To Market, To Market…

August 6, 2008 | By Justin Sullivan | Creative

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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 03: A young boy sells peanuts as former U.S. President Bill Clinton tours an outdoor market August 3, 2008 in Monrovia, Liberia.

 

It was still dark when we rolled out of the parking lot of Hotel Rwanda. Once again, the night didn’t yield enough sleep, but it was the best night of the trip so far. A solid five hours on the still, little twin bed.

 

When we arrived at the airport, the Ethiopian 767 that was sitting on the tarmac a day earlier had shrunk. Overnight the plane was switched out with a 727. Despite leaving the hotel at around 4:30 AM, I think our wheels went up around 7 AM. We took on much of Bill’s secret service agents as his plane only seats 28.

 

The leg to Monrovia, Liberia was nice and smooth. It’s always a little difficult to transfer over to a chartered commercial airline. The flight attendants are pretty strict about things like seat belts, electronics being turned on during take-off and landing and gear being stowed. They’re pretty much by the book. When on a private charter it’s a whole different ball game. For the most part, you can get away with anything. I’ve been transmitting pictures while drinking a beer as the plane lifts off, praying that the images will drop into the FTP site before we get out of range. Orange bowling is always popular, although I didn’t see any of that on this trip. There was some aisle surfing though and the flight attendant even asked if we wanted to smoke on the flight when we left from NY. Thankfully, nobody took her up on it.

 

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 03: The motorcade of former U.S. President Bill Clinton drives down a road August 3, 2008 in Monrovia, Liberia.

 

Monrovia was grey and rainy when we arrived. The airport was overrun with all types of UN equipment. Helicopters, planes, personnel carriers, you name it. After years of conflict, the country was pulling itself back together, one small piece at a time. Bill would be touring examples of progress in the country, a hotel under construction and a women’s outdoor market.

 

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 03: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton tours the Golden Key Hotel construction site August 3, 2008 in Monrovia, Liberia. 

 

He would also be meeting with the president to announce a new program to offer cheap malaria drugs.

 

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 03: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (L) talks with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, during a news conference where he announced a program to reduce the cost of malaria drugs August 3, 2008 in Monrovia, Liberia.

 

As our UN led motorcade made its way toward Monrovia, we passed UN soldiers along the road with their bright blue helmets and various patterns of camouflage. There were dozens of deteriorating billboards with public service messages about AIDS, malaria and rape. All the bizarre cartoon drawings of people having sex, families sleeping under mosquito netting alongside anti-rape “no means no” situations. There was also an abundance of gas stations. I wanted to stop the motorcade and indulge in some gas price features.

 

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 03: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (C) greets a group of men while touring an outdoor market August 3, 2008 in Monrovia, Liberia. 

 

After touring the hotel and market, we went to an embassy for the meeting with the president. The delegation and the press were treated to bag lunches with several choices of meat – including crab. I don’t think anyone wanted to risk that one. I had the cheese with a bag of poppy seed, grilled sun dried tomato and garlic Doritos. I am surprised there wasn’t any Pringles, the leading third world chip. There were several cans of Fanta Orange, the official third world soda.

 

Our time on the ground was short, a mere six hours before heading off to Dakar, Senegal. Like Liberia, our time in Dakar was short, about five hours. When we landed I noticed it was much warmer here than the places we had been. It felt like Miami. Our one event was pretty dull. A press conference about AIDS medication offered at a reduced cost. An important issue, but incredibly boring. I was nodding off while standing.

 

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

DAKAR, SENEGAL – AUGUST 03: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton walks off of stage after speaking during a news conference where he announced a program to reduce the cost of AIDS drugs August 3, 2008 in Dakar, Senegal.

 

After the conference we took a long overnight flight to Mexico City.  The good news was that we had plenty of room to stretch out on the flight. I was able to get about five hours of sleep and enjoyed several cocktails with Matt McKenna and Jon Davidson – it was fun.

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  • http://www.inclusivesecurity.org Jonathan Talbot

    Liberia is a really interesting example of what women in political leadership can do. Along with Rwanda, they’ve even developed a great model for promoting greater participation by women in electoral politics called “Inspiration Days.” It’s no coincidence that these two post-conflict countries stand out for having the highest percentage of women MPs in the world (Rwanda), and boasting Africa’s first women president (Liberia). You can read more about it here: http://www.huntalternatives.org/download/1561_generic_inspiration_day_v3.pd f