Adewale Maja-Pearce, 27 January 2020
Corruption and hypocrisy tend to be systemic: if you see them at the top you’re sure to encounter them at the bottom. Liberia has been rebuilt with impressive speed; the road networks are now even better than they were when I was last there. But the graft has got worse. On my trip in a shared taxi from the border of Côte d’Ivoire to Monrovia, a journey of about eight hours, we were stopped more than half a dozen times by Immigration and Customs and charged an informal fee each time. On one occasion on the Liberian side, having refused to pay, I was singled out for a one-on-one interview by a ‘chief’ in the privacy of his office: ‘a big man like you’, he said, could surely ‘find something’ for him. We both laughed as I peeled off a few notes from the wad of local currency I had to cart around for this sort of occasion. Anyway, he explained, it was a security issue: no money, no surveillance, and no safety for travellers or foreign nationals. Didn’t I know about the civil war that had raged in Liberia back in the day?