Peacekeeper sees signs of hope for Liberia

By Liao Meng (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-03 07:04

Peacekeeping in an African country does not always mean patrolling riot-torn districts and battling out-of-control militants. What it requires, sometimes, is a willingness to give.

"My job is not as dangerous or exciting as you see in the movies. But I wanted to do something practical to help the locals rebuild their homes," said Du Lei, 30, a Chongqing policeman who was stationed in Monrovia, Liberia, as a UN peacekeeper from 2004 to 2005.

Du's original mission was to help the Liberian police rebuild their force after 14 years of civil war. But arriving in the war-torn nation he was shocked by the ruined state of his office.

There was no toilet and waste water was running all over the floor from a blocked sewer. The windows and desks had been completely destroyed.

"Rebuilding the infrastructure was actually one of the first things that needed to be done," said Du.

In June, 2004, a huge hole in the roof of a detention house finally caused a collapse. In total, 30 detainees managed to escape through the opening.

Du's colleagues asked for repair funds from the authorities but got no response, so he donated US$130 to fix the place. They also bought new desks and chairs for the station.

"Local people get on quite well with (us) Chinese because they think China is here to give them real support," said Du.

However, life was not easy in Liberia, where the war had devastated the economy and the city's utilities.

Du's flat only received 4 hours of electricity each night for reading, watching films on his computer, or writing to his family.

"In such a state of affairs, many young people can't get a normal education. Unemployed youths can possibly threaten public security," said Du. "Educating young people is the only way out."

So, Du used his savings to support a Liberian child. Du and his Chinese co-workers also donated stationery and medicine to schools and orphanages.

In 14 months, Du helped the station train new staff and rebuild its systems as a part of the international effort. Meanwhile, Chinese and other international companies began opening factories in the city, offering employment and hope to young Liberians.

The day he left to return to China, Du saw streets lined with new lights and new shops. People were starting to resume their normal lives.

"These are the signs of hope for Liberia," he said.

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