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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 12:12 GMT
Liberia's challenge
A Liberian family in a market in Nimba
Thursday 9 November, 1102 GMT
Monday 13 November, 2030 GMT
On BBC Radio 4 and online

In the first programme of the new series of Crossing Continents, Bill Law travels to the West African country of Liberia as it attempts to rebuild after years of devastating conflict.

Hopes are running high in this resource-rich country but recovery is dependant on securing fair deals with foreign corporations.

That is the challenge facing the government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first woman president.

In the chaotic post war period, multinationals secured highly profitable deals which, if allowed to stand, critics say will do little to benefit the country.

Critics say that ceding sovereign and economic rights to a powerful foreign corporation is in effect creating a state within a state
Bill Law visits Mt Nimba, the site of what was one of the richest iron ore deposits in the world.

Last year steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal signed a contract with the then transitional government that gives his company virtual control of the vast Nimba concession area, which includes the country's longest rail line and the port facilities in the town of Buchanan.

In return, the company is tasked with providing services like schools and health facilities for people in the area.

Critics say that ceding sovereign and economic rights to a powerful foreign corporation is in effect creating a state within a state.

Crossroads

Ordinary Liberians are struggling to get the country running again.

People like Olu Menjay, who escaped Liberia as a young man and has now returned to run a school on the outskirts of the capital city Monrovia.

He is attempting to spread a message of self-respect and self-reliance amongst his students.

The country is at a crossroads.

The threat of violence still hangs in the air, but the opportunity for a peaceful and prosperous civil society has never been stronger.

Will the people of Liberia and their government turn their nation around or is Liberia destined to a future shaped by big business?

Presenter: Bill Law
Producer: Colin Pereira
Editor: Sue Ellis


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SEE ALSO
Liberia's foreign investment challenge
08 Nov 06 |  Crossing Continents
Read your comments
08 Nov 06 |  Crossing Continents
New dawn for Liberia's 'blood forests'
12 Oct 06 |  Science/Nature
Iron ore deal 'bad for Liberia'
03 Oct 06 |  Africa
Firestone in Liberia rubber row
24 May 06 |  Business
Liberia's economic struggle
13 Aug 03 |  Business
Timeline: Liberia
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles


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