One of the most beautiful places in Liberia, and for that matter, in West Africa is a mountain called Nimba. Located in the interior of Liberia on the Guinea and Ivory Coast intersect with Liberia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an endangered nature reserve. There are many rare species of animals and fauna located there including the West African lion, pygmy hippopotamus, zebra duiker and western chimpanzee to mention a few. However, this beautiful region is under threat from concession iron ore mining by a Pakistani company exporting the raw ore out of the country.
It was to Mt Nimba that my good friend Konah Youhn Wonta and I ventured. We left Sannequillie in a red 1998 Jeep Cherokee in the morning. Two hours into our trip, we broke down in a small sparsely populated dusty dirt road town of Gbarpa. Wonta is highly respected in the region. He is a retired military commander, colonel in fact, whom the local police report to. He currently acts as a private investigator solving crimes in at least 12 African countries so far. He speaks several languages including French, English and the many local tongues throughout West and Central Africa. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that Wonta also mines gold. I say this for two reasons: 1) he has a very entrepreneurial spirit which seems to be common throughout the region; and 2) the region has tremendous natural resources that need to be properly developed – not for export in their raw capacity, but in a value added capacity. This then translates into skills and jobs helping Liberia’s future elevated participation in the global economy.
The cause of our breakdown was a flat tire. Out of nowhere, people came to help. We got the tire off; Wonta commandeered a motor bike, and rode off to the next town holding the flatten tire sitting on the back of the bike to fix the tire. Meanwhile, I’m sitting outside under the shadow of an abandoned adobe brick gas station next to a makeshift bar.
While waiting, some young men came out of the bar offering me a drink. I declined, but we did talk for a while. One of the young men use to work for the iron ore company. They were all looking for jobs and wanted me to keep them in mind for any job openings that I might be able to provide them. It was about an hour and a half before Wonta returned with the fixed tire.
We placed it back onto the car and off we continued to the Guinea border. Wonta met with some border guards. They seemed to be old friends. We then drove back a different route through a small village where he stopped at a small hut to ask some questions of a few people. I suspect he was doing some investigative work. Very smooth Wonta!! We then drove through a very well kept sprawling bible school campus. After that, we headed back home to Sannequillie on some very dusty and bumpy jungle roads encountering people walking along the side of the road balancing bundles of goods on their heads with an occasional group of children selling dirty water inside of plastic bags. They also had live squirrels holding them by their tails enticingly as delicious treats. Brilliant marketing of a potentially sumptuous quick meal. I declined! People are indeed very entrepreneurial here!
We arrived back home at dusk ready for some savory goat and cassava meal along with cold beer. It was wonderful! day in Nimba County!