. As a tradition to most Liberians, every second Wednesday in March, marks the day which the burial place and graves of love ones should be tidy as a sign of respect for the dead. Our reporter visited several cementries including the Muslim burial place situated in the old road community to get a feel of how people in the country observed Decoration Day. Some of the cementries, besides the Muslim burial place, toured by our reporter were the J.C.N. Howard Cemetery, Congo Town Cemetery and the Palm Groove Cemetery on Center Street which had dramatic scenes of people weeping, mourning, drinking, cleaning around the graves, and meeting old friends. From early morning on March 14, to the afternoon hours, the old rugged weedy graveyards became brillantly sparkling with colors of all sort and all the grassed were cut and either burnt or thrown away. But such moods was unique to ‘Christain’s graveyards’ as the ‘Muslim’s burial place’ was perhaps, not visited, by the relatives of those falling Liberians who were buried there. Some may agree that there is nothing at the Muslim Cemetery to be decorated because the graves of several thousands Liberian Muslims who were have been buried there cannot be recognized by tombstones. Speaking to one a professed Muslim on how they when about observing Decoration Day, Asatu Kromah, 46, said since she was a child she remembered her parents having feast for the dead rather than ‘waisting resources’ on the graves of people that would benefit nobody any more. She said “monies used to build comfortable tombs, buy luxurous caskets, get expensive suits and decorate graves for the dead” as a Muslim tradition were diverted to helping an impoverished family member who is alive while the dead is wraped in special clothe and buried in the dirt. But many professed Christains who spoke to our reporter viewed Decoration Day as the day when they should paid homage to the people who they loved. “I am a little taking aback to hear that is how the Muslims regard their falling ones. Check the Bible it is there, ‘do onto others as it shall be done onto you.’ In everyday life if you want to other people to respect you must respect them, and it can also be applied to the dead,” Mr. Morris Milton said. The past Decoration Day was sad thoug people tried to make it seem like a festive day. It became more saddened to people who where at the J.C.N. Howard who discovered the remains of an individual loitering between some graves. Accordign to some of the people who lived around the area, people often dumped the body of their dead relatives in the cemetery durng the night for reasons best known to them. Some said the remains that was discovered could have belong to a family who could not afford funeral cost to give the person whose remain was found a befitting burial.

Monday, March 12, 2012

60% Focus Needed

- Says Ms. Juli Endee on girl’s empowerment Ms. Juli Endee, from Liberian Crusaders for Peace, have called on the government and people of Liberia to give at least 60% focus to girls empowerment if women are to be on par with their male counterpart. Madam Endee said as an African tradition, it was only boys who had the opportunity to go school while the girls stay home and dealt with house chores which had kept some Liberian girls far behind men. According to Ms. Endee when she spoke at a press briefing which focus on the activities for celebration of today, March 8, International Women's Day, it was about time that girls empowerment be prioritized so they can become productive citizens in society. These statements were based on the fact that several young women in the country according to reports have become ‘sex workers’ in other to support themselves and their families. Ms. Stella Twea, UNFPA Gender Adviser who presented on behave of United Nations family, their work with regards to working with national and international partners in strengthening the development opportunities for women and young girls in Liberia, alluded to the fact when she addressed the press briefing. She said girls around the world are being pushed by poverty into sex work and early age marriage in order to get what they must to survive. The Gender Adviser at UNFPA pointed out that most sex workers and under age (below 18) girls who are married out are vulnerable to implications which increases the country’s mortality rate. Though UN agencies and the GOL have worked to empower girls in the country, Ms. Twea said in years the UN and government of Liberia will be implementing programs that promotes girls empower as one unlike now. She acknowledged that there are vocational training programs which is improving the lives of many young women and girls and victims of sexual exploitation in urban areas of Liberia but stressed the need for women and girls in rural parts of the country to feel the impact of those programs. Ms. Twea disclosed that since January there have been at least 62 reported rape cases of which 58 involved young girls in their early teen age.

UNMIL Exit Not Soon

TAM Head of Mission Predicts Longer Stay As UNMIL Gets Reconfigured Mr. Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations and head of the United Nations (UN) third Technical Assessment Mission (TAM) to Liberia has predicted that the UN Mission in Liberia could spend more years in the country before the mission is withdrawn. According to Mr. Mulet when he addressed a news conference last Friday at the UNMIL Pan African Plaza Headquarters in Monrovia, an exit strategy for UNMIL would be premature; rather the mission which has been in the country for about nine years would be reconfigured to support the priorties of the Liberian Government. He said members of TAM has been in the country for about two weeks and has been holding series of consultative meetings with state actors on the progress the country has made since the end of the civil conflict that plagued the nation. Among those with whom the TAM has met, are President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Several Cabinet Ministers and some stake holders who have given the assessment mission information that could reflect a well rounded view of the entire situation in the before the TAM arrived. Though he did not disclose the details from the meetings, Mr. Mulet said the UNMIL will leave the country when the Government of Liberia becomes fully ready to take on the roles being occupied by the mission. “We have been meeting with the president and other stakeholders to discuss the remarkable progress the country have made since 2003. Let me say this, UNMIL is not leaving now. An exit strategy for the mission will be premature. Right now our [UN] focus will be on building the capacity of the various sectors in the country,” Mr. Mulet said. From all indications, it seems that the UNMIL has completed phase 1 of its existence in the country which has to do with the consolidation of peace and is currently at phase 2 where it is implementing draw downs and providing supports to the government to build a vibrant society that would sustain the peace after phase 3 of the mission which is withdrawal. According to the TAM Head of Mission, there still exist challenges and risks in the country in areas of economy and social development, unemployment, and nation’s security sector among others. He said because the country is fast evolving, there was a need for the UNMIL to adapt their over all strategy to meet the needs of present-day Liberia; thus prompting the reconfiguration of the mission. “You are adapting your own priorities now. We too have to adapt to support the government. During the reconfiguration of the mission, for instance, there maybe some draw downs, like we could be reducing the Military force and keep the UNPOL and the FPU; but we will do nothing to distort the peace in Liberia,” Mr. Mulet said. Asked how soon could he predict that the UNMIL will be pulling out of the country, Mr. Mulet said the mission coming to an end depends on the government own speed in preparation to take over from the mission. The Assistant Secretary-General of Peace Keeping Operations stated that there could be more Technical Assessment Missions coming to the country over the next four years to view the progress the country would make during the reconfigured stay of UNMIL. Mr. Muler re-emphasized the need for a stronger economy, social and budgetary empowerment strategy in the country in preparation for the Mission’s withdrawal. He called on all Liberians, international partners and the UN to work together to improve the Liberian society. Although he did not say that the Liberian Government activities was centralized or concentrated in Montserrado alone, Mr. Mulet stated that deconcentration and decentralization of all every public activities are part of a democratic process and Liberia must work towards that. Mr. Mulet recommitted the United Nations to stand by Liberia, one of its funding member states, during its endeavor toward lasting peace. Meanwhile, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) to Liberia, Mr. Moustapha Soumare, also at the news conference, answered to questions of alleged rebel activities in the forest of Liberia. The acting SRSG said, the issue is of concern to the UN as it is to the people and government of Liberia. He re-echoed that investigators from UNMIL as well as the Liberian government are probing the allegation whether it is factual or mare speculation. “The UN remains committed to the sustainable peace in Liberia and will do all it can to keep that peace unhampered,” he said.