When you write about Liberia, always use modifiers like “war-torn”, “recovering”, ‘‘corrupt’’, “illiterate”, and “dirty”. Do not forget to speak about poor road networks, poor communication systems, poor health system, a messy education system, and just about everything bad depending on the length of what you’re writing. Try to portray Liberia as a village consisting of people with fear and intimidation of their awful past.
Talk about returning slaves and Liberia’s historic relations with the United States and how we adopted their constitutional design, the system of government, flag, street names, and government agency names. It is a badge of honor. Highlight that.
Talk about child soldiers. Talk about the fourteen years of civil unrest. Talk about Charles Taylor and the other warlords that are in the House of Legislature. Talk about how they were saviors before they became savages.
If you need a cover for your book or a picture for your article, use a child with a protruding stomach and scanty hair, Ebola bodies, heroic health workers, buildings destroyed by war, or dilapidated zinc houses in the slums of West Point or New Kru Town, or the Atlantic Ocean.
Try not to only focus on the negatives. Talk about Liberia as Africa’s oldest republic. Talk about how the ruins of Ducor Hotel, E. J. Roye Building, and the Old Memorial Pavilion are standing testaments to the country’s glory days when things were “normal.” Remember to highlight normal. It is very important. Talk about Liberia’s role in Africa’s independence struggle. Talk about Wani Botoe (was he that good?), George Weah (before he became a politician and a preacher), and Matilda Newport (is she even real?).
Write about Liberia as a grandmother who lived her years in fame, extravagance, and luxury, only to end up leaning on the arms of the West for security and livelihood. Talk about how Liberia’s economy is controlled by foreigners and how every presidential aspirant promises to change that.
Talk about how, without foreign aid, most of the essential public services will not be delivered. Talk about how the government shamelessly celebrates its achievements–a few meters of road, some traffic light– and how these achievements require other people’s money for implementation. Talk about how the public services that aid delivers are inadequate in both quality and quantity.
Make sure that throughout your book, you repeatedly mention thieves, armed robbers, rapists, prostitutes, and corrupt government officials because they are the beauty and pride of the nation. Mention that when ordinary people engage in corruption it is called “stealing” and that when government officials do, it is called “embezzlement.” Mention that there is a lot of embezzlement. A lot.
Mention the people you meet: the Yarkpawolos, the Flomos, and other “native” boys and girls who claim to have the country at heart but are the worst criminals in the Legislature and definitely in the country.
Talk about the youth leaders—Jefferson Koijee, Henry Costa and Butu Levi, for they are the most complex Liberians. There is also one group of half-educated, arrogant, gullible, and unwilling-to-learn youths who are convinced that they should be in charge. Then there is the other group: fearless, courageous, organizing at the community level, ready to end business as usual in politics. Mention that when they get to state power, at least historically, they will repeat the same mistakes. Highlight this to show nothing is going to change. This is important.
Talk about pollution and how Monrovia is very dirty and reeks of dump sites, dirty markets, and leaking sewage pipes. You’ll see this for yourself so we don’t want to stress this point too much.
Talk about health workers, teachers, police and civil servants and how they are underpaid. Talk about the police collecting bribes. Teachers collecting bribes. The Legislature “allegedly” collecting bribes. Everyone collecting bribes. And don’t forget to add “allegedly” if the person is important.
Talk about death. Mention hundreds of people died during the civil war, say it was a senseless war. Then take a page or two, and write about more deaths caused by the Ebola outbreak and how it could have been prevented simply by buying ambulances. Write about this like you believe it. Also, just to follow best practice, include malaria-related deaths and the harrowing statistics.
Write about your traveling experience, especially boarding a public vehicle and being cushioned between four passengers whose foul odor and funky breath beat your face like a harsh beam of a morning sunrise. Talk about government officials and everyone else driving on the opposite side of the road to avoid traffic.
Among your characters, you must always include a victim of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), who has been stigmatized by society because her parents forced her to obey tradition. Even better, include a girl whose dreams have been shattered by rapists. She must look utterly helpless and broken.
Talk about poverty. We mean serious poverty. Serious and extreme poverty. The kind of poverty that makes you question whether there should be a special category for Liberia. A fourth world country, maybe? Always make pictures of pregnant teenagers, kids with guns, violence in the streets, and children dying of starvation and many diseases an integral part of your book.
You must include a single mother that has to endlessly toil for the benefit of her children. Mention that women have always saved this country. Mention the women who protested to bring peace to Liberia because without them we won’t be here to advise you on how to write about Liberia. Mention how the women also helped elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Don’t talk too much about Ellen and her failings. The Western media have made up their mind- she was an angel among demons. The last honest Liberian. Talk about her Nobel prize, struggle for women’s right and how she beat, no say destroyed, the odds to become Africa’s first female president. Ask people on the streets what they think. And include only those who agree with this in your final piece.
Describe in details, especially in a mocking tone, how grades are now being priced in secondary schools. Kiss for grades. Romance for grades. Sex for grades. It is only a matter of time until high school graduates would be ignorant of a test-tube or a bunsen burner.
We are not in college yet so we can’t talk about sex for grades there. Do your own research. It can’t be that hard.
Liberia is ‘rich’—rubber plantations, mineral resources, virgin forests, water bodies, but nobody cares about that. Is it not smart to write about this? Also, mention how Liberia’s soil is supposed to be fertile, but is not. How we could be feeding ourselves, but are stuck in a beggars mindset. This would show that you know about Liberia and give your writing some credibility.
Talk about football. Not because we have a football president, but because it is the most loved and cherished sport in the nation. And then because we have a football president.
Write about morality being ostracized. Prostitution is what the “high-class” girls do—exchanging sex for money with big stomach men. Big, hanging stomach men. Big, hanging, alcoholic stomach men who they call “sugar daddies.”
Tell your audience how religion is a business, how prayer warriors and preacher men have attached monetary value to blessings. Talk about how some Liberians want to make the country a “Christian” state and return it to its founding values. Of which there may be none.
Talk about the missing money, how Liberia sells its flag on the international waters for revenue. Also, elaborate on how Liberians classify their electrical corporation as Liberia Expecting Current (LEC) because the country is always “DARK.”
Feel no remorse about these things because it’s the reality and that is how their generations have been brought up. And don’t blame them, you should always pin it on their forefathers who bathed them in superstitions and instilled in them backwardness.
It is up to you to decide what to write about, but be straight to the point when you write.
In conclusion, mention how many people get away with vicious activities because Liberia is a free land of “LIBERTY.”
*Inspired by BINYAVANGA WAINAINA’s “How to write about Africa”.
Authored by The Unveilers