Buchanan, Former Economic Center of Liberia
South of Monrovia is Buchanan,
third largest city in Liberia. Also a coastal town, it has a wide
collection of lagoons and beaches. It was founded in 1832, though
the original name was different than it is now. The black Quakers
who established the colony named it Port Cresson after their
financier, a Philadelphian merchant who supported their endeavor.
This colony only lasted a few years, however, as resentful ethnic
tribal members obliterated it. The new colony that was founded to
replace it was named Bassa Cove, for the name of the tribe that
had formerly attacked it. Bassa Cove managed to prevail better
than its predecessor, and in April of 1893 was annexed to Liberia.
Buchanan was named after Thomas Buchanan, who
was the first governor of Liberia. He was also a cousin of
American President James Buchanan, and a tireless patriot for the
cause and development of Liberia. He quite literally worked
himself to death, passing away in 1841 from fatigue and
overexposure to the elements.
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At one time, Buchanan was as
much a major economic center as Monrovia. Today, however, many of
the industries that fueled the city’s economy have since fallen
into decline or even disuse. A railway running between Buchanan
and Nimba at one time shuffled iron ore to be shipped out of the
country. In addition, the city saw exports of palm oil and rubber
from the interior. Foreign companies invested heavily in valuable
products that could be found in the region, and much of it was
brought through Buchanan to be shipped out.
The Liberian Civil Wars, running almost
consecutively from 1989 until 2007, completely disrupted trade in
Buchanan. Though the town itself mostly avoided the conflict, the
economic infrastructure was not so lucky. Shops and offices,
particularly those built around the port or the railway, were
defaced and plundered, and foreign investments quickly pulled out
to alleviate their losses. Despite the shattered economy and
rampant civil strife, Buchanan was yet safer than the war-torn
areas of Monrovia and other cities and regions. As a result,
refugees flocked to the city to flee the fighting.
In the last few years Buchanan, and the country
of Liberia as a whole, has slowly begun to recover from the
conflict. Small improvements have been made, which residents and
foreigners alike hope to be precursors of what is to come. After
nearly fifteen years of civil strife, Liberia is just beginning to
gain ground again. Foreign investments, the lifeline of the
economy, is gradually starting to trickle back into the country,
raising the export revenue and profiting many areas of life. After
several bloody coups and revolts, the government is finally
stabilizing once more under the leadership of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Cities like Buchanan and Monrovia have made improvements in areas
of economy, poverty, literacy, and other social problems, leading
the country to follow into a promising age of peace.