Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Africa, Culture 

The history of Liberia

A lot can be learned about human nature from looking at the history of Liberia. I visited the country in July of 2011, invited by a friend to explore the region for possible business opportunities. On this trip I had a chance to see with my own eyes a failed state brought to its knees by corruption and primitive culture, not just read about it and ignore it as we commonly do.

After the American civil war ended, the American Colonization Society was created to help former slaves return to Africa, where they were thought to have better opportunities. The ACS had admirable goals and was actively supported by Abraham Lincoln and James Monroe.

During this time, the region of Liberia was known as the Pepper coast, with locals actively trading commodities as well as slaves with European merchants. However it was never fully colonized, mostly because its lack of natural resources.

As a side note, the American slave trade required three participants: The owners of the American plantations who used the slaves as free labor, the European traders who shipped the slaves across the Atlantic ocean, and the local African tribes who hunted down and captured people from nearby villages to sell to the traders. Forget the story of Kunta Kinte from Roots; the white man was rarely involved in the capture of African slaves. It was blacks who captured and sold fellow blacks, just as British whites captured and sold fellow Irish whites as slaves to America during the same era.

In 1820, ships with black settlers began sailing from America to the Pepper coast to implement the plan of a fresh new start in their own country, returning to mother Africa. By trade and threat of force they managed to secure big stretches of coastal property in the area from the natives. The settlers were very different from the natives and never seen as equals, having higher education, a different religion, from a different culture and with access to vastly superior weapons. The indigenous people unsuccessfully tried to fight them off.

By 1847 the settlement had 3,000 inhabitants, and it declared itself the country of Liberia, much to the frustration of the natives. Now known as the Americo-Liberians, the settlers promptly took control of the entire region, and implemented a racial and cultural caste system with themselves at the top. The 100,000 natives became nothing more than serfs, at the whim of their new masters. One would think that generations of misery in slavery would have taught the Americo-Liberians a lesson, but obviously not.

This injustice was simmering under a tight lid for more than a hundred years, until the bloody overthrow in 1980, lead by native Samuel Doe. However, increasing unrest and opposition to the new military regime made Liberia spiral into a tribal civil war that went on from 1989 to 2003. During these years, the country was looted of all its basic infrastructure and stripped of all human decency.

Warlords like General Butt Naked, General Mosquito and General Mosquito Killer, were on a rampage for more than a decade, tearing the region into pieces, and emotionally numbing the entire nation by shell shock

Having peace for the last 11 years does not seem to have changed much in people's attitudes though. Here is a story from last year, as witnessed by a friend and sent by email to me. "Some guy tried to steal a wheelbarrow in our village, and the local guys caught him, tied him up, got pliers and cut his fingers off, cut the vein in bottom of both legs and burned a plastic bag and let it drip into his eyes. The whole village was out to get the guy, like a mob. He died. The police came and asked who did it and everyone said they didn't know." 

This is what happens in primitive brutal societies. Europe was no better a few hundred years ago. West Africa might now enjoy the convenience of electricity and indoor plumbing, but they are still hundreds of years behind Europe when it comes to culture. Yet most cultural relativists want to blame misery in Africa on the white man. What part did the white man play in this story?

West African culture sucks. It is primitive and brutal and should be left on the heap of bad ideas, and replaced with European culture. Not that Europe is perfect, but it is still light-years ahead of the tribal stupidity, superstition, violence and Voodoo that goes on over in Africa.

Somehow I don't feel sorry for the people of Liberia. The natives sold their brothers as slaves, and the Americo-Liberians came back and enslaved them. What an irony. We managed to rise above madness like this in Europe, without any outside help. So can Africa.

On my trip I visited West Point, a part of Monrovia commonly described as the most filthy and dangerous place in the world. I agree that to this day it is still a horrifying place full of trash and scary looking desperate people. I was too intimidated to even bring out my camera.

Below: View of West Point from the looted Ducor Hotel.

Below: Once the pride of the city, the luxurious Ducor Hotel is now just a concrete shell stripped of all valuables. 

Below: Locals selling clothes at a roadside market, Monrovia.

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