Monday, 15 October 2012

Pirate fishing in West Africa

The Environmental Justice Foundation claims West Africa has the highest levels of illegal fishing in the world. During a two year investigation, the NGO say they found evidence of bribery and attacks on local fisherman. Journalist, Tamasin Ford, sent this report on the situation in Sierra Leone.

To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Pirate fisherman off Sierra Leone 'export to EU'

Amadou Kamara, the Master Fisherman of Sierra Leone, looks out from his porch as the fishermen bring in the morning's catch.

It has not been a fruitful night; some have nothing to offer the market today. "Illegal fishing affects our livelihoods," he says in his native Krio as people bustle and barter along the harbour below him.

The elderly man, clothed in a long country robe has been fishing the seas since 1942. He says he doesn't know his exact age, but with a smile declares he has seven wives and 47 children; fishing is their livelihood.

He sees what the illegal trawlers are doing to their community. "When they [trawlers] catch these small fish, instead of throwing them back into the water they just destroy them and put them in the water," he says.

Mr Kamara is worried about the trawlers "destroying the hatcheries" by coming too close to land and is calling on the government to "drive [away] these people who bring in badness from the neighbouring countries." To see this story, please click on this link to the BBC News Online website.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Liberia slowly comes to terms with civil war's impact on mental health

Dakemue Kollie had to shout over the roar of his motorbike. "I am called the crazy people's friend," he said with a smile. "But I don't blame them. I accept the name and then try to change their minds." Kollie, 33, a mental health co-ordinator in Bong county in central Liberia, rides up to 200km a day along potholed, dusty roads visiting patients in rural areas. The majority are women affected by forms of what he calls anxiety or depression. "There were a lot of war[s] fought here," he said, looking out over the ruins of the anti-terrorist unit base, once home to the elite band of paramilitaries who, under the convicted former president Charles Taylor, committed acts of torture and murder. "Even though I was small I remember everything."

More than 250,000 people were killed during Liberia's 14 years of civil conflict and much of the country's infrastructure was completely destroyed, leaving a republic scarred by decades of violence and carnage. A 2008 study by members of the American Medical Association found 44% of adults displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr Benjamin Harris, Liberia's only resident psychiatrist, said: "People tend to endure their suffering rather than seek professional help [because of the] lack of conceptual understanding of what PTSD is all about."

The Carter Centre, an organisation that runs a mental health project in Liberia, states that less than 1% of Liberians have access to appropriate mental health services; in developed countries it is closer to half. In a region still reeling from the effects of the war, mental health is low on a long list of priorities.

Kollie's desire to work in mental health was born of his own experiences during the war years. He was just 15 when his father, a cook at the county's hospital, was killed in a 1994 massacre by Taylor's rebels; he later watched both his sister and mother fall sick and die. "My mother, because of the only daughter she had, got depressed and worried on it until she died also," he said. "So from there I really decided to go into the health field."

To read the rest of this article, please follow this link to the Guardian website.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Liberia's failed logging promises

More than 60% of Liberia's virgin rainforest has been granted to logging companies since Nobel Prize winning President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to power in 2006, according to a Global Witness report. It says the majority of these have been unregulated private contracts. Tamasin Ford reports from Liberia.

A mud road, churned into thick, gloopy soup from the heavy rains, sweeps through Henry Town in Gbarpolu county in the east of Liberia.

(Photo credit: Travis Lupik)

It is less than 150km (90 miles) from the capital, Monrovia, but without a single tar road in the county it can take up to 10 hours to reach here in the rainy season. Old cars and rickety trucks quickly get swallowed up by the metre-high sludge, requiring hours of lifting and digging before other vehicles can pass.

Morris Kamara and his wife, Old Lady, sit on the porch of their small shop in the centre of town. An array of brightly coloured plastic containers hangs from the tin roof. "This is my shop. As you can see I sell provisions, rubber dishes, mattresses and other things," he said proudly.

Mr Kamara went on to explain how the price of goods is expensive because of the bad roads, adding that this was one of the reasons they had wanted a logging company to operate in the region. "Logging will bring about some development. They will help to improve the road conditions... I think it's very important for logging to be going on here," he said.

The chiefdom of Korninga, where Henry Town is located, signed a social agreement with a logging company in 2009 which promised a road, a clinic, a school, land rent and even monthly salaries for the elderly. The agreements are part of the requirements for firms to be granted a Private Use Permit (PUP). PUPs, which now cover 40% of Liberia's best forests according to a report by the Global Witness campaign group, were designed to allow private landowners to cut trees on their property.

Activists say that instead they are being used by companies to avoid the new, stricter forest regulation brought in when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power in 2006.

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the BBC's website.

Liberia to investigate logging of rainforests

Logging rights to more than 60 percent of Liberia's virgin rainforests have been granted to forestry companies since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power six years ago. A British advocacy group says the majority of those contracts are unregulated and warns of fraud and mismanagement. The government of Liberia says it is commissioning a full-scale investigation.

To listen to this report, please click on this link to NPR's website.

(Photo credit: Travis Lupik)

Krumping hits the dance floors in Liberia

Krumping, short for “Kingdom Radically Uplifted by Mighty Praise,” is a dance that started in churches in the Afro-American communities of Los Angeles. Now it's caught on in Liberia.

To listen to this report, please click on this link to DW's website.

For Liberian youth, a creative outlet in krumping

Krumping, a form of dance that began in California, has made its way to the West African nation of Liberia. The word KRUMP is an acronym for Kingdom Radically Uplifted by Mighty Praise. The form was founded in African-American churches around Los Angeles.

Dancers would imitate the shaking of people's bodies when they were possessed by the Holy Spirit. Liberia, a nation founded by freed slaves, often embraces new American traditions, and krumping is no exception.

Tamasin Ford went to visit a group of krumpers in Paynesville City on the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia.  To listen to this report, please click on this link to NPR's website.

Liberians reluctantly reactivate army

MONROVIA, Liberia — Liberia is embarking on its first large-scale army operation since the end of its civil war almost a decade ago, with troops being deployed to the border with Ivory Coast in a mission to root out militants that officials also hope will revamp the military's image at home.

Liberians are wary of any buildup of their armed forces because the West African country was riven by civil conflict from 1989 to 2003. Under President Charles Taylor, paramilitary troops dubbed the "Demon Forces" launched a campaign of killing and torture across the country.

A U.N.-backed tribunal at The Hague convicted Taylor this year of war crimes for his involvement in clashes in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

The U.S. stepped in to help build a new Liberian army after Africa's first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to power in 2006, but unease about the fighters remains.

"People feel that most of the guys who did cause harm and atrocity in the war times are the same guys within this military," said Cpl. George S. Greene, one of the first of Liberia's newly trained army recruits. "All I can do now is to ensure them that this military is a new kind of military. We'll try to [change] their minds."
Unrest in Ivory Coast has forced the Liberian government to take military action.

A joint force made up of the army, police and immigration officials has been deployed for Operation Restore Hope, a mission to take control of dense forests that observers say are used by rebel Ivorian fighters as a base to launch attacks on the Ivorian army and civilians seen as loyal to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Washington Times website.