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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007, 10:55 GMT
Liberia: A year of slow progress
By Ledgerhood Rennie
BBC, Monrovia

One year after Africa's first elected female head of state, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, started the massive job of rebuilding war-shattered Liberia, her government has made a good start but still faces huge challenges.

People under street lights
The street lights allow people to work and study at night
Ashmun Street, one of central Monrovia's main streets, now has streetlights - a small but very useful sign of progress.

At night, students can be seen underneath continuing their studies. Traders are now able to carry on working into the night and those who like going out to pubs and clubs appreciate the extra sense of security they provide.

While this is a major boost for the government, electricity and running water still remains unaffordable or unavailable to many of the city's inhabitants.

Philip Wesseh, managing editor of the respected Inquirer newspaper, says ordinary Liberians are still waiting to feel much improvement in their daily lives.

Without an educated people who have skills, who are healthy, we can never begin to talk about prosperity in this country
Ezekeil Pajibo
Political analyst
"Living standards of people are still poor. The purchasing power is still poor," he says.

"Prices are increasing on a daily basis. Even the Liberian dollar is depreciating, so the economic situation is very bad."

Packed schools

Peace is obviously the biggest improvement, compared to the 14 years of civil war.

But this is largely down to the presence of some 15,000 highly visible UN troops.

Woman walking past clothes laid out to dry on the ground
Life remains tough for most Liberians
The government is still recruiting a new police force and national army.

The Matilda Newport Junior High School in Monrovia has had a fresh coat of paint and basic refurbishment, which was badly needed, after many years of conflict and mismanagement.

Attending to such basics does make a difference, as pupils and teachers alike found it difficult to work in buildings which had been ignored for decades.

Headmaster Flomo Quawoo says that despite such positive steps, much more still needs to be done:

"We are not even able to take all of the students who were trying to come to school - all the classrooms are packed," he says.

"We need some of the buildings to be renovated so we can use them as classrooms."

It is a similar story at Liberia's largest referral hospital - the John F Kennedy.

A year ago, most Liberians felt it was a waste of time trying to get treatment there - there were not enough doctors and not enough drugs.

Now, there is a regular supply of drugs and more and more people do have the confidence to go but there are still not enough doctors to attend to the patients.

Corruption battle

Political analyst Ezekeil Pajibo says one year is not enough to judge a government inheriting a country in ruins after 14 years of conflict.

But he says the government must continue the good start it has made, as its to-do list remains lengthy.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
President Sirleaf defeated football star George Weah in the run-off
"The challenges include high unemployment - we have 85% unemployment in this country - that is a crisis," he says.

He also points to the increase in armed robbery and crime. "The judicial system is not at the level it should be, our penal system still needs to be reconstructed, so we have major challenges in these areas."

And he feels far more needs to be done to improve education and health services. "Without an educated people who have skills, who are healthy, we can never begin to talk about prosperity in this country."

Meeting all the high expectations will be difficult with an annual budget of just $129m.

Corruption in Liberia has been rampant for years and as promised, President Sirleaf has led moves to deal with it - some members of the former transitional government have been arrested.

She has also renegotiated a controversial deal with the world's largest steel maker, Mittal, worth almost $1bn, which should ensure a few thousand jobs.

With donors meeting to discuss Liberia next month, President Sirleaf will be hoping for a bigger budget and the population's patience but the road ahead is still uphill.


Are you in Liberia? What changes have you seen? Has the new government lived up to your expectations? Use the form to send us your experiences.

Since Ellen took power, there has been tremendous changes in the society, changes that have given many of us hope, hope that there is a future for our generation and generations to come. First, the sense of security. Being able to go about our every day activities with out being intermediated by ?rebels?. Education, more and more parents are taking interest in sending their children to school, the enrolment of many students in colleges tells me that the future for Liberia is good. Most students do not even have to wait for their parents to pay their tuition, some girls hustle as prostitute in order to pay their tuition and fees. The fact that girls have the privilege to sell their body for money, is a paradox that people are making use of their constitution right, prostitution is better then two years ago when girls were rape and force to be sex slaves. Rules of laws have been another improvement in Liberia today, now rapists are held accountable for their dubious actives. The socioeconomic sectors have improved extraordinarily; more and more Liberians are being involved into business. Most importantly, the concept of segregation between Amerco-liberia and native Liberia has been demolish, now all Liberians are working together for the greater good. I am just happy I can go to the beach on Sunday and have fun with family and friends. Keep up the good work Iron Lady.
Saye Maye Cole, Matadi Estate, Liberia

Congratulations Madam Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf for your job well done in the shortest time,i am very pride of you.Please do what you can do to make Liberia the best in Africa.There is a challenge ahaed of you, that is the problem in the House of Representitive, please help solve it because all so call Hon. Man are all childern they dont know there way.
R .Isidore Nah, Monrovia, Liberia

I see changes in Liberia since the coming to power of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 1. Government Employee are getting their pay on time 2. Free speech and movement no one arrest you when you talk here again. 3. Security, some say security is with UNMIL, but once upon a time we had ECOMOG under Charles Taylor, but security was very very bad 4. Corruption is a process and not an event; she will get corruption out of Liberia Just to name a few.
Christine M. Atuanya, Paynesville, Liberia

