By Edward McAllister|Reuters|
Crammed into tumble-down shacks on a sandspit that the Atlantic Ocean is steadily devouring, the residents of Liberia’s most notorious slum have one common desire: an end to their daily struggle with dire poverty.
Next month, when the 75,000 inhabitants of the capital Monrovia’s West Point neighborhood decide who should be the next leader of Africa’s oldest republic, an ex-soccer star or the current vice president, they will not be nostalgic.
“The last president didn’t give any help to the common people – no improvement, no development,” said Ishmael Campbell, a 26-year-old fisherman born and raised in the shantytown. “We need a president who will be there for us.”
While the world has feted President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, for keeping the peace after a prolonged civil war, those living in West Point take a dimmer view of her 12-year tenure.
Like most in West Point, Campbell lives in a shack along one of the labyrinthine back alleys where houses are packed so close that residents must squeeze through shoulder-wide paths choked by rotting fish and sewage.
On Johnson Sirleaf’s watch, an Ebola epidemic saw them placed under quarantine, hemmed in by barbed wire and soldiers who opened fire on protesters challenging the order. Then a global commodities crash dashed the country’s hopes of mining riches.