Insufficient lighting, poor maintenance plagues hinterland airstrips

first_img…major upgrades expected this year – MPIGuyana’s hinterland aerodromes are slated for major upgrades this year as the Public Infrastructure Ministry (MPI) begins the process of establishing a remote monitoring operation to be known as Aerodrome Management System (AMS).This system which will allow for monitoring of the aerodromes without physical presence, falls under the Ministry’s latest project – the Hinterland Aerodrome Development Policy (HADP).Residents and officials of Paramakatoi attend a meeting held by the MPI team during the recent village consultationThe project consists of four areas: the development of a policy to address hinterland aerodromes; the development of an administrative framework; the addressing of maintenance issues, and the sustainability of the aerodromes.The project was recently launched and will see MPI officials visiting hinterland communities to physically assess the airstrips and receive input from residents on the best way forward.In fact, on Tuesday and Wednesday last the team visited the villages of Kato and Paramakatoi in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni). The airstrips in these communities are just two of more than a dozen that are expected to be upgraded from across the four hinterland regions, that is, Regions One (Barima-Waini), Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo).The team of six comprised of Director (ag) of Air Transport Management Saheed Sulaman; Chief Transport Planning Officer Patrick Thompson; Transport Planning Officer/Engineer Ryan Singh; Transport Planning Technician Jamaal Blair; Surveyor James Lindo; and Surveying Technician Alain Sirius.During its first stop in Kato, the team met with the Regional Executive Officer (REO), Rafael Downes; Deputy Regional Executive Officer (DREO), Gavin Gounga; and Regional Democratic Councillor (RDC) Courtney Hardy. The deputy Toshao of Kato was also present. The team also spent time surveying and assessing the Kato airstrip.During discussions, REO Downes highlighted a number of issues of the Kato airstrip, including the lack of lights, potholes, poor maintenance, and no fencing. He suggested the introduction of a regulatory body to ultimately improve the service provided to far-flung communities, noting that there are cancellations with no warning. These cancellations greatly set back the community which heavily relies on planes arriving thrice a week, he said:“What we need here is a regulatory body that would visit air services… if we are going to move forward so taxpayers can benefit, we have to have a regulatory body. This is especially important if we are to develop tourism in the hinterland.”He also called for better communication among the MPI and those officials and residents in hinterland communities.Similarly in Paramakatoi, residents and village councillors expressed concern over the safety of the airstrips. They noted that Paramakatoi airstrip is one that serves the largest village in sub-region one.The residents noted that there are no lights at the airstrip and this shortcoming was both a threat and deterrence to pilots. They added that it was particularly difficult in situations of emergencies, such as transporting the sick out of the community.“These pilots are taking a risk to save someone’s life; the least we can do is let them see where they are going,” one resident stressed.Residents also raised concerns over maintenance of the airstrip as well as its length. According to the deputy Toshao, an extension of the runway is long overdue. He added that while the village was willing to work along with persons from Georgetown, the village council would prefer more control over the airstrip’s management.“Georgetown should not be dictating to us who must do this or who must do that,” he emphasised.Instead the protocols and policies of the airstrip should be shared with the village council to allow for some level of autonomy and improved management.Meanwhile, the residents admitted that they have been lax in some areas of management of the airstrip, especially in regards to the presence of people and animals.While the airstrip had initially been completely fenced, residents over the years cut these fence and placed gates to create ready access on either side of the airstrip. Animals have also been able to enter the airstrip through these openings.Residents explained that while they understood the prohibition of animals and people on the airstrip, the recent drought has made it difficult to access water on one side of Paramakatoi. Therefore they cross the airstrip each day to fetch water from the other side.The village council indicated its intention to address this issue. Sulaman in turn urged residents to adhere to regulations and warned that the presence of obstacles on the airstrip could prove to be a deterrence to pilots coming in to Paramakatoi.“An airstrip is an asset to a community; it serves as the economic livelihood of that community so, if air operators decide that they’re not coming here, you will ultimately suffer,” he emphasised.Furthermore, Sulaman stressed that as part of the new pilot project, the MPI will be focusing primarily on the maintenance and sustainability of aerodromes.In coming weeks the team will be visiting other hinterland airstrips on fact finding missions that will ultimately lead to the establishment of AMS.According to Thompson, who has more than a decade of experience with the Ministry, the current system is complicated, with the use of traditional methods slowing down work.“We want to collect data of the aerodromes we’re visiting and make a note of their deficiencies so, going forward, when we talk about upgrading the aerodromes, we’ll know exactly what needs to be done,” he said.Besides Kato and Paramakatoi, the other airstrips that will be assessed are: Baramita; Port Kaituma; Kamarang; Kaikan; Ekereku Bottom; Eterinbang; Bartica; Fairview; Surama; Karanambo; Annai; Lethem; Aishalton; and Mahdia.last_img read more

AFL Completes ‘Operation Watch Over’ in Mali

