Of the ‘Cook Bowl Shop’ Owner On Capitol Hill -The Mystery Surrounding Ambassador Bundoo’s Rise

By Kerkula A. Massaquoi

When I recently read a social media post by one Martin Kollie alleging and accusing Ambassador Nora Finda Bundoo, the current Chief of Protocol of the Executive Mansion, of looting the coffers of Liberia and acquiring properties overnight, I snarled with indignation, but again I smiled, because it seems the writer does not know the subject of his attack. As someone who has followed this young, harmless, and altruistic lady for a long while as far as the late-1990s, it would be cruel on my part and a disservice to the public to pass by this highly malicious post and leave it with both an apparent attention-seeking attacker and a gullible section of the public. 

If only the writer had only known Finda Bundoo, that enterprising lady in her teens when I first spotted her in the woods of the Southeast, specifically River Gee, laboriously combing towns and villages, setting up food and merchandised shops, petit guesthouses, plowing gold fields in search of livelihood during latter days of Liberia’s transition from war to conflict, he would not have spared his ink and turned his vicious hunt elsewhere. If only the writer was familiar with the enviable list of Liberia’s unsung heroines, who used their bare hands and skills, modesty, honesty, and charity to break the glass ceilings and conquer poverty, he would see Finda’s name on it, and he would have kept his pointless pen for another vain battle.

But clearly, the writer does not know Finda Bundoo. So, let me debunk the Martin Kollie post and cursorily introduce her for the record and for the sake of those who, like the writer, may not have known the current Executive Mansion’s Chief of Protocol, and who are adjudging her from a distance or the figment of their imagination. 

Two ridiculously false things caught my interest from the post: first, that Ambassador Bundoo owns a “flush home”, which the writer pictured in his post supposedly located on the Roberts International Highway, and second, that she acquired “wealth overnight”. 

Does She Own the House pictured on the RIA Highway?

As a friend and brother of hers, I know full well that Ambassador Finda Bundoo does not own the so-called “mansion” the writer photographed and presented to the public as hers. If only he had taken up the time to ask, and not been blinded by apparent bitterness, hate, and frustration, and perhaps out of jealousy that a struggling young lady did not run away from her own country to self-imposed exile, the writer would know the truth of the fact about Finda that I know for over twenty years.

And certainly, it may not be long before the real owner, if they have also seen the writer’s post, calls him seeking erratum, and perhaps an apology, not ruling out a probable stiff legal fight.  

Can a Former Pauper Be a “Fortune Holder” Today?

The last time I checked, I discovered that indeed yes, Ambassador Bundoo owns a decent house, so to speak, in Fish Town, River Gee.

But should someone who is born in poverty not own property? Are poor progenies destined to remain poor and die in and with the same impoverished conditions they were born in?

It would interest the writer, and others thinking like him, to know that Ambassador Nora Finda Bundoo became known as “Rescue Mother” or simply “Rescue”—an epithet coined long by so many people he has rescued even during her days in the Southeast of Liberia—because she was not broke and was helping the needy.

It can be recalled that Ambassador Bundoo served as Director of Press at the Executive Mansion during the latter transitional periods of the Liberian civil war.  As the era of then Chairman Gyude Bryant was fading out, this young Liberian lady and her parents negotiated a loan from the Central Bank to start a business. And she found the Southeastern County of River Gee as an ideal business destination.

Yes, she set up a Cook Bowl Shop but by Southeastern standard at the time, it was a restaurant, operated under the name, “Anita Business Incorporated”. The “Cook Shop” became the most preferred center for catering services at workshops and other forums organized in River Gee and nearby counties, by government and non-governmental organizations, including ARC, German Agro, IBIS, UNDP, UNMIL, ActionAid, Right to Play, and many organizations that operated in the area.

It would also interest Finda’s critics that the ANITA Business operated the only Cold Storage Center in the Region that supplied frozen fish and meat to near and far-away businesses.

During the height of the EBOLA crisis when no one dared eat “country meat”, this Cold Storage facility was a life-saver. It supplied fish to ARC and other NGO staffers that operated in the region. Besides being there for the government and non-governmental organizations, this Cold Storage was the foundation for marketers to supply their customers with frozen fish and another foodstuff.

As a major strategy, Rescue Mother also diversified her business by buying and selling gold. And no one needs to ask whether River Gee and other Southeast counties are gold-rich.

So, even if the Cook Bowl Shop of a stature described supra, as well as being a major rice importer in the southeast from Monrovia and Ivory Coast, was not a formidable revenue-generating hub for Finda, can there not be a fortune in the Cold Storage business and in buying and selling gold too?

Who can doubt that the conglomerate of these businesses emitted satisfactory profit, if not fortune, by the writers’ figment?

