The Liberian Senate recently confirmed the appointment of Middlebury Institute alumnus Jacob Jallah MAIEM ’15 as assistant minister for technical services for Liberia’s Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism. Jallah was appointed to this role by President Johnson-Sirleaf and he will be responsible for research and planning as well as regulation and accreditation of media institutions and the motion picture industry.
Africa’s oldest republic was torn apart by turmoil from 1989 to 2003, a period that encompassed two civil wars. The wars cost the country of fewer than four million people over 250,000 lives and a million people were displaced. A peace accord was signed in 2003 and in 2006 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected Africa’s first female head of state in Liberia’s first free and fair democratic elections. “I was born before the crisis,” says Jallah, who along with his parents fled the violence to neighboring Guinea, where they lived in a refugee camp from when he was five to 12 years old. “It was terrible. The living standard was horrible and it was a real tough time.”
Jallah says that young people who return back from being refugees face many challenges and helping them to overcome these challenges is an important part of maintaining the peace. As the president of the student government at the University of Liberia during the 2011 general elections, he worked hard to encourage peaceful contributions by students. Before coming to the Institute, Jallah worked for the Ministry of Youth and Sports, where his work focused on youth development.
“I wanted the opportunity to hone my skills and move my career forward and was attracted by the international outlook of the Middlebury Institute.” Jallah fulfilled the practicum requirement of his international education management degree back in Liberia, where he worked on government projects related to his passion for furthering peace, reconciliation and development. “The work he did was incredible, thoughtful and very inspiring,” says Jill Stoffers, Jallah’s practicum supervisor. “His work focused on solving some very big problems and his deep commitment to the peaceful development of his country made it humbling to have him as part of our group.”
Jallah says his country faces many challenges, but under new leadership and restored governance it is positively moving forward. He was in Monterey during the Ebola crisis of 2014-2015. “It had terrible impact on a host of different sectors, but Liberians as a whole worked together and that makes me optimistic about the future.”