Hope takes root in Liberia

President Johnson-Sirleaf gives Liberians a little optimism.

    Residents lined up to greet
    Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the president

    Bullet holes in this remote county's buildings are reminders of the 14-year civil war which destroyed almost all of the nation's infrastructure.
    Change is slow to happen.
    "The processes and the procedures to convert commitment into cash is so long, and that sometimes gets a little bit disappointing," Johnson-Sirleaf says.
    "But I guess we have to keep telling the population that there is no quick fix. That we have to keep to the processes and not violate them.
    "Maybe we have to say the first year we were overly ambitious and the second year try to accelerate as much as we can."
    The journey is gruelling – the president's convoy drives for two days mostly over unpaved roads. At times, the dust is so bad the drivers literally can't see where they are going.
    At most of the large villages, the president stops to meet her people. New schools Johnson-Sirleaf inspects newly built schools and hospitals.
    People give her traditional presents of white chickens and kola nuts. And in return she inaugurates buildings, and plants trees.

    Many residents are still without basic amenities

    Hundreds of people have lined up on the roads to show their support for Johnson-Sirleaf, or Ma Ellen, as they call her. But during the first year of her presidency, their lives haven't really changed.
    They don't have access to running water, there's no electricity and not enough schools and hospitals.
    But the one thing that Johnson-Sirleaf seems to have given them is hope that Liberia can change and maybe their children can have a better future.
    Many people in Lofa county fled fighting during the war. Now thousands have come back to rebuild their lives.
    But most of the young people here are unemployed, uneducated and desperate.
    "So many of our young people have not even had the opportunity to go to school at all - they were inducted into warring parties and factions, using extortion as a means of survival," she says.
    So education in Johnson-Sirleaf's top priority. At the end of the tour, a helicopter is waiting to fly the party back to the capital, Monrovia - sparing the 68-year-old president another journey on the country's poor roads.
    From the air you can see the newly planted rice crops - another sign of the hope taking root in Liberia.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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