first_imgA Platoon of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) assigned with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali will for the first time participate in the medal parade in that West African state.To form part of the ceremony, the Minister of National Defense, Brownie J. Samukai, Jr., as head of an 18-man delegation departed the country on Wednesday for Mali to observe the AFL’s participation in the UN Medal Parade.Minister Samukai was authorized by the Commander-In-Chief (C-I-C) of the army and President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to participate in the first Medal Parade for the AFL troops serving under the MINUSMA mission in Diabali, Mali.Minister Samukai is being accompanied by the Chief of Staff (COS) of the AFL, Brigadier General Daniel Dee Ziankahn among others to witness the ceremony that is scheduled for Friday, June 6 in Mali. While in Mali, the Liberian delegation will assess the status, conditions and well-being of the troops and will hold discussions with Malian authorities on bilateral security cooperation, and with MINUSMA authorities on the rotation of AFL troops.Last year, C-I-C Sirleaf ordered enhanced Infantry Platoon of AFL personnel to Mali to form a part of the peacekeeping operations in June 2013.Prior to departing for Mali, Chief of Staff Ziankahn participated in the third and final leg of the AFL training, code named “Bonfire: Operation Watch Over III.” The exercise was implemented by the AFL in collaboration with authorities at the Ministry of National Defense in Monrovia. Defense authorities were represented at the occasion by the Deputy Minister for Operations, Saint Jerome Larbelee, while other representatives were officials from the offices of the Grand Bassa County Superintendent as well as mentors of the AFL.The well-attended exercise, which climaxed the Bonfire exercise ‘Watch Over’ was held on Wednesday, June 4, in Little Bassa, Grand Bassa County amidst drumming and singing of various Liberian songs led by the AFL Band Unit.Operation Watch Over, according to COS Ziankahn, is part of the AFL’s training involving field exercises where the soldiers are divided into factions fighting a ‘mock war.’ One fighting force used gorilla or jungle/rebel tactics, while the other, under government soldiers’ command, countered the rebel force using conventional warfare tactics.The Little Bassa ceremony was the third and final of a series of such trainings, which the AFL has used over the years to exercise the skills they acquired while in training, and at the same time, socialize with residents of local communities.“Operation Watch Over” is intended to also expose the troops to the different terrains across the country in case of any eventuality so that they will be prepared to defend and protect the territorial limits of Liberia.It is also intended to build the bridge of confidence between civilians and the new army, which operates on the motto, “A Force for Good”.“Because we are a civilian army…, we are obliged to maintain such status where the civilians will build confidence in the men and women of the AFL,” AFL’s 23rd Infantry Brigade Commander, Colonel Prince C. Johnson interjected.Several community members, including Moses Wee, Esther Garmai and Annie Koon, said they had hoped for the return of the soldiers to their community to entertain or reliev them of their various health situation free-of-charge.During the climax of the exercise, the AFL medical outreach team performed medical services for the community and shared gift items that included food and non-food items.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Mother’s Day Preacher Urges Mothers to Serve as Agents of Change

first_imgMrs. Alicia Q. Yancy has urged mothers all over Liberia to serve as agents of change as they make sure children are brought up in a proper manner.Mrs. Yancy, who works with grassroots churches around Liberia, has also declared that mothers across Liberia have huge tasks to handle if they must work in leadership positions in their various churches.She made the call recently when she served as keynote speaker at the Mothers’ Day program held at the Soul Cleansing Clinic of Jesus Christ in Chocolate Factory, Gardnersville Monrovia.The program, which was set to honor the church’s spiritual Mother, Oretha Tonia During for her numerous contributions and hard work, was attended by people of personalities, including Liberty Party political leader, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine and the Publishers of the Daily Observer newspaper, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Y. Best and Mae Gene Best.Mother During’s husband, Pastor J. Adolphus During, had told the Observer’s Women and Family Desk via mobile phone, that the Women’s Ministry had organized the program in order to honor his wife for her services to both her community and church.Still speaking, the guest speaker, Mrs. Yancy said, “This day has been set aside in different parts of Liberia to celebrate mothers and their tireless contributions to society. With this, I want to say that mothers not only in Liberia but all over the world have a huge task ahead of them in making sure that children are brought up in a Godly manner.”However, she added: “While it is true that mothers should be honored and appreciated, it is also glaring that all mothers are not worthy of such glory. I say this because for a home to be uplifted, mothers must play a vital role. So, if we come across mothers, who have brought internal condemnation to motherhood, then they must not be given any kind of praises or honor.”Mother Yancy maintained that mothers should always try to intercede on behalf of their children and husbands.Mrs. Yancy named some characteristics of a good mother as being, “loving, caring, submissive, understanding, God-fearing, intelligent and faithful. When we do not see any woman with such characteristics then we must know that she is not a mother whose footsteps can be followed.”She stated that mothers, no matter what, must remain obedient and submissive to God Almighty.She highlighted that there are two kinds of mothers: ones who have brought pride to motherhood and the others who have eternal condemnation to womanhood.