I see light. I see Water. Charles Taylor solders no more run down the streets of Monrovia and other parts of the country with AK - 47 RIFLES. They have melted like ice. I see good governance in place. I see press freedom and more to come.
Gus Johnson, Monrovia - Liberia

I am a Liberian living, and working in The Netherlands. I visited Monrovia recently to spend the Christmas Season with my family. I saw a lot of positive changes during my visit. There are serious efforts on the part of the government to restore basic services (water, electricity, transportation, etc..) The security situation was relatively good during my visit. All around the country, you could "feel" the rule of law taking roots. I remembered one evening chatting with my 13 yr old daughther when a long-time colleague of my saw us and remarked:" my man, dat Ellen outside-trap you're playing with oh, be careful". Which is a reference to the serious drive by the government to deal with abusers of under-age girls. As the task of nation building is monumentous, it is a clarion call that all Liberians must join this government and contribute towards meeting these challenges.
Tibli Olandrus Dickson, The Hague, Netherlands

I will like to extend my thanks and appreciations to the Government of Liberia so far for the tremendous hardwork including: electricity, water ,transportation, education and etc. The Liberian people should exercise patient but one is better than zero.
Roosevelt Davies, Grandcess,Gand Kru Co

I think the new government has lived up to my expectation so far.
Ralph S Jlopleh, Monrovia,Liberia

THE present ellen Sirleaf johnson government still need to do more, 85% percent of the population are not working , all the money the international community and the united states give liberia yet still no job people re not working things prices re increasing , WHERE RE WE GOING THEN? BACKWARD OR FORWARD TELL ME MADAME PRESIDENT. Liberia things was not expensive like this before since your government took over we experiencing hardship and armed robbery and other human violations. Please do something.
james w. brown, clara town

One major change I see the government did is it has improved the image of Liberia internationally.Besides that, this government has done nothing to corruption it has declared enemy number one, eg. the issue of LPRC's secret oil deal with Nigeria, the printing of new banknotes are among others. Additionally, this government of Madam Sirleaf has given a blind eye to the daily increase of prices of basic goods and commodities, eg, the price of rice, the counrtry's staple has gone high than ever before, the prices of cement and other building materials are few among the problems the people of this county are faced with. I don't have to mention the high rate of unemployment that is coupled with the governemnt's policy of right sizing and down sizing. Now, this government has preached reconciliation and unity but practices unforgiveness, hatry and secregation. To conclude, this givernment needs to rethink her promises to the Liberian people. The people are suffering. I thank you for this opportunty.
Tob'y D. Kaung, New Kru Town, Monrovia, Liberia

THANKS TO THE NEW GOVERNMENT THAT THINGS ARE A LITTLE BETTER THAN BEFORE BUT THERE IS MUCH MUCH MORE TO BE DONE IN THE APPLICATIONS OF THE LAW WHERE ARMED ROBBERS ARE ROAMING THE STREETS DAY AND NIGHT AND PRICES OF BASIC COMMODITIES SKY ROCKET BY THE MINUTES. FINALLY, CORRUPTIONS IS STILL THE ORDER OF THE DAY.
Nathaniel J. kpaahkpai, Madison, USA

Am a Liberian, as a youth I think the government has live up to some of it obligations; therefore I am grading the government on the lightening of some parts of the capital and paying civil servants on time. President Ellen, I must congratulate you for being Africa's first female president and myself for being alive under your leadership.Mama.. please come down strongly on corruption in Liberia. We now have some roads repair and free education is also visible in public schools in the entire country. I will like to recommend that the issue of corruption should be handle with the teachings of the bible. 'Spare not the rod and spoil the child' Hope you continue the job in peace and always love this country L.I.B.
Madison M Cammue, Gardnersville,Monrovia

I VISITED LIBERIA 11/05, AND 12/06 CHANGES:STREETS LOOKS A LOT CLEANER,PEOPLE CAN FREELY CRITICIZE THIS ADMINISTRATION,COUNTRY FUTURE LOOKS VERY BRIGHT. eXPECTATIONS: CORRUPT OFFICIALS NEEDS TO BE SEVERLY PROSECUTED,THIEVES THAT STOLE PUBLIC FUNDS ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE DRIVING NICE CARS, LIVE IN THE BEST OF HOUSES,IDEALLY THESE PEOPLE NEED TO EXPLAIN THE ORIGIN OF THERE WEALTH WHILE THE GOVERNMENT IS STRUGGLING TO MEET UP WITH DEMANDS OF THE PUBLIC. OVER ALL THE ADMINISTRATION OF MADAM SIRLEAF IS DOING EXTREMELY WELL, MY MAIN POINT IS FOR THIS ADMINISTRATION TO NOT ALLOW THESE CROOKS GET AWAY WITHOUT FACING THE LAW.
GONKARNUE VONLEH, BROOKLYN CENTER, U.S.A,

The international community SHOULD do everything to the post-war administration in Liberia to succeed. Should the community refuse to care, remember, the snake does not bite without frustration. The Taylors are waiting on the flanks to capitalize on the people's frustration. Liberia cannot sustain another havoc. We all heralded the coming of peace into this country, but Sirleat's government is not getting enough to put basic services and infrastructure into working condition. The world spends billions encouraging wars, and leaving people in dire need of support for decency of living, neglected. No government can live up to the expectation of the governed if the means is not there. Sirleaf is trying but is being tied down by lack of enthusiastic support from the international community.
abokyi, Monroevia, Liberia

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