|Voinjama, Liberia - Pentecostal Church Sept. 2004, one of the few standing
buildings left relartively unscathed minus few bullet holes
|Voinjama, Liberia - Downtown Sept. 2004
|Toma Hill, "PakBatt Picnic Point" Voinjama, Liberia
|Zorzor, Lofa County Liberia - Feb. 2005
|Lofa Liberia - RPG missle blast shot through 2 walls
This is one of the most beautiful sites I've worked in. With its deep forest and rolling hills there was plenty of space for
hikes. I literally would take back country hikes from my backyard. Following old roads or farmer trail ducking vines
and getting slashed by razor grass that hung from trees I would often run into an abandon house. All of this back
country hiking was still in the old town. It was like stumbling onto Angkor Wat. .....but made of cement and no statues
and carvings. On top of it there was nothing better than running into a farmer on his way back from the farm and
sharing a cup of sweet sweet poy-yo. Butterflies would flutter in exultation as we drove through patches of sunlight.
And there was always the anxiety of snakes as we passed through grass as tall as my chin.
There are five main ethnic groups living in the county, Lorma, Gbande, Mandingo, Kissi, and Kpelle. They've all have a
sorted history with each other, but these division were exasperated by the war. The Mandigo people, however, were
always been considered as outsiders even though many lived in Liberia for generations. By the end of the war the
Mandingos had substantial power in Lofa since LURD, who were mainly comprised of Mandingo and the main rebel
force that beat back Charles Taylor, controlled the county since the end of the war. How the ethnic groups resolve this
shift in power structure will be interesting especially as more and more of the other ethnic groups return home and
want things to return to normal before the war.
|Palm wine tapper - Voinjama, Liberia
|Sipping sweet, sweet, poy-yo from a grass staw - Voinjama, Liberia
|Dabbing mud for walls - Voinjama, Liberia
|Digging sand for cemet, Lofa, Liberia
|Tallest point in Liberia, Pademai Lofa County, Liberia
|Graffiti- "Original Kill Woman in Action For ATU ......", Voinjama Liberia
|Rachel showing her kids downtown, Voinjama Liberia
|Money changers in Voinjama. While you could use Liberian Liberties for petty merchandise,
everybody used US dolars
|Part of processing palm oil, Kolahun Lofa County
|A farmer from Barkaidou catches a raft to ferry him over the Lofa river
where he tends his fields.
|Ex-combatant carpentry workshop, Voinjama, Liberia.
|After LURD rebels brought back one of Charles Taylor's horses as war booty, Voinjama's a one horse
By the time DDRR finished people started to come back for a look and some ex-combatants used the cash they received for disarming to start rebuilding their
communities. From then on each day brought something new. Sticks were placed for walls and dabbed with mud and old sheets of zinc were scavenged to roof
houses that became increasingly over-crowed. First the churches, mosques, clinics and schools were rebuilt. By January we had our first respectable bar....God
bless Club beer in a wine bottle.. Farmers were hunting and preparing for the next rice season. Tappers were scaling palm trees to extract the nectar for sweet
palm wine, Poy-yo -- as Liberians like to say "from God to man". In May, the police came back....ok so there were only 28 old men from the old regimes left to secure
entire county but they were back. By August, the court system was reopened and physician assistants started referring patience to doctors. By the time I left the
county was awash with political contenders trying to sweep up vote for Liberia's new elections.
When I arrived in Liberia in Aug 2004 and mentioned that I would be moving up to Lofa County, there was always a
gasp ......... "ahhhh........Good Luck?". Liberians didn't want to go there and very few humanitarian agency were
prepared to go there. The fables are bountiful. Many of the images of Lofa were based on reality. After being a
battle field for 3 years the county was full of ex-combatants (not necessarily marauding but they definitely weren't
polite). Most of the stories and bruhaw was exaggerated hearsay.
Lofa County sits in the northwest of the county bordering Guinea-Conakry and Sierra Leone. Its the largest county
in the country and even though Liberia has been an independent nation since 1848, parts of its boundaries were
unclear until 1960 when Guinea delineated its border when it freed itself from French rule. In 1935, Graham
Greene wrote a travel log of his journey through Liberia, "A Journey Without Maps". His trip carries him through the
heart of Lofa County. It pretty interesting to see how much hasn't changed from 1935 to 2005.
When I first took the five hour through Lofa to get to Voinjama, the County seat, it was pure forest - trees on the right
of me, trees on the left of me, trees above me and red wet dirt underneath me. We had been driving hours and I
hadn't seen a single house or person along the
road, so I asked Karmo our logistician officer if Lofa was very
populated. He turned to me and said "yeah there were villages
all along this road." When I turned and looked into the bush I
notice much the forest had totally grown over towns. Trees
burst through living rooms and vines strangled walls. The
county was almost completely depopulated and it basically
remained that way until Feb. 2005 when people began to
return and rebuild. Prior to that the only occupants were the
few people who fled and hid in the forest, ex-combatant, or
individuals popping in to access the damage to there homes.
There were very few women when I arrived. Those who were
there usually had some connection to the fighting forces, either
because they were abducted during the war or volunteered to