An organization calling itself “The April 22 Memorial Group”, has praised the development initiatives of Liberia’s 20th President, the late Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr.
The Tolbert-led government instituted free public elementary and high school education and subsidized up to 50 percent tuition, books and board for all college and university students throughout the country, Paynesville City Mayor, Cyvette Gibson, said in a position statement delivered during a program marking the 35th Anniversary Memorial Service for assassinated President Tolbert and the thirteen members of his government executed following the April 12, 1980 coup d’etat.
Speaking on behalf of the group comprising family members of President Tolbert and the 13 officials who were executed on April 22, 1980, Madam Gibson recalled numerous other achievements of the Tolbert administration beginning with launching the construction of a new campus for the University of Liberia.
The memorial program under the Theme “A Celebration of Life” was held at the first Presbyterian Church at the corner of Broad and Johnson streets, Monrovia.
Mayor Gibson, daughter of Liberian lawyer Yvette Chesson Wureh and granddaughter of one of the 13 executed, former Justice Minister Joseph J.F. Chesson, said the Tolbert government also enacted legislations to promote literacy, fight poverty and disease, and invested over one million dollars in 1972 in a wholly government-owned mechanized Agricultural Company (AGRIMECO).
She pointed out that the government spearheaded land clearance and development of vast areas to cope with the proliferation of agricultural cooperatives. The Tolbert administration established the Liberia Coffee and Cocoa Corporation (LCCC) to maximize the production of cocoa and coffee.
The Paynesville City Mayor further noted that President Tolbert’s government established national and continental development finance institutions such as the National Housing and Savings Bank, Agricultural Bank and Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), in order to stimulate capital flow into the agricultural, housing and priority development sectors.
President Tolbert also co-facilitated the formation of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for continental financial growth and management, and expanded health facilities to include free medical care to prenatal mothers and infants up to two years, Madam Gibson continued.
Gibson added that the Tolbert-led government constructed many low-cost housing units in Gardnersville, New Georgia, Stephen Tolbert and Bardnersville as well as the Matadi, New Matadi and Cabral Estates in Sinkor.
Under Tolbert’s leadership, she said, several farm-to-market roads, bridges, urban, rural markets, clinics and hospitals, schools were completed. So were the Hotel Africa Complex, RIA terminal and the Gabriel Johnson Tucker Bridge.
“Revenue increased from US$77.5 million in 1972 to $185.5 million in 1978 and the government achieved an average annual growth rate of over 15 percent,” she recalled.
“This President also established the Ministry of Action for Development and Progress for the implementation of government policies related to self-reliance, decentralization and self sufficiency in agriculture.”