“There are some mothers, who have helped to up-hold the integrity of women through their good works, while there are some women, who do not value their worth as Mothers. But what I will say today is that, if we must see the face of God then we must possess all the good characters to become mothers of substance,” she pointed out.Speaking, too, at the program, Cllr. Brumskine expressed gratitude to the organizers for the kind gesture of inviting him. He encouraged all the honorees to continue to serve as role models to other people, both at the church and community level.Cllr. Brumskine also called on mothers to continue to seek the welfare of their individual families.Also gracing the occasion Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, Managing Director of the Daily Observer said mothers are blessings to every family and must therefore be given the necessary support to seek the welfare of their families.He urged mothers to remain strong and firmed as there are many challenges along the way.“Just like our Mother Mrs. During who has been honored here today, you as Mothers should always be ready to make meaningful contributions to the different societies you form part off. If you are hard working, you will definitely be rewarded tomorrow. Mother During has been of great help to people in her church, community and the society at large, and that is why she is being honored today,” Mr. Best added.In appreciation, Mother During thanked the Women Ministry and the entire church for organizing the program.“I am very grateful that the church can today recognize my good works by honoring me. It has always been my dream to serve the people of God no matter what, and to win souls for Christ.”“However, I will like to say, we will continue to work as a family in ensuring the good news of God is heard all over Liberia,” Mrs. During assured.The Soul Cleansing Clinic of Jesus Christ was established in 1996 by the Holy Spirit through then spiritual Mother Harrietta Nesby.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers

first_imgThe world’s best soccer festival has traveled fives at several centers in Brazil, with smashing but surprising results.At the time of writing, two of Africa’s representatives, Nigeria and neighbor Ghana were scheduled to honor their engagements against Iran and United States respectively late last night.All Africans’ expectation is the expectation the two nations would follow the example of Cote d’Ivoire, who punished Japan 2-1 in their first group match.Against Iran, one of the giants in Asia, there were speculations last night that the Super Eagles would depend on Peter Odemwingie to hold the trump card for the Eagles’ victory.How far that can be ascertained is known by now. For the Black Stars of Ghana, who held some form of psychological victory over the Americans, having beaten them twice in World Cup clashes, Coach Jurgen Klinsman would need more to support his herculean wish against the Black Stars.For the Americans, victory this time would not only erase some of that past pain but also provide a solid base for Klinsmann in his attempt to overcome favorites Germany.Ghana’s John Mensah, who played in the 2010 win over Monday’s opponents as a late call-up, acknowledged the previous games between the two sides will add an extra edge in yesterday’s game in Natal.”It’s going to be like a revenge [match] for the United States, because we beat the United States in 2006 and we beat them in 2010,” Mensah told”Once again we’re playing them in the first game. For the first game of the competition, everybody is focused and nervous, so it’s going to make the game very, very interesting.”Everybody will be expecting something from Ghana and from the United States as well.”It’s a difficult game, but we’ll try as much as possible to win.”USA coach Klinsmann has courted debate with his decision to omit the country’s record goals-corer Landon Donovan from the squad.“Donovan is a fans’ favorite and has been hired to commentate on his former’s team-mates on US television, providing a potentially distracting sub-plot, but full-back Fabian Johnson is fully behind the boss,” according to ESPN.Results have been shattering, especially after Croatia gave favorites, Brazil a scare and the Dutch destroyed the invincibility of Spain to convince the Spanish about the tragedy they are faced in the 2014 World Cup.Another shocking result was the demolishing of Ronaldo’s Portugal 4-0 in their Group G match yesterday.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Montserrado Supt. Recommends Tax Returns

first_imgMontserrado County Superintendent, Florence Brandy says for taxpayers to gain courage and faithfully pay their taxes, there should be tax returns paid to them to enhance their development.Tax returns is an incentive set by government for an individual taxpayer or a region that is regular and efficient in paying government taxes.Superintendent Brandy made the suggestion on January 29 in Bentol during Community Partnership for Revenue Enhancement consultation organized by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).Acting Assistant Commissioner for Real Estate Tax Division, Mrs. Juanita Bropleh and other officials of the LRA had gone there for the first time to begin community partnership awareness with people of the county to see reason to pay government taxes for the advancement of development in the country.Beginning the suggestion, Superintendent Brandy expressed that tax payment was very essential in a country as it relates to development and it was important for people to learn to pay their taxes.She further stressed that people had engaged lands all over Montserrado County and other parts of the country and do not care to develop those lands, calling on government to be decisive in claiming any land on which owners refuse to pay tax.Nevertheless, the Superintendent in her assertion said while it is obligatory and essential to pay taxes, collectors also need to create the conditions for taxpayers to have the zeal by receiving returns on taxes they pay.According to her, every county in Liberia receives US$200,000 as development fund, but when it comes to collecting taxes from each county, over US$10 million is collected from Montserrado.Since such a huge amount comes from Montserrado every year according to the Superintendent, the county and any other county from which taxes are collected should have returns for the taxes they pay to government.In response to the concern raised by Supt. Brandy, an LRA official, Delaruelle Brumskine-Birch, explained the roles of the LRA and other government functionaries connected to tax collection.Mrs. Brumskine-Birch said the LRA is only mandated to abide by the tax code in collecting taxes and reporting taxes collected to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).“It would be a good thing if we can all have tax returns because I pay my tax and so does the head commissioner of LRA.  The current head Commissioner, Mrs. Alfreda Tamba equally pays her taxes and she compels all of us to pay our taxes.  Concerns about returns should be addressed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and not LRA,” she clarified.She further clarified that laws to give tax returns to taxpayers are made by the National Legislature and therefore citizens should hold their lawmakers responsible to pass laws that will allow citizens to receive returns on their taxes.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Fighting Corruption Remains Top Priority

