62 hours in Liberia: the flight we almost missed

Mrs Ceda Ankra


The 28th of July, 2022: Except for the celebration of a passenger's birthday by the cabin crew, the flight was uneventful. However, I have been on some dramatic ones. The most memorable was a 2014 trip to Joburg with South Africa Airways. I had hurriedly assembled banana and groundnut paste sandwiches to eat that night before running to the airport, but my stomach rebelled.

The person taking the place of convenience took a long time while I stood in front of the restroom and gently knocked on the door. I couldn't stand on my shaky legs any longer after 20 minutes, and whatever was in my stomach was rapidly falling out. I threw politeness into the air and slammed the door so hard that the cabin crew showed up to do their job of keeping peace. A cat carrying a rainbow on her head left within a minute. A kit of makeup was in one hand; the second, lipstick.

A group of Ghanaians began chanting, "Rough road! "as turbulence continued to rock the plane on another Egypt Air flight to Dubai. Hard road!

My first flight to Liberia with Kenya Airways, however, left nothing in the memory bank. I was intrigued by the nation that I was visiting for the first time and had heard so much about.

One of the oldest countries in Africa, Liberia, evokes images of a nation pressing a self-destruction button. Its unemployment rates have been identified as a threat to national security. The country's anti-corruption body, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), is being dismantled by the executive and legislature in concert. As a result, corruption has progressed to the point where it is a full-blown cancer. What is their justification? Prosecutions by the anti-graft body were unnecessary.

While unemployment and corruption plague West Africa, Liberia's situation is unique due to its recent civil wars.

The nation failed to adopt Rwanda's and Ivory Coast's visionary leadership models, both of which recently experienced perilous times in the midst of civil war.

According to the World Bank's 2021 Poverty and Equity Brief, poverty has increased from 50.9 percent to 52% in the four years since President George Weah was elected. According to the brief, "44 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty ($1.90 per day), and poverty is projected to increase in Liberia over the next few years, driven by rising food prices, falling commodity prices for minerals, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic." The country's abundant agricultural and mineral resources are not easily accessible to the average person.

Three prominent Liberians have recently been murdered on the security front. The 76-year-old son of former Liberian President William V.S. Tubman, John Hilary Tubman; and William Richard Tolbert III, 68, the 20th president of Liberia and the eldest son of the late William R. Tolbert Jr.; were bafflingly killed in what resembled a brought forth work. The fate of senior Liberian Immigration Service officer Ms. Maude Elliot was also similar.

When I listen to the BBC a lot, the many Liberians who complain about their living conditions rarely sound optimistic. The Liberian refugees at the Bujumbura Camp in Ghana, who have refused to return home, speak for themselves. It's not all well.

When I got on the plane, I was thinking about all of these things.

I chose a book to read as the plane took off into the sky. Christian fiction about the rapture is "Left Behind." It starts with dozens of passengers in an airplane going missing in their underwear.

Fortunately for the passengers who were left behind, heaven rejected the pilot. However, that flight experienced panic.

I fell asleep in the book amid the commotion on the aircraft. Adiza, a colleague at the Media Foundation for West Africa, and a Liberian woman who was chewing gum loud enough to possibly warn me about the undesirable direction of my adventurous head, were my fellow passengers. I caught myself a few times trying hard not to stray my head onto their shoulders.

After waking up an hour into the two-and-a-half-hour flight, I alternated between reading the book and having a conversation with my coworker.

The captain's voice filled the aircraft upon landing at Robert's International by 5.10 p.m. It was rough as though he had been cautioned that talking noisily and obviously would cost him his flying permit.

Liberia's lush forests and sandy beaches became visible as we descended. The Robert's International Airport itself gave the impression of being surrounded by a forest. The tranquility it offers makes up for the lack of the concrete jungle that characterizes the majority of international airports.

We made our landing at 5.30 p.m. It didn't take long to realize that Liberia's only international airport had seen better days as the plane sped toward the arrivals hall.

On the edges of the tarmac, a few decrepit buildings lined up. Some looked charred.

It gave the impression that the country had not yet recovered from its two bloody civil wars, which left thousands of people injured or dead. Additionally, the lengthy recovery path had not yet reached the airport.

Influence-peddling was taking place within the arrivals hall. A man in plain clothes waved at a couple who were going to meet port health officials for an inspection of their COVID-19 vaccination cards.

It quickly turned into a turf war. The couple was directed back into the line by another official. They were directed back by their patron.

The friendly port health official's "Hello, Akwaaba to Liberia" jolted me and distracted me from the drama that was about to unfold. A second round of Akwaaba and a fatal Twi attempt followed by a welcoming smile from an immigration officer.

The luggage claim became another obstacle once the formalities for immigration had been completed. Handlers of luggage were busy tossing the bags onto the broken carousel so that someone else could lift them to the ground.

It wasn't over there. There was no trolley at the airport. For a training program on investigative journalism and anti-corruption reporting, we had a lot of heavy stationery. The luggage had to be lifted by me on my shoulder. Yet, after 20 stages, a man whose stomach was taking steps to tear his shirt's buttons highlighted a scanner.

"Put your baggage there, it must be examined," he said with a cavalier wave.

We gave in.

It didn't take long to leave the airport with the stationery back on my shoulder and my main luggage securely in my grasp. Then came the haggling over the price of the taxi ride to our hotel.

We decided on $50 US.

Surprisingly, one can't resist the urge to see the arranging around the air terminal, especially the very much manicured yards. I jokingly mentioned to my coworker that it appeared as though Liberia's elites were not interested in airport land.

She responded, "Probably don't have the money yet to develop it."

