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Special Feature

Empty July 26

July 26 in Liberia is a day of grand celebration with Liberians merry making in observance of the country’s independence. Most often civil servants get their salaries before the Independence Day celebration to purchase foods, clothes and other basic things for their homes and families to observe the day. But this year celebration in Liberia, Liberians are said to be celebrating the day in hunger. As Friday (July 26, 2013) marks Liberia’s 166th independence anniversary,  Liberians in the United States have already began celebrating the day on last Saturday with festivities on the grounds of the Liberian Embassy in Washington.

For many of those in attendance, the occasion was not only a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect on whether 166 years of independence was worth celebrating, particularly after the nearly eight-year administration of Africa’s first-elected female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. For Liberians back home are finding it difficult to see their way out for the Independence Day celebrations. Liberians in every sector especially government are complaining that the 26 is hard and empty.

Grassroots’ Liberians are said to be quiet on that day while other government who have set a lucrative budget for this celebration will continue their normal dinning and wining in Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount Counties and Monrovia. Liberia’s commercial areas, Red Light and Waterside is usually jam packed with commercial activities, but marketers in those business places are also complaining that their businesses are not selling at all. Some members of the legislature are also quarrying about things being hard for the celebration; they also said their paychecks have not being given to them something they (legislators) described as bad sign to the 26.

Many yanna boys on Mechline Street have told the New Dawn that sellers for this year 26 are more than the buyers, “this 26 empty my brother, we sell whole day and no one buying from us, in fact, we that are selling for 26 are more than those who we see that come to buy from us,” Sonny Boy, a businessman noted. Many homes are said to be empty and dry without funds to even purchase food on that day, some Liberians believed that the delay in the passage of the budget is one of the key reason for the poor celebrations of the 26.

Government has refused to pay civil servants as well as some NGOs, including civil society agencies, journalists, rights groups amongst others are yet to pay their workers. Liberia’s 166th’s Independence Day Celebration will also happen at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island USA. The weekend cultural pride celebration will include a West African Arts night and a Formal Ball where Liberians will be presenting Higher Ground International (HGI), a non-profit organization with a humanitarian award for their outstanding work in serving vulnerable youth in Rhode Island and Liberia. We will also be making a donation for Higher Grounds International from the total proceeds of the weekend; While Liberians here celebrate the day in hunger.

Liberia has several celebrations in common with or to honor the U.S. For example: the Independence Day in July, Thanksgiving Day in November, and Pioneer’s day (that honors the American pioneers). Other celebrations are: President Tubman`s Birthday (also called Goodwill Day), Unification and Integration Day, Marilda Newport Day in December, Africa Day, Flag Day and Literacy Day (that promotes adult education).

Besides these, there are religious celebrations, with various culinary traditions, like Fast and Prayer Day in April, Christmas and All Saints` Day in November. On all these occasions, the Liberian people enjoy parties with family members and drink a lot of ginger beer, the traditional Liberian beverage.

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