first_imgPresident Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has charged the Ministry of Justice to continue the campaign to make Liberia a corruption-free society.  Addressing heads of Liberia’s security sector when she paid an early morning visit to the Ministry of Justice on Thursday, President Sirleaf said corruption is still a cancer in Liberia and that the Ministry of Justice should stand firm to help weed out this menace from the Liberian society.“We can’t build the roads and improve the schools and improve the salaries and do all of that if there is continued leakage into private purposes,” President Sirleaf stressed.The Liberian leader challenged every Liberian to be involved in the ongoing fight against corruption that has witnessed the creation of institutions such as the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), the Internal Audit Secretariat, and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC). “It is a challenge for all of us. It’s a challenge for almost every Liberian who wants to see public resources used for the betterment of the lives of Liberian people. We can’t have it both ways”, the President added.The President emphasized that in spite of numerous anti-graft legislations, policies, various accountability and integrity institutions, the battle against corruption cannot be won without implementation. Speaking directly to officials of the government’s leading prosecutorial agency, the President Sirleaf directed the Ministry of Justice to step up efforts in prosecuting alleged corrupt officials.The President said, “Unless you can punish a few people – unless you can show that dishonesty does not pay – all of the [anti-graft] efforts amount to nothing.”President Sirleaf called on the officials of the Justice Ministry to remain in the forefront of the battle against corruption and urged Min. Benedict Sannoh to strengthen the effectiveness of the prosecution arm of the Justice Ministry to enable it to take concrete actions against those involved in corrupt practices.Upon taking office in 2005, President Sirleaf declared corruption as a major public enemy, which she vowed to stamp out of the Liberian society.MoJ to Execute New Security Council ResolutionNewly-inducted Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict Sannoh has told President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that the Ministry plans to operationalize the UN Security Council Resolution 2190. The UNSC Resolution calls  on Liberia to take full charge of security within its borders by 2016.According to the Justice Minister, the operational plan will commence within the next three weeks and will be implemented in close collaboration with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).Responding, President  Sirleaf instructed the Justice Ministry to ensure that the security transition plan is time-bound with clear benchmarks to ensure that the process is smooth and gradual.President Sirleaf Impressed with New Police ImagePresident Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says she is impressed with the improving image of the Liberian National Police and the growing sense of public acceptance of the force.The Liberian leader lauded the police for rebuilding its image and challenged them to invest more into community policing.“I commend you for the changing perception of the police in the improving conduct of the officers for which we are seeing better public acceptance of the police and its protection of the people. This is a change which must continue with increased respect for rights as well as disciplined and professional care in the exercise of your duty”, the President concluded.STEP UP OR STEP OUTPresident Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called on public officials to step up or step out. The Liberian leader made the call when she paid an early morning visit to the Justice Ministry on Thursday.”We have a lot of work to do in our post – Ebola recovery, and will need to be focused and dedicated with each doing their very best to achieve the best for our people”, the Liberian leader said.She added that she will not hesitate to wield the administrative axe as needed whenever weak links to progress are identified.Meanwhile the President has asked members of the Executive Branch to think outside the box and explore new ways to get the job done, adding “we must get the development agenda back on track as soon as possible.”Cabinet RetreatThe Liberian cabinet met over a two-day period this week to agree on a road map for the next three years of the administration. The venue was Jalijuah, in Bomi County.Under the direction of the President, the Cabinet assessed the national development agenda and agreed upon a plan which is time-bond and realistic.In recent meetings with the Chief Justice and the Speaker as well as at the Justice Ministry, the President called on public officials to be focused and dedicated to their duties and functions so as to achieve the best for the Liberian people.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

The Case of the Reformed Vagabond (2)

