You may have heard that Bush has just completed his ‘victory’ tour of Africa. His las lap was here in Liberia today – George, Laura and Condy spent 7 hours total here visiting the US-funded armed forces and police training, talking to beneficiaries of the USAID funded education programs, and generally being treated like a ‘white hero’ (as I heard one man proclaim on the street this afternoon).
His visit wreaked havoc on this small city. The entire town was closed down today – I had to work from home because the one major road, which connects my house to the office, was closed from 6am to 4pm. All of the Ministries were shut down, and most businesses closed. But my favorite – the US told all fixed-winged aircraft that they had to vacate Roberts International Airport. As there are really no other safe places to park an airplane overnight, the Red Cross, the UN and the World Food Program (the only ones who have fixed wing aircraft in the country) were effectively kicked out of the country for two days! Can you imagine Bush traveling to London and telling all aircraft they have to vacate Heathrow? And come on, they’re humanitarian services!
I decided to take a walk this afternoon and see what was going on. I stopped and listened with a bunch of guys to a radio broadcast of Bush’s speech from the Army barracks. The Liberian people are so hopeful that this visit, the first American head of state for 30 years to come to the country, will bring all sorts of unimaginable benefits. I also walked down to the barracks, just a few minutes from my house, to check out the crowds. I happened to arrive just as Bush was leaving, and saw the ridiculous motorcade they had – I lost count at about 25 giant black armored SUVs, and even a limo, all imported from the states, along with a ton of other stuff. Ah, US taxpayer dollars at work.
But to be honest, I thoroughly appreciate President Bush’s visit to Monrovia. For one, his route from the airport to the capitol is also my route to work…the Liberian government spent the last few weeks frantically finishing up the road resurfacing for his motorcade, so I now have a relatively pothole-free ride to work! And considering what the ride used to be like – well, let’s just say there is a little less road rage in the mornings 🙂