Sunday, 4 August 2013

Zwedru - Liberia

Years of working in conflict zones meant inevitably that you had to sit down and deal with some very questionable people.

Often it was just hustlers trying to scrape a living from whatever angle they were touting. Occasionally it was more serious when presented with the option to hire trucks or other equipment that had clearly been looted from their original owners. Peeled off letters from Agency landcruisers, tended to leave a clear outline on the vehicles paintwork.
Then once in a while you met someone who simply radiated bad news.  They could exude the charm of a self confidence backed up by their militia and a terrified local population; or they would just maintain  a brooding silence, their face hidden behind  a pair of dark sunglasses. Some had inflicted considerable suffering on the population amongst which they still continued to live
Zwedru located in the far south east of Liberia was identified as a centre for an agricultural rehabilitation programme. Access at that time was by helicopter, with ECOMOG maintaining a visible presence on the ground.

An assessment of the agricultural infrastructure 

With a Country Office already established in Monrovia,  it was time to identify a suitable base for a field office. Introductions were made and I found myself in the presence of a group who had clearly been actively involved in the fighting. 

Both sides had a vested interest. I needed a compound to rent and they were after hard currency.  Options were limited but in the end I walked away from the deal as actual ownership was unclear. The last thing needed was to find the place had a complex history or worse.

I still remember sitting down in that darkened room. eyes slowly adjusting after the glare of the sun. The militia standing around the room, backs  against the wall whilst  their leader and I weighed each other up across a table.  It was on reflection the right decision.