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The Liberian Post
Pagina 20
Reisverslag Liberia 1998


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Jungle Palm
VERSLAG VAN EEN ZAKENREIS NAAR LIBERIA
van 17 t/m 22 JANUARY 1998
Jungle Palm


StarlineElephant gif


Door: Willem Tijssen, 28 januari 1998 Update: mei 1999



President Taylor

President
Dr. Charles Taylor
Op verzoek van regerings vertegenwoordigers bezochten wij Liberia van 17 t/m 22 januari 1998, met name de omgeving van de hoofdstad Monrovia in Montserrado County. Ons reisgezelschap bestond uit drie Nederlanders; een bankier, een advocaat en een ondernemer (de ondergetekende). In diezelfde periode was ook de voormalig minister van Ontwikkelings Samenwerking Dr. Jan Pronk op bezoek. Met zijn ambtenaren hebben we afgesproken om bij terugkeer in Nederland een afspraak te maken. Minister Jan Pronk

Minister
Jan Pronk


Politieke situatie

Na een 10 jaar durend schrikbewind van president Samuel Doe (een voormalig sergeant van de Krahn stam), raakte Liberia op 24 december 1989 in een vreselijke en bloedige burgeroorlog verwikkeld die tot september 1996 heeft geduurd. Ongekende krachten (zowel lokaal, regionaal alsook internationaal) hebben daarbij een belangrijke rol gespeeld. Stammenstrijd, invloeden in de regio (west Afrika), de Golf oorlog en het machtspel tussen Amerika en LibiŽ. Als gevolg van de Golfoorlog raakte de strijd in Liberia op de achtergrond want er stonden schijnbaar grotere belangen op het spel voor de westerse wereld. In de Liberiaanse burgeroorlog (1989-1996) werd het leger en de positie van president Doe "gedoogd" door de USA en de opstandelingen van Taylor werden financiŽel ondersteund door LibiŽ. Als gevolg daarvan likt Liberia nu nog haar wonden, en wel 'met een droge tong'. Dat wil zeggen dat de westerse wereld als gevolg van de machts-mechanismen, ook nu anno 1999, nog steeds de kat uit de boom kijkt. In juni 1997 hebben democratische en transparante verkiezingen plaatsgevonden onder toezicht van de Verenigde naties met aan het hoofd de voormalige Amerikaanse president Jimmy Carter. Er hebben zich geen incidenten voorgedaan de bevolking kon een vrije keuze maken. Met liefst 75,33% van de stemmen werd voormalig vrijheidsstrijder Dr. Charles Taylor to president gekozen. In 1998 was het staatsbudget slechts $41 miljoen en daarmee moest de regering trachten om van meet af een totaal verwoest land op te bouwen.

President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter
(voormalig president)

Totdat de regering werd geÔnstalleerd en een politie-apparaat kon worden opgebouwd waakte ECOMOG over de veiligheid in het land (Ecomog is het vredeskorps van de west Afrikaanse Eenheid, dat onder leiding staat van Nigeria). Dat gebeurde niet altijd zachtzinnig en het kwam veelvuldig voor dat Ecomog soldaten zich schuldig maakten aan diefstal en verkrachting. In januari 1998 stonden Ecomog-posten opgesteld op alle strategische invalswegen naar en kruispunten in de hoofdstad Monrovia. Toch is het de regering van Charles Taylor gelukt om binnen een korte periode van tijd zelf de touwtjes in handen te nemen. De politieke situatie in Sierra Leone eind 1998 heeft daarin mede een belangrijke rol gespeeld. Ecomog moest haar troepen naar het noord-westen verplaatsten en dat versnelde voor Liberia het proces om haar eigen politie-apparaat te installeren. Opvallend was dat politie commandant Joe Tate begin 1998, eigen manschappen installeerde in de omgeving van het huis van president Taylor en op de weg naar Roberts International Airport. Zo gebeurde het dat we op een trip van het vliegveld naar Monrovia, drie keer werden aangehouden door verschillende posten. De Ecomog soldaten droegen wapens en de Tate brigade niet. De laatste beperkte zich tot het controleren van documenten en de inhoud van voertuigen. Ondanks andere berichten in de internationale media moet ik zeggen, nergens met afpersing of corruptie te zijn bedreigd. Ook niet tijdens trips die wij in die week in het binnenland hebben gemaakt. De eerlijkheid gebiedt wel te zeggen dat wij te allen tijde begeleid werden door tenminste twee lokale beveiligings mensen. President Taylor's efforts to include specialists from the opposition in his team of ministers and his invitation to former opponents to hold key positions in government, helps in building trust in the continuation of political and economic stability. Energetic structuring of the police-force has resulted in severe punishment for crimes and armed robbery, and theft is already on the decline.


