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Surprising Liberia

Within a glass cabinet of wartime paraphernalia inside Monrovia’s national museum is a jarring photograph from Liberia’s civil war. A tall, elegant young woman wearing a red croptop is firing an AK-47 into the open door of a vehicle. Fear is etched upon the faces of horrified bystanders. If successive bloody civil wars (1989-2003) lefime reluctant to visit Liberia, then the subsequent Ebola outbreak (2014- 16) that cost 4810 lives extinguished any desire. I imagined Liberia’s grim recent history appealing only to connoisseurs of dark tourism. Yet I was sensing a difierent vibe by January 2018 when I was invited for a four-day recce. Africa’s only female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was being succeeded afier freeand- fair elections by Africa’s greatest ever footballer, George

Weah. Euphoria surrounded his victory, yet still I travelled expecting to find a completely failed state. Arriving by KLM’s new fiight to Monrovia I transferred in darkness to RLJ Kendeja Resort, glimpsing on the way campaign posters of defeated presidential candidates and illuminated crucifixes atop Christian ministries. I was ofiered peppery bissap (hibiscus) juice at check-in where a portrait of ex-President Sirleaf waited to be taken down. By morning,

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July-September 2018 (83)
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