Reconnecting Buutuo

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Who can ever forget Buutuo? It is the Nimba town on the border with the Ivory Coast which Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) entered on December 24, 1989 to fire the first shots of their invasion that ignited the 14-year Liberian civil war.

That invasion led to the overthrow and execution of President Samuel K. Doe and scores of his closest associates, mostly from his Krahn ethnic group.

Buutuo is also remembered because in 2011 the brave and daring President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, against the advice of her own personal security, waded through water to enter with her official vehicle. It was in fulfillment of her promise to the people of
Buutuo that she would visit them before the end of her first term.

The grateful Buutuo people did not forget that first visit by a sitting Liberian President to their town. They and the Nimba people, just as they had done in 2006, gave the first term candidate Sirleaf their resounding endorsement for a second term.

But what did they get in return? Is there anything tangible in their town, one of Nimba’s most remote, that they can point to in terms of development—a tangible reward for their historic endorsement of her to win two presidential terms?

Our former Nimba Correspondent, now Assistant Editor C.Y. Kwanue, himself a native of Buutuo, confessed that no, there is not much to show.

Not even the road leading into the town, which is now riddled with even bigger puddles of water than Ellen braved to enter Buutuo on September 26, 2011.

In his story on Tuesday, Editor Kwanue quoted many, including Old Lady Annie Quelleh, who said that GOL had “totally neglected Buutuo.”

We all can imagine and know the great hardship any town, in this case Buutuo, suffers when deep puddles prohibit anything or anyone from entering or leaving there. No way to take pregnant women or other patients to the nearest clinic, which is so many miles away; no way for either trucks or pick-ups (taxis are completely out of the question) to take Buutuo’s farm produce to the market. The Buutuo people live on their cocoa production. Without roads, they sell nothing, compounding the hardship.

There is also no way to bring in urgently needed food items, nor medicines to the lone clinic in the town of 40,000 people; no way for textbooks and other school materials from the Education Ministry to reach Buutuo’s schools; no way for businesspeople to travel to or from Buutuo to do business.

We are not talking of people like C.Y. Kwanue, who lives and works in greater Monrovia and has to travel to Buutuo to see his aging relatives there. We are talking about issues that are much more serious than vacationing or visitations—although these, too, could be critical for aging or sick relations.

What kind of life is that, to exist in a place that is impossible to reach? When we talk about abject poverty and deprivation, that is it right there.

We know of five persons who can make an immediate difference in Buutuo right now to bring urgently needed relief to its people. The first is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She can order the second person, Public Works Minister Gyude Moore to deploy his engineers and yellow machines to go fix the road leading into Buutuo.

The third person needed to rescue Buutuo is the politically powerful Nimba Senator Prince Y. Johnson. Everyone, including Ellen, knows that when Prince Johnson speaks, Nimba speaks! We know of no Liberian politician that can afford to ignore a call from Senator Prince Johnson.

The fourth person relevant to this Buutuo conundrum (challenge, problem) is Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, himself with Nimba roots—his mom, Naankouh, is from Buutuo, and he speaks the languages, too, in addition to his paternal Kissi. Minister Samukai could easily engage his Engineering Battalion to go to Buutuo and help fix that road.

The fifth person that can help toward making Buutuo accessible is Finance Minister Boima Kamara, who must come up with the money needed to empower Public Works and the Defense Engineering Battalion to come forward and fix the Buutuo road.

Yes, Christmas and New Year are over, but the people of Buutuo remain critically trapped. All of us, but most especially the government, must come forward and DO something to bring speedy and urgent relief to Buutuo and our people who live there.

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