Map of Liberia

Map of Liberia

Click to enlarge
In general

Potentially, Liberia is "The Gateway to Africa". Its soil is unimaginably rich. If one were to stick a broom in the ground it would grow immediately (so to speak!). A true paradise with exotic fruits, valuable natural resources, raw materials, mountains, swamps, tropical woods, wild parks and kilometers long white sandy beaches with palm-trees. When successfully restored, its infrastructure will enable Liberia to become a top tourist destination.

'Liberian flower'


Caesar's
Walking to the lagoon near Caesar's Beach. At the right: rebuilding the former beach-bar.


Liberian Kids

Little children no longer bear guns but water-bags. The kids fill these plastic bags at the EEC watertower nearby the city, and sell them on every streetcorner for a little money to survive in the struggle of life.

The average temperature is 30įC (80į F) and the water-temperature 25į C. The climate is tropical and humid. The two seasons are the rainy (May to November) and the dry. The 2 million inhabitants are friendly, extrovert, well educated, very religious (mainly Presbyterian) hardworking people, and peaceloving in contradiction to the long civil war. In spite of the severe consequences of the civil war, one will not encounter an apathic population but energetic, inventive and pragmatic people. Very inspiring! This surprising attitude combined with the limitless opportunities will transform Liberia soon into a very prosperous industrial country, high above its regional neighbours. On account of these facts, probably Liberia will not remain a low-salary country, although the current average income per head of the population is only US$1'500,00 per year. Because of enormous amounts of raw material and natural sources, in future Liberia will be strong enough to compete with any prosperious country in the world and still will be able to increase the average income per head of the population dramatically.


Infrastructure

The sea port of Monrovia is reasonably accessible for ships from Europe. Three flights from neighbouring countries arrive on ROB (Roberts International Airport) each day. Unfortunately direct flights from Europe are not yet scheduled and are urgently needed to stimulate the economy quickly. The ROB runway is one of the longest on the African continent and its surface as well as the taxiways are still fully intact.

Map of Liberia


Reparing the destroyed airport buildings is one of the major topics to restart the needed services. The main terminal is severely damaged and the former KLM terminal is now used for the handling of passengers, customs-clearance and luggage. Lacking lights at the runway, nightflights are not yet possible. On request of the President we contacted the Schiphol Airport authorities to make a feasibility study and recommendations for the renovation, development and operation of ROB. The main roads are reasonable to drive on. In Monrovia-city much repair has to be done. Public transportation takes place in thousands of "Yellow cabs" operating under a so called "shift-by" system. Many taxis bear slogans like "God blessed this car", accentuating the religious conviction of the population. The car-horn is the most noticible noise-polluter in the city.


Paynesville

Melting Pot
at
'Red Light'

Red Light

Recovery

With limited means the reconstruction of the infrastructure is taking place. Along the road from Monrovia to ROB hundreds of labourers dig ditches with hand-shovels and hacks, repairing and renewing the power-supply, waterworks, telephone-wires and sewerage. Monrovia is a hustling city with hectic activities. Shot and scorched buildings are being renovated energetically and street-trade flourishes, producing some wealth. The main trade is managed by a handful of Lebanese business-people (approx. 4.000). But the Liberians are becoming more and more the traders of the future. Signs are visible at 'Red Light' or 'Melting Pot', a market transit-place just outside Monrovia where traders from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinee, Gambia, Ghana and Burkino Faso meet to buy goods arriving from ships in the port and sell products from their respective countries.


Schooling

On average, the older people have a good education. A university exists in Monrovia and high schools and technical schools are operational again too. During the war many young people went to universities in Europe and the USA. Now, eight months after the war, children from primary schools are dressed in yellow/blue uniforms, confirming the re-establishment of values and discipline.


