-Consultation ongoing to propel bill
Arguments about dividing Bong County has intensified among members of the County Legislative Caucus, with the co-chairperson, Mrs. Moima Brigggs–Mensah, Representative of District 6, reaffirming plans on the introduction of a bill to divide the County.
Rep. Mensah informed the Daily Observer of ongoing consultations bordering on the draft bill to divide the County, and has said that from the beginning of the consultation, chiefs, elders, youth and women groups have expressed a strong support to split the County.
Mensah’s confirmation, in support of caucus chairman Senator Henry Yallah over the pending bill to separate Lower Bong from Upper Bong, which enjoys more development, is amplifying arguments among the County’s lawmakers and also across the County.
It may recalled that Sen. Yallah cited major development in Upper Bong, such as the Cuttington University, Phebe and C.B. Dunbar hospitals, the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) and the Bong County Technical College, but said that the lower part of the County can only boast of Bong Mines Hospital and Tumultu Vocational Institute.
Accordingly, if Sen. Yallah’s suggestion is legislated, Lower Bong will be named, “Bong Range County, while the upper province will maintain the original name, Bong County.”
Rep. Mensah said: “My people mandated me in a meeting that there is a need to separate Lower Bong from Upper Bong, and that is what am advocating as the direct representative of some part of Lower Bong.
“My people believe, and I also believe that if the division bill is enacted, there will be rapid development and the creation of jobs in the new county,” the female lawmaker said.
“Over the years, the citizens are saying their interests and well-being have been downplayed and sidelined, and that developments in the County were only concentrated in the upper part of the County, while the lower remains marginalized,” Briggs-Mensah said.
She added that when Lower Bong is separated, “we ourselves will be responsible for the development of our side.”
She further argued that Lower Bong has a population of about 89,000, which is the same as River Gee and other counties in the southeast.
Besides Rep. Mensah and Sen. Yallah, the chairperson and co-chairperson of the caucus, other representatives supporting the split include Representatives Edward W. Karfiah of District 5 and Joseph Papa Kolleh, District 7.
The County’s former representative, Adam Bill Corneh, who Rep. Mensah succeeded, and former Bong County Superintendent Polson Mappy are in support of the County’s separation plan.
However, Deputy Speaker Prince K. Moye of District 2, in an interview yesterday also told the Daily Observer that his support will determine the outcome of the ongoing consultation, which is expected to begin anytime soon.
The Bong County District 2 Representative said, “Though I am from the County and represent my people, I am also the Deputy Speaker. So I intend to hold a consultation before I decide either to support or reject the idea to separate the County.”
The secretary-general of Salala, Sanoyea and Fuamah (SASAFU), Yarkpai Keller, said that Lower Bong County obtaining a political autonomy is absolutely necessary. SASAFU, a political, developmental and advocacy group, was founded in May, 2013, and includes Yelequelleh.
“We strongly believe it is a cure for the countless years of depression, deprivation and total marginalization of the people of Lower Bong from development. A radical problem needs pragmatic and radical solution, nothing else. So we the people in that part of the County need political autonomy,” Keller declared.
Unconfirmed reports said consultations and the draw-out of the separation of the County have been already scheduled by those who crafted the idea.
If the “Separation of Lower Bong County Bill” is introduced, it will be assigned to a Joint Committee, comprising Internal Affairs, Good Governance and Government Reform, the Judiciary and the Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning. If the House approved it by simple majority (37 out of 73), then it will be forwarded to the Senate, where the bill will undergo scrutiny by another joint committee and subsequently debated and voted on by simple majority (16 of 30), and later sent to the President of Liberia for attestation.