The Millennium Challenge Compact, a US assistance program that has rebuilt the Mount Coffee Dam Reservoir and subsequently restored electricity to Monrovia, has preconditions that a country needs to meet. Speaking during the closure of the MCC Compact on April 28 in Harrisburg, US Ambassador Michael A. McCarthy disclosed that strengthening governance, making electricity affordable and available for citizens, as well as investing in citizens to have economic empowerment, are some of the preconditions that bring the development package under the Compact.
During the ceremony, President George Weah acknowledged the assistance of the US and other partners’ assistance to Liberia and said, “Our selection as a country in the world put us in a privileged group that performed with distinction that qualified us to benefit from this Compact.” President Weah also acknowledged that this opportunity is coming with an urgent responsibility as required by the American people.
“As President of Liberia, I take this responsibility seriously, and hereby assure the American people that my government will prioritize the due care required in the investment made in this country,” President Weah noted.
However, amid lofty promises to the US Government and others concerning the sustainability of the project, the current reality on the ground, being the scarcity of electricity, begets an uphill battle in terms of being able to fulfill the President’s desire.
Although the dam is since dedicated and the cost of electricity said to have dropped from 0.50 cents to 0.30 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh), many communities in Monrovia remain in darkness while others that should be connected are yet to be connected.
At present, residents in the 72nd Community in Paynesville and those in the Rehab Community in the same Paynesville are without electricity. 72nd Community, residents claim, has been in darkness since September 2020 when the community’s transformer blew off, and the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) has failed to restore electricity there regardless of several demanding steps taken to replace the damaged transformer.
According to the residents, they have collected not less than US$200 and given to LEC field agents with the hope that LEC can bring them a transformer to restore their power, but they are yet to see electricity in their community.
“We collected money and gave it to LEC two weeks ago and we can’t see anything. Just imagine, since last September we have been in this condition. We have staged protests to draw the government’s attention, but no way,” a female resident said.
Contact made to the LEC to ascertain the truthfulness of giving money proved unsuccessful, as there was no one to respond to the allegation.
The President, in order for Liberia to make progress in meeting the benchmarks for gaining another project, has begun taking steps by providing budgetary support to the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Authority to ensure that electricity is well regulated, and purchase transformers to enable communities receive power as required.
In spite of the effort, however, residents in several parts of Paynesville speak of being in darkness for a long time with some not even connected at all since power distribution began years back.
“To be connected to LEC is not easy in this country, my brother. LEC people will come to you and you pay money to bring you current,” a businessperson selling cold water and street food said. “But after receiving the money, you will walk and walk until you get tired. That is some of what is causing the power theft they are talking about. How will you expect me to pay money, I am willing to pay current (electricity) bill, and you cannot bring me current? I will get it some kind of way.”
That “some kind of way” might be nothing short of power theft, which is one of the main concerns raised by Ambassador McCarthy. He urged the government to take steps to reduce power theft in order to have LEC generate revenue that will be of a help to the government and the economy.
President Weah noted that the absence of transformers is one of the “stories” behind the power theft. He said his government has purchased transformers to distribute in communities.
Additionally, the President said his administration has taken a step towards making power theft a criminal offense. However reactions to previous media reports indicate that power theft is facilitated by some field workers of LEC who go in the communities to connect people illegally after receiving money from community dwellers and individuals.