Happy 168th Independence Day, Liberia

Today is the 168th anniversary of a group of 11 people signing the Liberian Declaration of Independence, which declared Liberia to be officially independent of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which had been established in 1816 at least in part to help freed slaves return to Africa, that is, to Liberia. It’s actually more of an establishment of statehood day than an independence day, and many Liberians are a little confused over how or from what they got their independence (14 years of civil war, which destroys the educational system, will do that), but they have the holiday nonetheless.

Today is also day four of the Ebola-free countdown, which is a great national day gift for the country. Given the circumstances by which the country came to be, and the fact that the “Americo-Liberians”, the descendants of the freed slaves, ran the country to the exclusion of the “Indigenous Liberians”, those who were here when the ACS sent the freed slaves to Africa, until the 1980s, the country suffers from a lack of self-confidence. I have spent many, many meetings trying to convince really smart, ambitious Liberians that they actually do know what’s best for their country, and that they should be talking to other Liberians about their plans there’s any traction, rather than lobbying the (clearly non-Liberian (I’m seriously too white–you have to be of “Negro Descent” to qualify for Liberian citizenship)) foreign diplomat on the hill to see if he thinks it’s a good idea. The Ebola crisis/crises actually provided a huge confidence boost to the average Liberian because they got to zero (twice now!) before their neighbors, and largely through their own initiative and efforts. Sure, the international community contributed, but at the end of the day, it was the neighborhood groups who went door to door talking about Ebola prevention and identifying potentially ill people who really beat the disease. Our contributions helped put treatment options in place and amplified the work the community groups were already doing. They could probably have gotten their without us, but it probably would have taken quite a bit longer.

I look forward to the next year, my third here. I hope and pray that we won’t have any more existential crises, and that I get to see the country move forward, more sure of itself and its people.

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