Judging from the huge tasks at hand and the financial constraints faced, it would seem that Festus R.B Logan have within his DNA the audacity to dare.
When he is not leading a congregation to the service of God, he busy rallying employees at the LRRRC to deliver on the pro- poor agenda development plan, which also entails the repatriation and resettlement of refugees and stranded Liberians spread around the world.
With an upbringing hinged on finding a way around challenges, Logan’s LRRRC has beaten the odds and is working with partners including UNHCR to provide a landmark 100 permanent homes for integrated Ivorian refugees, IOM to resettle more than 4000 Liberians on the Deferred Enforced Departure DED program in the US amongst many others under a five years strategic roadmap.
“The commission itself is challenged”; he said, adding that “I came from a background that does not look at challenges. I learned to find a way around things to get the job going, especially works that people think is impossible”.
An attempt by The Monrovia Times Newspaper to delve in the closet of the commission and bring in broad daylight, the mammoth gains made thus far has led to the following discoveries;
Monrovia Times (MTN) on His Biodata, a) Background b) Early childhood:Tell us a little about yourself?
FRBL: Festus R.B Logan is a child of the late Honorable Moses R.B Logan, a former Assistant Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Liberia. My mother is Annie Taylor, like my father, hails from Grand Bassa County. I am a devout Christian. When I was growing up it was not easy but I always called it the process of life.
I grew up on the Capitol bye Pass slum called The Rock Spring Valley and later moved up from the Capitol Hill to the Lakpazee Community in Sinkor. My early childhood days were marred with struggles and goodness. I came to be humble, quiet and objective. I learned to be honest in whatever I did. In the main time, I was a very bad guy in terms of my social life.
I did break-dances in the nightclubs and followed my friends and we ended on the Old Road. On the educational front, I was enrolled at the St. Simon Baptist School System on the Capitol Bye-Pass and that was in 1980. And then I graduated from High School at the Assembly of God High School on Buchanan Street in Monrovia.
MTN: You have got a solid track record in discipleship, leading others to the service of God and equally facing the staggering task to transform the LRRRC, how has it been for you grappling with both put together?
Festus RB Logan (FRBL): Apart from my Degree in Biblical Studies, I must say that I have a Bachelor Degree in Business Management from the AME Zion University and an Associate Degree from the Liberian College of Professional Studies in Public Administration.
I also have an advanced Diploma in Biblical Studies from Vision Bible College and another in Church Administration from the Dominion Christian Fellowship Bible College. I know the tasks here. But this organization is a humanitarian organization. And for our long experience and engagements with humanitarian activities especially in the church, and how to deal with issues, I see this as a familiar terrain. Yes, we had to learn some other details as to how a humanitarian terrain operates.
We were appointed by the President based on our own engagements over the years and how we have mentored people; the President saw the need to bring us here and contribute to the pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. And I must say by the grace of God, things are on course.
MTN: Under your watch, the LRRRC has made significant gains in seeking the well-being of Refugees. What can you say is your most important accomplishment thus far?
FRBL: Well, the most significant contribution or achievement so far here, is to make sure we rally the workforce. Because I could not achieve what you have alluded to when the workforce was not rallied. And I can tell you now, with the limited salary of the Commission, the workforce is well managed and rallied.
And I think this is my biggest achievement to have a group of people willing to work and achieve our goals and vision.
MTN: You attended the 9th Executive Committee Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, what was there in the Liberian caseload you presented to that World Body?
FRBL: Basically, that particular meeting was to brief the International body on our activities as a country. Remember now, Liberia is a signatory to the 1951 convention and it basically calls for the international protection for persons of concern. And we were able to brief the body as to where we are and what we have done as a government and people.
And from there we were able to make some cases, we had extra meetings with the High Commissioner and we explained the Liberian case, and I must say that in terms of the refugees regime in Liberia, we are about to enter the local integration process.
I must say thanks to the President and government of Liberia for handling the refugee regime. We were noted to be the best refugee regime and our example should be emulated. We used that platform to make a lot of cases. We all know the President in his pro-poor vision outlined rural housing project. So we asked the High Commissioner that we need durable structures for both host communities and the would-be integrated refugees. And as we made that case, as we speak the process is starting, blocks are been molded and the land had been acquired.
As part of the local integration, we also told the High Commissioner that we are looking at agriculture. We know that agriculture is one of the pillars of our government’s pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development, and so we told the world body that the durable solution to catering to the livelihoods of those locally integrated is through agriculture.
And this was something the High Commissioner embraced. So as we engaged the process of local integration, we will be busy with agriculture that will benefit everyone and there will be a trickle-down effect from those counties to Monrovia.