And as most people who have come to know her closely, “Rescue Mother” was of enormous help to thousands of women and young ex-combatants for whom she shared some of her “fortunes” by providing initial capital to sell in the market or simply get involved in other productive ventures. That’s how the beneficiaries crowned her with the “Rescue Mother” accolade—a decoration she still merits and bears today because of her altruistic deeds.

Can She Not Afford a Decent Home?

There is a certain hypocrisy among the critics of Finda and others like her: The critics do advocate for women and other impoverished persons to fight themselves in honest ways out of poverty. For instance, imagine the late Martha Blamo (May her soul rest in peace) who sold only fish (napleh) in the Duala Market. From the sale of fish, she was able to feed and send her eight children to school and also build a house. This lady who once lived in the New Kru Town’s Lagoon belt close to the “Five Men Field” was a motivation for other women whose husbands were working to join the business environment (yes indeed, the business pays).

Other Liberian poor single-parent women or formerly other indigent Liberians, like Martha Blamo, use their hard-earned proceeds from their petit businesses to send their kids to school, including universities, manage to build and own their houses, and they are praised. These struggling people are lucky not to attract Martin’s silly conclusions because they are not serving in the public service. But if they did, despite their earnest efforts, it would be interpreted by the likes of Martin that their “fortunes” were stolen.

Furthermore, imagine a Fulani, or say, Jalloh, who comes with a waiter market. In a year or two, he owns stores and becomes an importer. He acquires land in Doe Community, for instance, and builds a five-story house in addition to real estate in other places. Liberia’s professional critics would go lavishing praises on Jalloh as a successful foreign businessman.

But if it were a Liberian doing what Mr. Jalloh is doing, our professional critics would yell with the alarm, “Where did she or he get the wealth when he/she was broke a few days or years earlier?”

Pathetically, in their view, indigent Liberians are supposed to remain indigent until their life. Liberian indigenes’ story is not supposed to change even with hard work publicly known. Worse still, even when these Liberian indigents-turn-well-to-do persons make the public service their latter domain of work.

Fatefully, Ambassador Finda Bundo, despite her prior success story as a single mother who fought to the last drop of her sweat to pull herself out of poverty long before becoming a Chief of Protocol at the Mansion, has become similarly preyed upon by professional critics for owning a house or, in their words, for “acquiring wealth overnight”

Why Own Property(ies) Now?

There is another silly mindset amongst Liberia’s professional critics and lairs; that once you did not own or build a property or were not publicly seen to be well off in 2005 or 2017 you should not own some in 2022. What a bizarre and illogical mindset.

The construction of homes and purchases of land has reached an unprecedented proportion in recent years compared to immediate postwar years. Both young and old, including diaspora Liberians, are building at a more competitive speed currently in the country than before. Is this not the case?

Why is this so?

I would leave the answer with the economists and sociologists. But what an ordinary Liberian, even those selling in Duala Market know, is that most Liberians feel safer (or let me say safer for emphasis’ sake) to build and own properties now because the specter of conflict or the relapse to conflict is considered by most people a distant possibility; most people now feel no one is running behind anyone with guns and soldiers; most people now feel they have got their savings better to put them into buying and owning property. Even Liberians selling bitter buds in the market or making US$200 are building and owning homes.

Certainly, the time is ripe and conducive for most Liberians to build and own a property, as the situation is around the country. 

Still, in the rather ridiculous view of Martin Kollie and other professional critics, the woman, Finda Bundoo, who had her private catering, gold, and cold storage businesses booming in the Southeast when the international community was overwhelmingly present in the country, and when EBOLA was raging, is, and should be, the only exception. They think she should not build and own property in Liberia because she is at the Executive Mansion working.

And even more ludicrously they are contending that since they did not see what the current Executive Mansion Chief of Protocol was doing or had as holdings before joining the government, only simply because they had no political reason to check, they have jumped to a vicious propaganda spree against the poor girl. In their view, Finda should not also make use of the friendlier, conductive climate for which many others have been building. Perhaps in their view, the former astute businesswoman should be dwelling in a zinc shack working in the Executive Mansion.

These professional social media critics must stop these kinds of devilish things.

I wish they had gone behind Finda, in areas she lived during and after the war years. They would be amiss seeing and beholding the incredible good deals of the young Liberian lady which is why everyone calls her “Rescue Mother”.

My humble plea to this humble, unassuming Liberian girl is this: Ambassador Bundoo, Rescue Mother, please continue to do what you do for our people: virile service and charity. Keep being the “Solution Temple” you truly are.

Don’t be distracted. The devils are a liar. Your deeds are impeccable. Your heart is pure.  Their criticisms and hate will fail because your intention for Liberia and Liberians is big and unfeigned. Keep it up.

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