first_imgThe tragic consequence of my life was folding up before me. I was a condemned man, and the law had judged me guilty to be hanged till I was dead, so that as the judge said, I would experience the pain that my wife went through when she was murdered. What hurt me so much was the pain that my two children would go through, or had been going through.   My daughter had fainted and two policemen had rushed to her rescue. I wanted to rush to her rescue but the bailiffs could not allow me.  I was shackled, my legs and hands were put in chains and while still screaming about my daughter’s situation, I was carted away like a piece of wood and placed into a condemned cell at the Monrovia Central Prison.  The date for my execution was set, and my situation was the talk of town. My first Monday at the prison, Pastor Samuel Weagba of the United Church of God visited me. Since the date I was supposed to be hanged had already been set, it followed that a man of God should visit me, to prepare what would eventually be my lot till I met my maker.  The pastor was also supposed to comfort me to ease the uncertainty and mystery that surrounded the inevitability of death.  “You know why I am here,” he said, after he had introduced himself, and seated himself comfortably on the only chair in the room, “I will be with you, as the Lord said, till even the end of the day.” I found Pastor Weagba very interesting. He had come at the right time, for my heart was bleeding, and my world was filled with uncertainty. For all my life I never entertained the idea of death. Though I knew death was destined in the end, I did not entertain any idea that circumstances could rush me to meet my death, so unexpectedly.  “I know my life does not worth a thing and many people, including yourself might have judged me guilty,” I said, sitting in front of him with squared shoulders, “but pastor, my only request is to pray for those whose actions have led me to my end.”  Pastor Weagba understood my position because he released an outburst of disappointment, when he said, “I followed your case from the beginning to the end.”    “Do you believe that I’m not guilty?”  The pastor waited for a while and said, “You have insisted of your innocence throughout the trial and the evidence against you were circumstantial and not beyond all reasonable doubt, yet you ended up being condemned to die by hanging.”  He hesitated to allow his message to sink into my mind, and I felt great warmth in my heart, for at least a man of God believed that I was an innocent man.  He continued, “Though the law is extremely clear, mistakes were made in this case and your conviction, in all manner and shade provides a cry against justice for your wife and yourself, as well as your children.”  “What justice is there for my children, when their mother is dead and their father will be hanged in a few weeks from now?” My question did not produce any shocking reaction but the man of God smiled, and gesturing to the Bible in his hands, said, “You may have been condemned today, my son, be assured that God, the father of our savior Jesus Christ and the provider of all tender mercies will not let your children’s future be in vain.” I sensed his reassurance and responded with a deep breath, uttering an outburst of dejection. I had heard that God is just and therefore His goodness would not hurt the innocent. But I was a condemned man, for a crime, a heinous crime that I never committed and my children would bear the brunt of a judicial system that looked the other way. It was a crime and a decision that had denied my two beautiful children the best mother they could ever have and a father they had grown to love. Where was God’s kindness? Since I was condemned to die and a date set for my hanging, what would God’s goodness mean to me?  “Pastor,” I said a bit emotional, “I agree that God’s goodness never fails but will it not come too late for me, since I’ll be carted to be hanged in a few days from now?”  The pastor smiled, and it was a painful one. His blazing eyes looked through me and I felt emotionally spent.   Pastor Weagba opened a bag that he had brought along with him and pulled out a black book, with the cover bearing the title ‘Holy Bible,’ and thumped through it. His fingers ran through the pages with impressive dexterity that excited my admiration and gratitude. After some seconds, he got to what he was looking for, and turned the portion to me. It was Isaiah Chapter 41, and with his fingers he directed my eyes to verse 10. With a glowing sense of some accomplishment, the old man smiled and indicated with his eyes for me to read it.  “Read this verse,” he said. My eyes swept from left to right and settled on the verse. I gave a deep breath and placing my hand on the verse, God’s comforting words filled my afflicted soul; which said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.”  I was impressed with the words of God, but I felt I did not deserve those comforting words, more so when I was a condemned man, and who was waiting to die, unfortunately.   “Is the Lord’s mercy not sufficient for you, my son?” the pastor said, with a grin.  My reaction was natural when I said, “Does this verse refer to me, when I am condemned to die?”“My son,” Pastor Weagba said, “no matter what men said you’ve done, remember the Lord will not condemn thee for He is with you.”  I was somehow surprised that Pastor Weagba believed that I was innocent. I had been a dutiful husband whose wife had been a supportive partner. With two beautiful children, I was on top of the world and could not ask for more.  I was angry at the shoddy work by the police and my poor financial status. I knew that on this part of the world, justice depended on how much money a defendant could provide for a high priced lawyer, not a public defender. Pastor I said, “From what I read from the Scripture, God provides comfort for the innocent in distress, and I’m grateful that you can come here to let me know that.” The pastor, in his 70s, extended his hand to hold mine, and with a smile said, “I have been a man of God for the last 40 years and I have prayed for many of those who passed through this corridor.  “I cannot definitely be sure of your innocence but you strike me a great deal as a man whose denial needs further examination.” I felt proud that a man of God believed that the crime against me should be examined, though it might not be realistic since I was already a condemned man. I was just waiting my day with death. The thought of being hanged on a pole was not an encouraging one and the idea filled me with horror.  “Pastor,” I said, “it is evident that I will be killed before long, so I need you to do me a favor.”  “Ok,” Pastor Weagba said. “It is my duty to offer you every comfort that I can offer you to bring God’s Kingdom to you in this difficult but glorious hour of your life.” “I want you to place me in the hands of God.”  “Yes,” he said, “that is why I am here and to also ask God, through his son Jesus Christ to have mercy on you so that this cup shall pass you by.” I felt warm with the pastor’s remarks and I was like a child born again.  “Pastor,” I said, “I have a request for my favorite hymns that I will be too grateful for the choir to sing for me before I am hanged.”  The pastor closed his eyes as a consequence of my answer, and placed the bible closer to his chest.  “What hymns do you want, my son,” the pastor said, his voice soothing my bruised soul, “I’m at your service.” I thought at his answer for a moment and then said, “The first hymn I want should be, ‘Farther Along (By And By)’” The old pastor’s eyes brightened at my request, and he lifted his right hand to make the sign of the cross on his chest.   “Be not afraid,” he responded, “God is with you.”  Surprisingly, I was losing my voice when I spoke to him about my second request.   “Just before I’m killed,” I said in a low voice, “let the congregation sing for me the hymn, ‘Be Still My Soul’.” At the end of my request, I saw tears filling the eyes of the pastor. I was touched but I was dried with emotion that I found myself unable to respond likewise.  Pastor Weagba had been with me for the last thirty minutes. The evening shadows were approaching and the time for family visitation was fifteen minutes away. I knew I had to die, but to die on a crime I did not commit was too hard for me. And just before Pastor Weaga departed, a warder sent the news that my children were waiting to see me.  It was the time that I began to weep, like I never wept before.Chapter 3Tears alone could not solve my problem but it was apparent that the surprised appearance of my two children was something I never imagined since I had had the impression that their mother’s family would not have allowed them to come bid me farewell. But I knew that blood is thicker than water and therefore despite my initial resentment that was mixed with frustration and hopelessness, the best that could ever have happened to me was the presence of the only two people in life who, no matter what, believed that their father was an innocent man. Pastor Samuel Weagba might have apparently realized that I needed that brief respite with the children and therefore he excused himself, which I was totally against.  “My son,” he said his voice very low, “I realize there are people who still believe in your innocence and I am taking leave of you so that you can meet them.”  “Father,” my strained voice echoed in my ears, “my final journey is not far away and while I appreciate the presence of my children, I need additional comfort that only God can offer.” The pastor regarded me in silence for some seconds and folding his hands around the Bible, said, “Sometimes the body of Christ demands the ultimate sacrifice,” and some tears filtered into the old man’s eyes, “but I will be with you, like Christ said, till the day comes when the truth can be made known to the world that has condemned you.”  Fighting back tears I folded myself in my corner and surprisingly gained a measure of comfort as the good man shrugged his shoulders and with a careful nod of his head, strolled out of the room. The warder shut the door behind him. Few seconds later, the same warder reappeared with the announcement that he had made earlier and ordered me to follow him. We entered an adjacent room where there was a glass-window. I was still shackled when I entered the room and my eyes fell on my fourteen year old daughter April, 14, and directly beside her were Jim, 12 and my late wife’s younger sister Dawn, 16.   For several minutes we stared at each other. I lowered myself onto the chair and lifted my shoulders. Neither of the children could stand my awkward position likewise their young aunt. I knew I had to be brave enough to comfort them that despite being in chains. Dawn and April then raised the popular Gospel song in Monrovia, with the title: Lord Give Me A Day, and as the two young women’s voices echoed throughout the building, it was as if a church choir had come to visit. The brief meeting was so emotional that I could only reassure them that they had offered daddy the best comfort he had needed together with that of Pastor Weagba. April said, as I held her fingers through the open window available for me, “Daddy we have asked God to send you back to us because we love you.” Their comforting words filled me like a knife in my heart, and we took consolation in tears. Though their visit time was short and therefore before departing, April, Dawn and Jim informed me that they had sent a letter to the president of Liberia to pardon and save my life.  “We came up with the letter,” Dawn said, “and we got support from our local community church.”  “How did you send the letter?” I enquired.  “We sent it to one of the newspapers,” April added, “we told the president to give you back to us.” My children’s action was encouraging and I commended them for their efforts, particularly so with the involvement of the churches in the community, where we had worshipped on Sundays.  Our brief meeting was characterized by emotional tears and we were able to ease each other’s pain and I briefly explained to them the visits of Pastor Weagba and the positive impact that it was having on me.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

An Artist with a Humanitarian Heart

first_imgIn our latest edition of LIB Life special coverage to women in the creative sector, we chat with singer and songwriter Emma Smith, whose love of humanity led her to establish a foundation.As we kick started the discussion, Emma explained that growing up as a child with a single parent was very challenging.However, with extended relatives’ support, Emma’s mother managed to overcome her fears and limitations in raising her child. “It was not easy,” the singer told LIB Life. “We cannot explain everything here; but [success was] based upon my challenges and the discipline in handling those, controlling my thoughts and not limiting my vision, and adding to it persistence and perseverance…”After relocating to Monrovia from her place of birth in Bomi County, young Emma began singing at the tender age of ten in the Faith Baptist Church choir. From that day she developed a strong passion for music and always hoped to explore and expose her true talent to the world even though her mother was not in favor of it. She wanted Emma to pursue more academics than musical skills or talents.