MTN: Your relationship with traditional Partner UNHCR has reached new heights. You have partnered to build 100 new homes for integrated Ivorian Refugees in Bahn, Nimba County which is considered landmark for refugees in Liberia and the subregion, how significant is this for those refugees?
FRBL: It is very significant. Liberia is the only country that is building those structures for would be integrated refugees. This has never been done in the refugee regime. Normally, people will build makeshift or mud to mud houses, and when the international bodies leave in a few years it would collapse.
To our regime, we made the case, and thanks to the Minister of Internal Affairs who is the chairman of the Board of Directors, our advocacies were heard and the way we engaged the UN body was commending. It might be more than 100 houses. I see it to be around 700 houses to be built.
MTN: The Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government was born under the mantra of Change for Hope- a vision that later culminated into the pro-poor agenda, with a goal to inspire hope and transform the lives of the poor such as the disadvantaged youth Zogos. You have rolled out a roadmap to get them transformed and off the streets, how is that so far?
FRBL: As part of our five years strategic roadmap which is embedded in the pro-poor agenda, we initiated five programs and one of them is the National Internally Displaced Persons with Special Needs (NIDPS). Though there are some who would debate that those people are not displaced, but for us, we look at them to be displaced because they have a history of the 15 years of civil unrest in our nation.
Most of the people you see on the streets came here as a result of the war they fought. Some of them were rebel fighters who left their villages and towns. The DDRR process that should have integrated and demobilize them was not fully executed so the result you see today is people sleeping in the cemeteries. Some are even sleeping in open streets.
Those are made of 60 percent of the population of the affected people. We have done a profiling of them. Thanks to my staff that did not get a DSA but they were committed to executing the profiling of those people. We were able to profile nearly 5,000 of them in 600 ghettos in Montserrado County. The next project is the stranded Liberian migrants.
During the war, most of our people went as refugees in other countries and they went in their numbers. When peace was restored, there was a cessation clause. And they have now become migrants spread across the world and stranded. With support from the IOM, we have launched that program. We have been able to receive 835 of them since we took over here.
The next one is the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) that is the TPS program in America where people fled due to the war and Ebola. Now the time has expired, the US government wants them to come back home and so they have now become or categorized as deferred enforced departure (DED) with a caseload of around 4000 Liberians.
It is incumbent upon the LRRRC as a mandate for repatriation and resettlement of returnees, we will make sure we get those people and put the necessary measures into place and see how we can resettle them by first bringing them in, and making profiles of them. Those of them that have qualifications, we will try to look for referrals and so it is the whole package. And it is not just for the LRRRC, it is a national package. We will need an inter-sector approach on that.
MTN: It is obvious that everything has not been smooth sailing, there may be some hurdles, can you say some of the challenges you have faced since you took over?
FRBL: There are huge challenges. The commission itself is challenged. I came from a background that does not look at challenges. I learned to find a way around things to get the job going especially what people think is impossible. Maybe because of my religious background, so I can say we are challenged financially but we are getting there. We are writing partners and making our case.
MTN: What kind of LRRRC do you envisage in the next years?
FRBL: In the next five years, I envisage an LRRRC that will be robust in all capacities. When you talk about LRRRC sometimes people restrict you to refugees, but LRRRC is not only a refugee institution. So for example people houses that were broken down for reasons of paving roads construction, it is the LRRRC who is supposed to resettle them. When people are to be brought back to the country it is LRRRC that brings them back. And so the mandate is there.
LRRRC is also involved in asylum regimes. We give people asylum status as part of our mandate under international protection. This institution is as a result of the 1951 convention. So the child of that convention was what happened in 1993 when the Liberian government legislated the commission. It is not just about refugees, it is about repatriation, resettlement, reintegration and giving asylum, among others. When there is a disaster we come after the recovery of the disaster after the Disaster Management Agency does its first response. And so that is one of our key mandates.
So I see a commission that will be robust except it is in the wisdom of the President to change our assignment. Thanks for the support from the President and as much as we are here, the full mandate will be executed. I see an LRRRC that will be very responsive to humanitarian activities. In the past, this place was called the eye of the government because it is the mother of all NGOs in Liberia.
We will engage the process and make our contributions to the pro-poor agenda. We will resettle our boys so that people will not call them Zogos but rather engineers, carpenters, agriculturalists, who are contributing to society, and by the grace of God, it will happen. We will support our President and government.
MTN: Any other comments?
FRBL: I want to say thanks to you Edward Blamo and The Monrovia Times family for taking your time and looking at us. I did not know that people are watching our work. Thank you for coming and we will do our best and we will bring the ideals that God has blessed us with to ensure we develop our country. I want to make sure that when I leave, people can point and say there was a man called Pastor Logan who has done a great job. We have reactivated our website and made it more active.