On Friday, April 22, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf broke ground for the construction of a 48 kilometer road that, when completed, will connect Morlakwelleh in the Bella District to Pallakwelleh in Bokomu District, Gbarpolu County.
Though the road in Bella Yalla might have brought road access closer to the people of Bokomu District, they walk five to six hours, at times hauling loads, before they can see or have access to vehicles to get to Bopolu City, the county capital, to transact business.
Before she broke ground for the road construction, a traditional leader of the district, Flomo Nyangomo, told President Sirleaf that they have been in what he considered as “prison” for too long and it would be a great achievement for the President if she could liberate them as she did the people of Bella Yalla.
Chief Nyangomo, who spoke through an interpreter, told the president that she continues to exemplify her distinctiveness as a true leader of the people by doing things that bring relief to the ordinary people.
“We are in jail and this is the time for you to save us and we know you can do it,” the traditional leader said, pleading with the President that the road be completed before she leaves office, because he would never be sure if it will ever be done after her tenure expires.
Chief Nyangomo noted that residents of the community wholeheartedly welcome the President and her entourage to the district, and are receptive to the pending road construction.
Earlier, President Sirleaf told the audience that she had continuously told the county leadership that she was going to get back to Bella Yalla, especially to inspect the enormous challenges that have impeded the road construction, especially at the infamous Gorma Hill, that is somehow slowing the Bella Yalla road work.
She noted that her government will ensure that a road runs to the isolated Bokomu District. This, she said, will bring relief to citizens in that part of the country. This road, if completed will lead to Zorzor, Lofa County. “Pallakwelleh is the short way to get to Zozor,” residents said.
According to President Sirleaf, she has a special place in her heart for Bella Yalla. She noted that the district is indeed an example of departing from difficulties to success and from suppression to freedom. “Driving into Bella is freedom for our people,” she said.
“It brought tears to me and the residents when they saw vehicles for the first time; the excitement was just overwhelming,” President Sirleaf once told reporters in an interview.
But she noted that this is the kind of landmark that her government had come to achieve. “We came into power to bring relief to the Liberian people, and this is a clear example. The Bella Yalla story is a true manifestation for our vision for the country.”
She said with the county leaders, which also comprised the President Pro-Tempore, Armah Zulu Jallah, will work collectively to have the road constructed for the betterment of the masses.
All of the lawmakers from the county were present at the ceremony.
In a brief remark, Pro-Tempore Jallah lauded the President for her presence at the ceremony, noting that it is a clear manifestation that the President has a heart for the people.
“I stand ever ready to work with you, Madam President, in whatsoever that will bring sanity to the people of Liberia,” Jallah declared.
The people of Bella Yalla, like their Bokomu counterparts, were also isolated for too long. This was until President Sirleaf made a historic milestone when she ordered a motor road penetrate the dense high forest of Bella Yalla in 2010.
Bella Yalla hosted the nation’s infamous maximum prison facility where political prisoners were tortured, flogged and were conscripted to hard labor. The prison was fortified by the dense forest surrounding, with no road facilities. Prisoners were transported to the facility by air at the time.
President Sirleaf made history when she ensured that a road, for the first time, entered Bella Yalla and she was the first President to visit the town by road and saw the facility.
Many of the onlookers were overjoyed when they were informed that the President was in their area to break ground for road construction. They continuously sang songs of joy in the Belleh dialect and jubilated throughout until the President departed the area.