‘We Are Grateful’

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Citizens of Vahun in Lofa County have praised President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the amount of developmental initiatives that are currently taking place in the district. The results of which have reconnected them to the rest of Liberia, especially their county.

According to the citizens, from the 1970’s onward Vahun was a neglected and isolated little region that had no relevance in the eyes of the country’s leadership. Because of this they felt there was no choice but to associate themselves with Sierra Leone; where they were frequently shunned because they were not citizens.

They said that the reconstruction of the road connecting them to Voinjama, renovation of the local health facility, the establishment of youth empowerment and capacity-building programs along with the Presidents’ visit are all indications that she has their district at heart. They said that they now feel like a part of the country.

The citizens expressed their gratitude to the Liberian leader when she visited the district on Tuesday evening, February 18. The visit kicked off the Liberian leader’s 2014 nationwide tour. It was her first visit to Vahun; making her only the second Liberian President to visit that part of the country since independence.

Expressing the gratitude of the people of District #2 from a prepared official position statement, Representative Fofi Sahr Baimba, Sr. said that if the Liberian President was not interested in the district, “We would not have been reconnected by this all-weather 68-kilometer road from Bolahun junction to here. Because of this road, it only takes a little over two hours to Voinjama. Before then, it took between seven to eight hours to the county’s capital,” he explained. The Vahun road was fully rehabilitated in 2011.

Rep. Baimba recalled his days growing up in Vahun in the 1960’s when it was totally isolated from Liberia. “Those days we did business with Sierra Leone. I went to elementary school in the 1960s and high school in the 1970s – all in Sierra Leone because there was no access to the rest of Liberia. Our parents sold their produce and paid our school fees in Sierra Leonean currency,” he said.

The Lofa lawmaker stated that President Sirleaf is making sure that Vahun does not revert to doing business with Sierra Leone out of neglect from previous Liberian governments to the distant and remote district; especially after the 14-year civil conflict and its proximity to that neighboring country. Vahun is only seven miles from Bomaru, the first major Sierra Leonean town.

“By the Liberian leader’s efforts and contribution to the development of the district, we are assured that Vahun has been fully integrated with the rest of Liberia,” the District #2 Representative said, adding that the President’s visit, the nearly complete construction of both a new high school and health center, are initiatives for which citizens of the district must commend the Liberian government.

 Providing some historical insight to the district’s reconnection to Liberia, Rep. Baimba said that it was through the instrumentality of the late Professor Dr. Benjamin Dennis of Michigan State University, a son of Vahun who lived in the United States for over 40 years who met President William R. Tolbert during one of his visits to the U.S., that he (Tolbert) was invited to his hometown. President Tolbert agreed to visit Vahun anytime Dr. Dennis was vacationing in Liberia.

In 1972, since there was no road, the two of them flew to Vahun. During that visit, President Tolbert promised the people of Vahun that the next time he visited them he would go there by car. He then mandated the agriculture company based in Foya at the time, AGRIMECO, to immediately connect Vahun to Foya. The road was completed two years later, in 1974, and the late Liberian leader drove into Vahun and made subsequent visits any time he visited Lofa County.

“We have been neglected for too long and the presence of Madam Sirleaf in our district is a sign that we are on the verge of being fully recognized. The President is giving us attention. Since I was born, this is the first time to set my eyes on a Liberian President,” Mr. Jimmy Passama, a resident of Vahun, told the Observer.

“It is said that there is time for everything, and we believe this is the time for Vahun. The presence of the nation’s President in our district says it all. We young people are very happy because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I must commend President Sirleaf for this visit. All the youth want now is empowerment. We know she will do it for us because she has already started,” 23-year-old Folley Gbairmeh said.

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