President Weah Declares
In the aftermath of the tragic death of over 40 citizens in a mudslide in Gbanepea, Tappita District, Nimba County, President George Weah has declared Monday, February 18, 2019, a day of national mourning.
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe clarified that Monday is to be observed as a working holiday, meaning all businesses and schools will remain open to the public.
Many Liberians informed this newspaper that it is strange in the annals of the country’s history for the President to declare a day of national mourning and, at the same time, advised all businesses to remain functional. On October 6, 1982, President Samuel K. Doe declared a 2-day period of mourning for victims of a landslide that took place a day earlier in No Way Camp, Mano River, Grand Cape Mount County.
“Typically, these proclamations are the prerogative of the President,” Ambassador Jervis Witherspoon, Chief of Protocol for the Republic of Liberia, told the Daily Observer.
According to him, no memorial programs had been planned for the day of mourning and, if there were any such plans, they would have been communicated to him as Chief of Protocol to organize.
“Perhaps the President just wanted everyone to observe the day individually,” Amb. Witherspoon said.
According to an Executive Mansion release issued on Friday, February 15, President Weah said Liberians and foreigners within our borders needed to come to terms with the huge catastrophe by showing a sense of empathy to the victims and their families.
Rescue team one week late
Since the incident took place on Saturday, Feb. 9, a prominent lawyer has expressed disappointment that, a week had elapsed by the time the government moved to deploy officials and logistics aimed at a rescue attempt. Up to Thursday, Feb. 14, no Nimba County lawmaker or statutory official had visited the disaster site or identified with the bereaved relatives.
The President on Friday, Feb. 15, constituted a technical committee headed by Internal Affairs Minister, Varney Sirleaf to work with the National Disaster Management Agency to move as quickly as possible to the affected area; conduct intensive search for possible survivors, and render appropriate assistance to affected families, and communities.
Already, President Weah has sent ‘units’ of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), who have since been deployed in the disaster zone to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts. He also declared the affected area a “National Disaster Zone,” ordering the national security apparatuses to isolate the area, provide security and prevent illicit mining.
The President has called on national and international organizations and development partners, mainly the United Nations, Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), European Union, United States, China and other friendly nations having expertise in disaster management to join the technical team set up to bring needed relief to individuals and families affected by the disaster.
He described the mudslide catastrophe as “totally a depressing for our country at a time my government is endeavoring to create an enabling environment for our people to improve their lives.”
The President expressed condolences to families who lost loved ones during the incident and wished speedy recovery for those who sustained injuries.
He assured that the government will do all within its powers to provide every support and assistance that would be needed in the affected region.
It may be recalled that 40 people were recently trapped at the Gbanepea Gold Mine where reports said about 60 people, mainly young men, who went to the mines when a portion of the land crashed on them and about 20 of them were able to return safely on Saturday, February 9. The situation has since then sent the town into mourning, with only five bodies retrieved from the disaster.
Many people whose relatives and loved ones were working at the mines have been searching for their loved ones, while others wailed for their relatives, who were reported to have been left under the debris.