The challenge

Liberia is a country with unimaginable possibilities and opporunities. To claim its stature in the world, in short term Liberia has to establish the following key targets:

  1. Continuation of (political) stability
  2. Renovation and renewel of infrastructure
    - the ROB international airport with direct European connections
    - hydro-electric power plants
    - implementation of high technology telecommunication
    - improving transportation-system and roads
  3. Re-establish agriculture and cattle-breeding
    - importation of meat and live stock (chickens, pigs and cows)
    - importation of animal food, concentrates and abstracts
    - importation of seeds to cultivate vegetables
    - impotation of fruits for the domestic market
    - export of fruits (mango, papaya, pine-apple, avocado, cassava)
    - export of medicinal herbs and peppers
    - export of tropical hard-wood and timber (50 species)
    - export of bamboo products like mats, fences etc.
    - export of exotic flowers and plants
    - export of fresh fish: lobster and gamba shrimps
    - exploitation of rubber plants
  4. Re-opening of mines (gold, silver, diamonds and iron-ore)
  5. Development of tourism (500 kilometers long sandy beaches)


Trade

During our working-visit we met with almost all ministers, senators, many advisors and also the President. We were requested to assist with the establishment of international trade, import and export, banking and promoting trade-relations. Our major goal is to activate IMBL, the "Investment & Merchant Bank of Liberia". Later in 1998, President Taylor will officially open this bank.

Liberia's future economy-activities will be firmly focussed on Europe (rather than USA). Introduction of a 220 volts electric-system in the whole country is one of the strongest signs for this remarkable switch. Focussing on these developments, European airlines should consider this immediately and start with regular flights to ROB.


LIEC

(Liberian Import & Export Company)

EEC's part in this challege will mainly be in the area of trade and development. Two Liberian partners and myself established LIEC. Our first goals are import and export of domestic products and natural resources and the promotion of this beautiful country and its unique opportunities.


Import

  • poultry (meat, wings, legs)
  • pork (legs, tails, spare-ribs, smoked meat)
  • bakery oil, margarine and mayonaise
  • rice
  • live stock (chickens and pigs)
  • seeds and waterpumps
  • batteries, generators, airco's, copiers etc.
  • car/truck spare-parts


Export

  • fruits (short-term: mango, papaya [paw-paw], pine-apple, coconuts, avocados, okra, cassava, watermelon, bananas, cola nut, palmoil, sugar-cane, aubergine)
    (longer-term: coffee, tobacco, coco, tomatoes, cucumbers)
  • bamboo mats/screens and fences (elements)
  • fresh lobster and (gamba) shrimps
  • hard wood products and timber
  • wood scarving art (masks/statues etc.)
  • peppers, medicinal herbs/fruits and vitamin-fruits
  • flowers and plants


Experimental farm

With our partners Mr. John Bestman and Mr. Peter Bemah we established an experimental farm for several tests and demonstrations.

    The farm contains:

  • chicken stables
  • pig stables (300 pigs)
  • barn and stockroom
  • orchard with many domestic fruits
  • 1000 hectares land to cultivate tobacco
  • 1000 hectares to cultivate fruits and vegetables
  • 1000 hectares to increase the orchard
Farm

View at the Farm

Farm1


Note: The Dutch firm Royal Sluis provided seeds for tests and research. Soon farmers from the region can come to ensure how the products grow, check the quality and study the yield per acre. This method we will also apply for engines, machines, equipment and live stock.

    Our test-farm has direct need for:

  • incubators
  • animal food (chicken and pigs) and elements and concentrates to grow and produce own animal food
  • (hand) waterpumps, sprayers, fertilizers
  • live stock (chicken, pigs, cows, goats)
  • tobacco machines for the production of domestic cigarettes and tobacco
  • generators (5 to 25 KvA)


Unique Additional Business-opportunities in Liberia

  • hydro-electricity projects
  • mining (gold, silver, diamond and iron ore)
  • concessions (rubber etc.)
  • agencies/representations
  • especially tourism



    When visiting Monrovia for business or pleasure, please first contact:
    IMBL
    INVESTMENT & MERCHANT BANK OF LIBERIA

    100 Broad Street
    Monrovia


    E-MAIL

    Telephone: ++31 35-6560727
    Fax: ++31 35-6563007



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