It may be hard for most Liberians to take, especially those who made their displeasure known—vehemently rejecting government’s decision against the demolition of the “New Defense Ministry” which it had settled on for the construction of the Ministerial Complex, but the fact of the matter is it has finally begun. And in a week, a Chinese engineer told this newspaper, the entire building will be down to “ground-zero.”
Thus commences the project to erect a US$60 million inter-ministerial complex promised the Government of Liberia by the People’s Republic of China. But as it always said “development comes with pains” and this demolition exercise began on Sunday.
The Liberian government sources say the US$60m- agreement for the construction—signed over three years ago—would reduce the huge expenditure undertaken by the Government in rentals for public buildings owned or managed by relatives and friends of some government officials.
Ministry of Public Works sources few months ago disclosed that it would cost the Chinese firm US$4M to demolish the unfinished building, the construction of which started back in the 1980s during the regime of the late President Samuel K. Doe through assistance from the State of Israel.
The Chinese engineer, who asked not to be named, said a team of Chinese engineers who assessed the building came out with a conclusion that it had outlived its usefulness. “This building is not too strong for renovation for the next 25 to 30 years,” he said.
The inter-ministerial complex, when completed, will be the People’s Republic of China’s second most expensive infrastructural gesture on the African continent, next to the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It will host at least ten ministries and there will be an overhead bridge to connect to Congo Town back road to avoid traffic congestion. The project is expected to take three years.
Chinese company, Jiangsu Provincial Construction Group (JPCG), hired to construct the complex, had earlier reported that experts from China were due in the country to begin the exercise. JPCG Assistant General Manager and Project Manager, Gao Yuanming, told newsmen in
Monrovia that the demolition exercises would be completed soon to begin actual construction work.
Many Liberians are not happy about the situation. A resident of Congo Town, William Gaye, who was at the demolition scene said, “We are so disappointed that government decided to carry out this exercise in spite of the many agitations from us.”
“I think it is actually a waste of money,” Gaye said.
But the government is relying on the assessment of the Chinese contractors who have more or less condemned the Israeli-built structure, suggesting that the cost-benefit would prove better by leveling the old one and building a brand new one.
Others are more concerned about the potential health hazards as a result of the demolition exercise. Rufus Berry cited an estimated “10,000 men, women and children living within a radius of 1 square mile of the demolition zone” and described those authorizing the demolition as “evil” for not “taking proactive measures… about the hazard posed by dust that arises during demolition.”
When government finally took the decision, some Liberians threatened to sue the government to prevent wasting tax payers’ money because; they think the building is still structurally sound. However, no one has come forward with hard evidence to counter the assessment of the Chinese contractors.
Israel provided assistance to Liberia to build the Ministry of Defense due to what is reported to have been Liberia’s support to the State of Israel in acquiring statehood in 1948. The relationship was further strengthened by a visit to Israel by President Doe in 1983.
Some Liberians are claiming that President Sirleaf is using the demolition of the building as a payback for some of the pains she endured during the regime of President Samuel K. Doe, including her imprisonment in 1985 after the elections. Such argument is countered by the
Sirleaf Admnistration’s completion of two projects started during the Doe regime. These are the Central Bank of Liberia new office on Ashmun Street, and the new Ministry of Health complex in Congo Town.
It is also on record that her first proposed choice for the location of the inter-ministerial complex was part of the land earlier given by GOL to the Sudan Interior Mission, also known as ELWA, along the Robertsfield highway.