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Liberia’s Ebola Crisis: ‘I Keep Praying For My Country’

We’re using the chat platform WhatsApp to give readers a direct line to the reporter behind “Firestone and the Warlord.” Here’s what they are saying.

Over the last several weeks, we've been talking to readers from around the world on WhatsApp about our investigation into Firestone's untold history with warlord Charles Taylor. Last week, we received this message from a Liberian man named Tasiru Bah.

"I keep on praying for my country. I ask you all to join me and pray for this nation (that) we all be free from this virus, which is Ebola," Bah said.

Bah is one of the 173 people discussing our "Firestone and the Warlord" investigation on WhatsApp  with reporter T. Christian Miller. While the investigation reaches back 25 years to Liberia's first civil war, Bah's comment is a stark reminder of the present Ebola epidemic claiming thousands of lives there. By Dec. 13, 3,290 Liberians had died from the virus, accounting for nearly half of the Ebola deaths across West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  

It also underscores Firestone's ongoing influence in the nation. As reporter Jonathan Jones noted in a recent live discussion, "Firestone operates one of the best hospitals in Liberia. As Ebola spread through Monrovia and even down to the port town of Buchanan, Firestone was able to contain the epidemic within its concession area."

Indeed, Firestone moved early and aggressively to stop the virus from spreading through its rubber plantation of 80,000 people.  Listen to Bah's comments:

More WhatsApp Q&A

We also received a dramatic story from a Liberian who said he lost his sister and other family members during the country's civil war. He described being in a Monrovia hotel to suddenly see the man he believed had killed his family.

His question: Has Liberia come to terms with its past?

"It's one of the very few countries in the world that's never had a trial for the people who've committed murders, killings, rapes in the country itself," Miller responded. Listen to his full response below:

Lawrence Massaquoi, Trenton, New Jersey, asks: "What is the United States policy or law(s) on American companies that is proven that violate basic human rights in countries that they operate? The international law is not clear on its policy."

Richard, Brooklyn, asks: "Is Firestone helping Liberia today in any manner?"

Are you following us on WhatsApp?   Chat WARLORD to ProPublica at +1 917-331-4989.  You can also join the discussion online every week in our  book club forum with Miller.

What are other people saying and asking us on WhatsApp? Check out our previous weeks:

"But quite frankly, Charles Taylor has been sentenced to fifty years in prison. What is the main aim of this project?"

"Were any Firestone employees or family members compensated for lives lost?"

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