Journey to Monrovia and President Weah's performance As the green fields vanished behind us, the typical Liberian's daily struggle began to emerge.

I was shocked to see diesel and petrol sold in jars. In West Africa, the ubiquitous commercial motorcycles known as okada serve as their customers.

Liberia's streams and rivers were impressively clean, in contrast to Ghana's heavily polluted rivers caused by illegal miners.

IMG 2762 scaled In contrast to Ghana, where illegal miners have heavily polluted water bodies, Liberia's rivers and streams are clean. Our driver, Peter, however, was quick to point out that Liberia was also dealing with illegal miners, particularly from Ghana and Nigeria.

At the point when the conversation turned political, he had no benevolent words about President George Weah, who he said misdirected his direction into power.

He is vengeful. As he steered clear of a hole that was close to swallowing a tire, he said, "No leader has divided this country after the civil war like Weah."

We wouldn't be able to enjoy some level of normalcy after the bumpy, dusty ride for nearly 30 minutes.

Peter stated that President Weah took more pleasure in dancing on TikTok and cooking on television than in keeping his promises, with the exception of completing a few projects that the country's post-war President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, had begun.


P.M. News: Liberian President George Weah gets the BUGA dance bug. He has received a lot of criticism for dancing on Tiktok. He also didn't give Madam Sirleaf any praise. On Peter's scorecard, former President Charles Taylor, who is being held for war crimes, did better, which is interesting.

It was abundantly clear that commercial motorcycles were stepping in where there was no well-developed transportation infrastructure. To safeguard the rider and passengers, some of these motorcycles had umbrellas fixed to them.

On a stretch of highway that, according to our chatty taxi driver, had been abandoned for more than two years, no cars or the dingy minibuses that provided transportation could be seen for several minutes. The business transports that ridiculed the expression "street commendable" were not generally so numerous as the yellow taxicabs that challenge freight limits.

I wonder if Ghanaians, Liberians, or Nigerians are the worst drivers because of their poor road driving skills. IMG 2773 1 scaled Some people in Ghana say that driving is a mess out there. In Liberia, it is the same. The traffic laws seem straightforward. Rule one: The right of way is reserved for tricycles and big cars. Number two: Whatever the rider in front of you decides to do, you are responsible for it. Hypertensive drivers may be exacerbated by the recklessness with which the tricycles weave through traffic.

The Asian influence and the search for a hotel After nearly two hours on the road, we finally reached Bela Casa. Be that as it may, a brief glance at the breaks on the façade and the inn's faintly lit passageways didn't motivate neighborliness.

My colleague, who was an avid traveler in the region, immediately suggested that we look at the rooms first. The manager of the hotel reluctantly agreed. Adiza's instinct was correct. It was so stuffy that it could give you a cold.

Our taxi driver quickly recommended the Boulevard Palace, a hotel that dominates Monrovia's skylines. However, the driver warned that it is costly. It is a property in Lebanon.

We settled on the chic boutique hotel Murex Plaza, another Lebanese-owned establishment, on our way to Boulevard. Adiza, a skilled negotiator, helped the situation because the rates were high for what was offered.

Since Friday's training was completed, Saturday was planned for sightseeing. However, due to our host's inability to recall any tourist attractions in Monrovia other than the beach, we were forced to abandon the idea.

When we learned that foreigners were the targets of knife attacks, we quickly dismissed the idea that IMG 2869 had scaled a street in the central business district of Monrovia. We received little support from friends and travel advice from the UK Embassy.

I slept, worked, read, and ate.

After she took the time to look at their menu online, my colleague suggested that we treat our taste buds to a meal at Boulevard in the afternoon.

The food did not quite live up to the 82 US dollars we paid for it. Fried plantains came through for us. For some strange reason, Liberians use both the US dollar and the Liberian dollar to pay for things. The food did not taste as good as it looked on the menu. In the country's central business district, the Asian influence was obvious. Our bill would have been L$12,628 IMG 2895 scaled. Shops from China, India, and Lebanon competed for customers. I discovered that those three nations contributed around 70% of Liberia's monetary spine.

We made our way back to the airport on Sunday. The hotel receptionist said $50 would get you a car with air conditioning. The car did not have air conditioning, and the driver appeared to have learned how to drive from the snail. He tried to pull a fast one at the airport. He instructed us to pay $50 each. He was not in control.

However, the most significant issue awaited us at the departure hall entrance. The gate was now shut. A security man showed up from no place to man the entryway. He wouldn't listen when I calmly tried to explain the situation to him. Adiza also tried, but he just gave a nasty look while burying his hands in his pocket.

Then Adiza, who was once one of the calmest people in the world, became enraged. I joined the commotion. It moved in the right direction and also attracted ears and eyes. A member of the Fly Africa World staff showed up, but when he realized what was making the noise, he shrugged and left. Sympathy was shown by a more diplomatic individual who exited the hallway.

The door was opened.

It didn't make sense why the departure gate was closed 30 minutes before check-in time. The staff at the airline explained that the majority of passengers who arrived late and caused a scene when they were denied boarding were late arrivals.

The immigration officer, who probably begged Ghanaian travelers for the money, was interested in converting 55 GH into dollars. He also requested a tip. I continued with a smile. Similar demands were being subtly made by the security guards.

We raced to the bus that would take us to the plane after overcoming these obstacles and the formalities associated with boarding. It was only both of us. Later, three additional passengers entered.

We left 30 minutes earlier than planned. Sierra Leone's Freetown was our final destination.

Although my 62-hour stay in Monrovia convinced me that Liberia needs to shake off the dead skins of its bloody civil war, despite the fact that the flight to Liberia was uneventful.


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