I arrived late last night. It is strange to me to see Monrovia lit up with street lights and with such an improved infrastructure. There is even public transportation now for example with busses from ELWA-junction to Buchanan with marked bus stops – although they wait until buses are filled up before they leave ELWA. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has gotten herself a nice election banner stating that she is the receiver of the Nobel peace prize and what would be more natural than placing it in front of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) HQ. Otherwise life is continuing as usual: when the water truck fills up the water tank at the hotel, there are women and kids from the neighborhood with buckets and pans filling them with water from the leaking hosepipe. Even though infrastructure is improving life is still hard for ordinary people and clean water is in demand.
Everybody is talking about the second round of the election. Yesterday the National Election Commission mistakenly turned the figures from the second round around, presenting Winston Tubman and the CDC party as the winner of the first round with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and UP as second. Although the error was soon corrected it created ample room for speculation and further theories of conspiracy among Liberians. I overheard a group of young women discussing the relationship between Charles Taylor and president Johnson Sirleaf pointing out the injustice letting the latter being the president, whilst “her husband” Taylor – that’s how they portrayed their former relationship, although not in the literal sense – imprisoned and tried at the ICC in the Hague. It is quite interesting how people see this previous relationship.
Currently I have localized two areas where there may be some tension ahead of the second election round and that is Nimba County where self proclaimed Kingmaker Prince Johnson has pleaded loyalty to Johnson Sirleaf and also Buchanan where Charles Brumskine, leader of the Liberty Party, has told his supporters to vote in whatever direction they wish. I want to see how this process unfolds and especially how ex-MiLCs are utilized and how they navigate this potentially prosperous geography. I hope to visit both places in the days to come.
Finally: It is nice to be back, yet hard to believe that 15 years have passed since my first visit to Liberia. Then there was war, now there is peace.