“Nevertheless, I was always focused,” Emma recalled. “Although it discouraged me for a while, I overcame and built up my self-confidence till the day I sang in front of a huge crowd in school at the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU).”“From that day I performed in front of my school mates comes Emma Smith,” the young songstress beamed. “I began exploring talents and innovating new ideas through writing songs and being inspirational, business oriented, compassionate for humanity and fearless against any obstacle to my success,” Ms. Smith asserted. It was against this background that Emma fully began the pursuit of her dream of becoming a musical star. She started making music with stars from neighboring countries. One of her first collaborations was with Liberia’s own colloquia hit maker DenG on the song “I Wanna Go,” recorded years back before the Ebola crisis.During the Ebola epidemic in 2014, she released the first awareness song called ‘Protect Us From Ebola,’ which put her in the spotlight at a time when many Liberians were living in denial of the virus .The song was well received; but it was the scale of the human disaster that inspired her to establish the non-profit Emma Smith Life Recovery Foundation to place emphasis on helping Ebola affected people that survived the virus.“After the foundation was established, I and my team visited many hospitals and Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), providing assistance to Ebola patients and following up on persons that survived the disease,” Ms Smith told LIB Life.On September 11, when Ebola was still raging in Liberia, she was able to donate US$1,000 in cash and several assorted items including 100 pairs or rubber slippers and five cartons of Lucozade energy drink to Ebola patients at the ELWA ETU. “We are here in solidarity with this government, because we cannot watch and allow government alone to suffer without doing anything to help. We must give helping hands to your people in this time of problem. There is still a possibility for these people to survive and we must all come together and work to buttress the government’s effort to stop the spread of the virus and save patients with the virus,” Ms. Smith said at the time of the donation.Emma quest to see the Mano River Union (MRU) sub-region Ebola free took her to Sierra Leone and Guinea where she joined ranks with other musical stars including the legendary Aicha Kone (Mama Africa), to take the Ebola awareness campaign to communities in those countries. Together they produce the song “Hope for Africa” for MRU. While doing this, many including the Gender International Magazine were watching the young Liberian artist with a humanitarian heart. To her utter amazement, in the space of six days she received two awards for her tremendous contributions to the fight against the Ebola virus in Liberia and the MRU basin, and for humanitarian works carried out for non-Ebola affected people.The first honor came from the Ebola Orphans and Survival Project, and the second from Gender International Magazine, which named her Humanitarian Artist of the Year. Both awards were given in 2014. “I felt surprised at the honor at that moment,” Smith recalled. “But it energized me to do more for less fortunate people as well as Ebola survivors. My foundation was determined to put smiles on the faces of many more Liberians, including students.”True to her promise, she has been able to foster many children, 10 in all, many of whom are orphans. Four are currently living with her. “With our little resources, we have done a lot to save lives in Liberia; but we seem poised to do much better if funding is provided the group,” Ms. Smith stated.“We also provide psychosocial counseling, targeted treatment and emergency response mainly to women and children affected by disaster. A volunteer board also governs the foundation, which is responsible for providing strategic direction to the organization’s work and shepherding its resources.”The song writer, most of whose songs (including ‘’Hero’’) channel appealing and motivational messages and give hope for the hopeless, noted that she makes music to inspire people to do the right thing.She added, “I did the song Hero to commend all those who stood firm during the fight against Ebola, and dedicated the song to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai.” Emma is a graduate of the University of Liberia with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and holds a B.Sc. from African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU).Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Fistula Program Graduates 35 Survivors, Emotional ceremony leaves many in tears

first_imgThe Fistula Rehabilitation and Reintegration Center at Phebe, Bong County, recently graduated 35 survivors from its skills training program at a touching ceremony held at the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing.The graduates burst into tears as they sang a special chorus explaining the pain, denial, stigma, embarrassments and neglect by spouses, family and friends, which they endured prior to the corrective surgeries and rehabilitation they underwent.Platform guests and many in the audience could also be seen fighting back tears or sobbing as survivors emotionally sang their lyrics.The graduates are all survivors of obstetric fistula, a condition that is caused by complications during child birth leaving victims to involuntarily discharge bodily wastes including urine and feces.“Lack of funding and the Ebola crisis have slowed our activities,” said Dr. John Mulbah, Fistula Project Coordinator, in his review of their 2016 program.This statement was echoed by the Head Trainer, Madam Sao M. Johnson-Draper, who underscored the need to expand the rehabilitation facilities at the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in order to accommodate as many fistula survivors as possible.Mrs. Draper spoke of a backlog of cases around the country in dire need of surgery and rehabilitation, but regrettably noted that most of them may not be admitted due to limited capacity.