January 1, 1998 - Manovision: The return of the US Peace Corps by Hassan Kiawu

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Liberia: Peace Corps Liberia : The Peace Corps in Liberia: January 1, 1998 - Manovision: The return of the US Peace Corps by Hassan Kiawu

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The return of the US Peace Corps by Hassan Kiawu

The return of the US Peace Corps by Hassan Kiawu

The return of the US Peace Corps by Hassan Kiawu

Now that the dust has settled in the killing fields of Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, the United States looks set to resume its Peace Corps work in these countries. Both countries, especially the former, were rocked by bloody civil wars that left thousands of their compatriots dead while others are internally displaced and languishing in refugee camps in their respective sub-regions.

In Liberia, the President Samuel Doe was slain at the height of the war in 1990 by a breakaway rebel faction, while in the Congolese version, deposed president Mobutu Sese Seko went into exile in Morocco. This rebel takeover in 1997 ended 32 years of dictatorship and corruption under Mobutu. The fluidity of these political situations triggered the evacuations of most foreign missions from many such countries across the continent, including the United States Peace Corps.

With some semblance of peace now prevailing, the United States has disclosed that two separate fact-finding teams will shortly be dispatched to Liberia and the DR Congo, "to find out what prospects and opportunities there are for the return of the Peace Corps to assist in the rebuilding of those countries," as an official put it. The Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, Mr. Charles R Basquet III said in an interview that this was in response to requests made by Presidents Taylor and Kabila, both former rebel leaders, to US President Clinton.

On the need to provide assistance to Liberia, Mr. Basquet said that President Taylor's request for the return of Peace Corps volunteers is part of a series of requests that also centre on projects. US officials quote him as saying will help to make his administration successful.

According to Basquet, his agency is already making contingency plans to send between 65 to 75 volunteers within the next 18 months to Liberia, to assist mainly in the areas of education and health. Because of the breakdown of public health as a result of eight years of civil war, the role of the health team will be expanded to include the setting up of health posts across the country to undertake water and sanitation projects as well as provide adequate healthcare for children.

Basquet also said that from there, more volunteers in Liberia would be sent to other areas, such as agriculture, to assist farmers with subsistence, small seed farming, and the setting up of small scale businesses for farmers and other low income earners.

Mr. Basquet also disclosed plans for the Congo. He said a crisis core team made up of third year volunteers who are fluent in French and Kiswahili (the country's two major languages) will be sent to the Northern and Southern provinces for a period of six months to undertake projects in which president Kabila has asked for assistance.

Officials say this will be an opportunity to assess the situation with the hope of increasing the number of projects and reintroducing regular Peace Corps programs.

Meanwhile, Mr. Basquet said that the United States is anxiously awaiting the return of normalcy to other trouble spots from which the Peace Corps program had been withdrawn such as; Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Sierra Leone and most especially Nigeria and the Comoros Islands, to resume its work.

The US official was quick to point out that both Nigeria and the Comoros Islands have yet to show improvements in their human rights behaviour and put their troubles behind them in order to allow foreign assistance to reach the needy. "When the time is ripe and the conditions are safe, we will go in to help re-establish civil society", Basquet noted.

To date, there are 2269 Peace Corps volunteers in 28 African countries, with Namibia receiving the highest number (170). South Africa was added to the program last year. Mozambique awaits its entry next year. Peace Corps were first sent to Ghana in 1961, the same year the agency was established, providing assistance in the areas of education, health, environment, business agriculture and urban development amongst others.

Hassan Kiawu
6800 Peachtree Ind. Blvd. j8, Doraville,
GA 30360,
Tel & Fax 770 263 6836

African Countries that the Peace Corps is currently active in:
Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Côte d'Ivoire
South Africa
The Gambia

©1998 Mano Vision

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Liberia; Safety and Security of Volunteers



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