You were disappointed to leave even at such a chaotic and dangerous time?
We really felt like we wanted to stay and continue our work because we were getting the story out. Civilians who were suffering so heavily liked knowing that their story was being told. There were some long faces when we left. Liberians in Monrovia sort of feel like they are surrounded by the enemy. Whenever another news organization leaves, they feel a bit more alone in their struggle. If I was Liberian and everybody said, "It's too dangerous, here. We're all leaving," that would certainly raise my fear level
You hope to be able to return to Liberia soon?
Well, we've heard that Nigerian peacekeeping forces may be arriving [shortly]. So we're hoping to go back in with the Nigerians. But we don't know if it's confirmed that they're going. We also don't know if we can get on their helicopters to get back in.
While we're here, we're looking at the similarities between Sierra Leone a few years ago and Liberia today. Freetown was in a very similar situation to Monrovia's today.
Are international aid organizations still operating in Liberia?
Most of the aid organizations had left. The smaller ones had certainly. But there were some really hard-core individuals still there trying to help. Doctors Without Borders, MERLIN (Medical Emergency Relief International), and the International Committee for the Red Cross were still operating. The Liberians we spoke to were saying on a daily basis, "We want the international community to become involved. We can't solve this on our own." They also said, if [Liberian President Charles] Taylor steps down before international peacekeepers arrive, the situation will be chaotic and the rebels will launch a major offensive and try to take the city.
For the last four days Monrovia has not had a water supply. They need help with water, food, sanitation, really with everything. Monrovia has essentially ground to a halt. There are no public services whatsoever except for [a] few medical facilities run by the Red Cross and Doctors Without Boarders. The government is, in effect, not a government at the moment.
Your documentary focuses on historical ties between the U.S. and Liberia. Was that relationship in people's minds during this chaotic time?
The Liberians really feel that because their country was established by freed American slaves, and because Liberia had a strong relationship with the U.S. during the Cold War and has culturally had a relationship with the U.S. since the birth of the country, you know, they see America as the motherland. And they feel sort of neglected and abandoned by America's lack of willingness to commit troops. They wonder why America hasn't been willing, so far, to help. It would certainly restore a lot of faith in West Africa toward the United States. Liberians are saying, "You sent troops to Afghanistan. You sent troops to Iraq. Why don't you send us some help?"
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