05 July 2007

Omar from Liberia in Joburg

Omar is from Liberia. He has been in South Africa for 5 days. He finds it very cold on the streets of Johannesburg, where I met him wandering after getting off a truck from Durban. He came to South Africa on a ship, to look for work and make a good life for himself. From our brief discussion, I found that he is very intelligent.

How old are you?
I’m a cancer. Recently 23.
Cancer? You have cancer? [I know, my blonde moment!]
No, my star sign is Cancer. [Smile to himself and probably thinking, “What a goofy!”]

We discuss his country. He is from Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. In the early 1800’s Liberia was colonised by the Americans, under the pretence of making it a ‘home’ for freed Afro-American slaves. In the mid-1800’s they gained independence, but the ruling class, American immigrants who referred to themselves as Americans, or Americo-Liberians, maintained a strong American influence on politics, society and culture. This explains Omars pseudo-American accent!

Liberia has recently seen some of the most devastating civil wars in modern history. The wars are over now but the country lies in ruins. Their first (and Africa’s perhaps) female president was recently voted in and, in Omar’s opinion, she has quite a HUGE job on her hands.

Go back to Liberia, I tell him. Life in South Africa is just as difficult for the poor. And it seems like that’s how its going to be for a while.

Look. The Golden Highway to Lenz is closed down coz of people protesting for basic services. Water, electricity and shelter.

8 comments:

ZK said...

hmmm have you considered the fact that maybe we are a better place then Liberia...
he may have left after all the issues with Charles Taylor...and boy are those issues :D
hey on a slightly arb note ... if we can put a leader like Taylor on trail can we not do the same to Bush...read the list of issues taylor is charged with they the same as Bush should be charged with...
am i making any sense????

Bilal said...

Yes I have considered that fact.
I consider it every week when I see people from all over Africa living on the streets of our city, and fighting over limited food from the dustbins of our cities.
I consider it all the time when I see South Africans, who were part of the struggle for freedom, not free but trapped in poverty.
Charles Taylor was bad. He is gone now. Liberia must definitely be a better place now. And I am sure they need all the help they can get, from their citizens and us, to help rebuild their country and make a life for themselves. Sierra Leone suffered the most under Taylor and his militia- the curse of the diamonds some say- which I did blog about a while ago..
Bush tried for war crimes? As much as I would like to see that, we know very well how the world works now…

Ali la Loca said...

I think the collective satisfaction from Bush being on trial will only come several generations from now. Perhaps our children will experience it...

As for Liberia, it is always interesting for me to hear about that country. I know the US has a horrid track record in terms of educating children about world geography and events (which is more or less true depending on the school and the person), but one thing is for sure - we NEVER hear about Liberia. Perhaps the experience is different for someone who is African American, but I feel this is a huge void in the history we learn.

Anonymous said...

Asalaam u alaikum
i heard you on #islam and i agree with you regarding the positive promotion of islam. I do,however feel that u are slightly off beat to the application thereof. Yes,muslims are using many media (irc,facebook etc) and creating a positive image through that is perhaps an alternative to lengthy accusatory bayaans but how does one create limits with it? u are speaking as an educated professional.Not many in our society has that advantage and ability to judge right from wrong. If muftis sanction or condone it-it brings about an attitude of ('he said its ok') how does one create limits with these media? I'm all for your idea and Inshallah it penetrated hard orthodox minds to get their message across in a better way. Aameen...Farhana

Bilal said...

@ali:
Perhaps. It would be good to see justice done, but justice will be done whether we see it or not..

I also find Liberia very interesting- was it a colony of the USA? It seems to be another place in Africa, exploited and forgotten. Maybe the trial of Taylor will bring further clarity..

@Farhana:
Slmz. Shukran for the feedback- much appreciated.

I understand your sentiments. But I feel that the reason some in our society don't have the ability to judge right from wrong, is because of how Islam is understood and thought. Unfortunately, the methods that worked in the past, are clearly failing today.

For example, today people are going into debt and using the 'Shariah' compliant certificates from the Muftis to justify this- if we began encouraging people to understand and practise, rather than just follow, we could begin to have a more grounded society...

InshaAllah, the more we discuss and engage, with each other and the different role players, we can make positive change and bring more depth to our largely superficial understanding as it now appears..

May Allah guide us all and give us strength to start changing mindsets.

Shukran,Wslm
Bilal

queen_Lestat said...

Liberia...land of freedom. A century later, what a shattered and tattered illusion and halo it all is now.

But, I guess in theory it was better than slavery in the states, and now they are their own slaves in terms of the war/unrest/economics.

Lord of War didn't paint a very nice picture either.

Bilal said...

The world is messed up- can it be fixed? I am not sure..

Yusuf said...

The world in its current context can neva be fixed. How can we create a moral and just society under a capitalist system? As for Bush been tried in the Hague, that can't be done. The Hague's jurisdiction does not extend to America. In terms of its mandate, The Hague cannot trie any american head of state. Its sick!