“At the moment, the program has only 30 beds, so we cannot take in more than that number despite the numerous calls we receive from around the country from women needing surgery and rehabilitation,” she said.The program’s lead trainer then made a passionate plea to former Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale under whose administration the program was conceived, to intercede on their behalf to attract more support.Dr. Gwenigale responded that although he was no longer in authority he would help the project seek support for additional beds based on the persistent pleas. He made a cash donation of US$200 to the project to purchase additional beds.He then pleaded with graduates and the audience to serve as goodwill ambassadors in wooing more support to the project, adding, “We look forward to seeing a fistula free Liberia.”For his part, Assistant Health Minister and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sampson Azoaquoi, thanked the Phebe Hospital for its involvement in the Fistula Project, hinting that the condition affecting child-bearing mothers is a strong pointer that something is wrong with the country’s health system.Dr. Azoaquoi lamented the increasing incidence of maternal deaths in Liberia which currently stands at 1,072 per 100,000 live births. According to him, most health care centers around the country are not manned by trained practitioners, a problem he said health authorities have gone to the drawing board to address.The keynote address was delivered by the Chief of Medical Staff at the Phebe Hospital, Dr. Kormassah Tennih, who pointed out the conflict between entrenched traditional practices in child-bearing and medical care which sometimes leads to women running into complications during child birth.She named one as the belief in many cultural settings that attending to women in labor is strictly a female business. “This often prevents women in labor from seeking early medical attention,” Dr. Tennih added.Also making comments at the ceremony was the UNFPA Fistula Focal Person, Mrs. Esther Lincoln who charged survivors to help educate other women and prevent them from passing through the terrible experiences they endured.She also urged them to utilize health facilities and plan their families in order to avert recurrence of the condition.She said the Fistula Project depends on survivors to serve as goodwill ambassadors in their respective communities.Each of the survivors was given a starter kit appropriate for her particular vocation and US$100 to help start life anew following their just completed vocational training in cosmetology, pastry making, home economics, soap making and tailoring. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the main funder of the program, which has treated and rehabilitated about 1,500 and 350 fistula survivors respectively since its inception in 2008. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Museum Renovation A Welcome Initiative

first_imgIt was only a matter of time for a full scale renovation work to commence at the historic 154 year old National Museum of Liberia. The nation’s only museum is a national heritage structure that has stood the test of time, many governments, and key and defining moments in Liberia’s history. The artistic community and Liberians should now be proud of this current renovation work because it will help save memoirs of past presidents, cartographical materials related to Liberia’s cultural artifacts, as well as galleries that illustrate Liberia’s other past and present works of art for future generations.Another reason we should be happy is that the museum remains one of the few remaining landmark structures in the country that represents Liberia during “normal-days.” When completed, it will serve as a haven to preserve and display cultural artifacts that offer insight into the country’s past, including the civil war years.At long last, worry will not be placed on removing cultural artifacts and other historical items from one location to another due to leaky roofs, which damaged most of the museum’s priceless collections.Still available and will now be place as a showpiece at the museum is the more than 200 years old dining table given to Liberia’s first president, Joseph Jenkins Robertson, as a gift from Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Before the current reconstruction, the table was placed at a less revered location because the area around it was considered a death trap, as the floor around it was unstable from the rain and was expected to cave in at any time.As the GOL fights to give the nation’s only museum a new and decent look, it is also necessary that they fight to restore some of the damaged cultural artifacts in the museum to their original look, and repatriate our artifacts currently gracing museums in other countries.The continued deteriorating states of these damaged artifacts and historical items threaten the legacies of likes of President Tubman, through his Book of Condolence, and other great men, women, moments and works from the past.These historical achievements did not happen overnight; they took time – some during times of difficulty and impossibility, while others illustrated success in the face of adversity for Liberia.Therefore, it is important that GOL does everything in its power to make the legacy and great artworks live again by restoring and repatriating them.The museum’s renovation is certainly a historic Liberian moment in its own right; and the plight of those who fought through advocacy to ensure this renovation will be well documented for posterity. A monument in its own right, the museum represents Liberia’s historical past.Although the government is now trying to uplift and preserve the nation’s most valuable cultural artifacts and historical items through this renovation, it is also important to remind the GOL and every nationality in Liberia that this renovation work should not be used in political campaigns, as it is a purely educational matter, hence of national interest that goes beyond partisan politics. Education for the unborn and present generation should be the goal.In unity we stand, divided we will fall, but through education about our past and great events, we shall overcome.Finally, when the museum is reopened for public us, it is the responsibility of everyone present in Liberia to ensure that the building remains decent. Do not urinate on the fence, people; post no bills or flyers on its walls, like it was done before. Let us learn to respect our own. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more