Photo caption: Louise McMillian
By Guest blogger, Robin Dopoe Jr.
The final days of Louise McMillian, Assistant Minister of Culture at the Ministry of Information, Cultural affairs and Tourism, is near. As Culture Minister since 2012, Min. McMillian came to the position at a time when the nation was facing its worst national identity crisis, including the lack of a clear strategy to promote and safeguard its cultural and traditional values for future generations.
During her five years at MICAT, before being replaced by the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, McMillian worked tirelessly to prepare Liberia’s nomination dossier for world heritage sites, thus become the first minister to do so. From that list, the East Nimba Nature Reserve has been accepted (90 percent) to be a United Nation Education, Scientific and Culture Organization world heritage site. The reserve has one of the most remarkable diversities in terms of flora and fauna in the whole of West Africa due to its unique geographical and climatic location. Positioned in a unique environment, the reserve is rich in some outstanding numbers of single-site endemic species, such as viviparous toads and horseshoe bats. In addition, McMillian also became the first Assistant Minister to undertake a full scale renovation work on the Liberia National Museum, which has been in deplorable condition since the end of the civil war. The ongoing work on the historic 155 years old building when completed two month from now, will help save memoirs of past presidents, cartographical materials related to Liberia’s cultural artifacts, as well as galleries that illustrate Liberia’s other past and present works of art for future generations. Moreover, it will also serve as a haven to preserve and display cultural artifacts that offer insight into the country’s past, including the civil war years. Under her leadership, she successful negotiated the tribal deed (10 acres of land) for Behsao cultural village, which gives government the full right to develop the land as a cultural village without any hindrance in the near future. On the other hand, Minister McMillian struggled against great opposition as she pushed her cultural strategy for the safeguarding of Liberia’s cultural and traditional values. Due to this great opposition, her dreams of meeting all UNESCO cultural conventions, which when ratified will bring numerous benefits, despite several consultations and workshops did not materialize. If not for the lack of financial support from the government to her department, Minister McMillian could have done much more to reduce Liberia’s identity crises, like language extinction and lack of respect for cultural and tradition values. In her time in office, she hosted a Unification Day traditional culture festival but could not continue as a result of a lack of political will and financial constraints. Due to this same opposition, she was unable to launch a program that would curb language extinction facing minority languages in Liberia; and Behsao would have been turned into a cultural village a long time ago. For most of her critics, her successes, though visible, came too late.