Plane lands, door opens, humidity encompasses, traipse across the tarmac toward the airport. Sky, dark and threatening, ready to break open and pour and pour and pour – rainy season.
Enter the small airport, form a line, shuffle through half asleep, hoping no problems. Looks up at you, then at passport, stamps visa for 30 days. Going to be here longer, just part of the money making game – renew the visa in 30 days, pay $20. Spot a worker willing to help for “small small” fee. Loads bags and boxes on cart. Worker points, “from ABCU”, agent waves us through.
Out of the airport, try to get to car. Hands fly out of nowhere, young boys surround, placing hands on cart. Touch the cart, walk a distance, pay us now we helped. No pay; move away, someone else helping.
Load the SUV, slide across hot seats. Ahhhh relief, made it through. Sky opens, rain pours down – nonstop 12 hours.
Such is the entrance of a weary traveler, landed but readied for a fast pace take off as I begin work in Liberia.
Fasten Your Seat Belts for Take Off
As soon as you get to Liberia there is much to do: catch some sleep, do 2 months worth of grocery shopping, pick-up necessities, load the SUV, drive seven hours on muddy, bumpy roads to Yekepa, and be ready to start teaching the next day.
But this time, the drive is somewhat different because there are election billboards everywhere. Most are promoting the re-election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. You sense that the atmosphere is different, because you are in Africa and with elections comes a sense of anxiety. Liberia has had just one election since the 14-years civil war, so the potential of instability hovers over the country; it is as if Liberia is holding its breath to see what happens.
Pre-election violence has begun with hostage taking, a bombing, and a string of assaults. All serious but as of yet isolated, I expected no less. One of the older college students, who we call the Senator, talked to me about the upcoming election. He told me that we tend to hear what is happening in Monrovia, but we also need to be concerned with what is happening in the bush. For the most part, people living in the bush have little or no education and often are a part of a secret society, which can have great sway over their beliefs. He claimed that there are people in Liberia who are hungry for violence and will promote it at any cost.
The student conjectures that when people do not work hard and instead, look for a government handout then who is elected as president becomes monumental, because it may affect the resources they get. On the other hand, people who work hard to help support their families focus on the well being of the country and a president who will bring stability, because a stable country means that you can produce and sell things and run a business. He makes some interesting points that we all should ponder.
Of course, one of the rumors is that the violence will start in Nimba County (where ABCU is located), the same place where the civil war started. I have done my due diligence and have registered with the U.S. Embassy and will receive important alerts from them. The US Government is monitoring the election process. The UN which was right down the road has moved to the Ivory Coast Border. The iron-ore company located here has requested that they come back to Yekepa for the election. I am cautious, but I feel safe. Most importantly, prayers are needed for Liberians and that this will be a non-violent election.
The fear of an election, and rightly so, is part of Africa’s lore. I think of women who went through the civil war. How anxious they must be; their war experiences have given them a first hand experience of what it is like to live as women in a fallen world.
The election will be on Oct. 11 (thought the Supreme Court is trying to decide if the current President and some other candidates have the right to run, but that is another story) with 16 candidates in the race. The results will be released the end of October or beginning of November. A presidential candidate has to have a majority of the vote, so there will probably be a run off election in November. I should be home before we find out who is the next President of Liberia, but you never know.
I will keep you updated.
For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. I Peter 2:13-17