Construction workers contracted by the Chinese company, CICO, are complaining of traffic violations and insults hurled out to them by drivers as they pave the road between Red Light and Fendell.
Some of the workers, who spoke to the Daily Observer on February 26, complained that drivers and owners of vehicles— specifically those bearing RL, SEN and REP plates— failed to observe signs on the road and throw derogatory languages at them (workers).
According to the workers, though they are not clothed with the authority to speak for the company, disrespectful treatment towards them from government officials are an abuse of their rights as citizens of Liberia; and as such, they are compelled to express their feelings to the press under the cloak of anonymity.
CICO is responsible for the portion of the Red Light-Ganta Highway from Red Light to Gbarnga. This portion has been assigned to one group of workers between Coco Cola Factory and Fendell while the others are spread out along the highway.
Workers usually install signs on the part of the road they are paving while directing vehicles to use a different route in order to avoid inconvenience for motorist.
In spite of these efforts, the workers claimed government officials plying the road insult them without any regard for their humanity.
“As we stand by with signs to direct cars coming to where we are working, drivers and owners of these cars put their heads out of their windows and insult us. They tell us that we are useless laborers without technical knowledge who are ‘following behind the Chinese’ doing unskilled work. They refuse to go along the path on the road we prepare for them to follow. They want to use the part of the road we are fixing because they do not want their cars to get dusty,” one worker complained.
According to them, Police vehicles are also involved in the violations. “Even the police who we expect to help us enforce the rules break them. They use their power to drive past the sign, this is causing embarrassment for us,” he said.
The workers noted that they could be like any other Liberian who chooses to sell cold water or anything else for a living, but they respect their work with the road construction company because it is meant to help the reconstruction process of the country.
“We are not doing bad by working with CICO to pave this road. We are helping because they cannot do everything alone. That is why our officials should not see us in wretched clothes working on the road and treat us as if we are not human,” the anonymous worker said.
CICO officials’ contacted Wednesday, February 26, afternoon about the alleged abuse said they have not received and formal complaint from their workers. Efforts made to contact the workers’ Chinese supervisors along the road proved fruitless as they do not speak English and there was no one present to interpret from Chinese to English.
The aggrieved Liberian contractors said their relationship with the company itself is very cordial one.
“Only our Liberian brothers and sisters in big positions see it fit to cuss us on this road since we’ve been working here. Let them know that it is for their own good we stand here to direct them. They must not cuss us just because they are in big cars,” another worker noted.
Giving some backgrounds on how the work is done, one contractor said, “aside from the base made of crushed rocks; two additional layers of coal tar are laid upon it (the base) before smoothening it out.
The contractor said the construction work would last for three years and seven years would be used for maintenance before turning it over to the country.
He also disclosed that the portion between Fendell and Red Light would be completed this Dry Season.
Meanwhile, the road from Red Light to Ganta is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Two Chinese construction companies including CICO and CHICO are carrying on the construction for a period of three years.
CICO takes on the road from Red Light to Gbarnga, while CHICO begins from Gbarnga to the Guinea-Liberia border in Ganta, Nimba County.
The two companies have begun intensive work on the road as there are various sub groups in separate locations working.