She is not quite there yet, and that may take a while to relocate West Point’s nearly 100,000 people. But President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has begun the process, first by identifying exactly where their new habitat will be. That is a big step forward.
Only last week Wednesday, May 11, 2016 the Daily Observer published an Editorial reflecting on the West Point people’s urgent plea to the President to relocate them. In that Editorial, we urged the President to make good her pledge to relocate West Pointers on the Bomi Highway, and also to teach them a new kind of fishing—in fishponds, where they can even grow lobsters.
We are sure it was a mere coincidence, for on that very morning, Wednesday, May 11, the President visited West Point and broke the great news: Yes, these people, who had only recently lamented to the President that they felt imprisoned and begged her to relocate them because the Atlantic Ocean was every day destroying their homes, would at last be relocated!
The site on which they are to be relocated, she told them, is the spot once occupied by the Voice of America (VOA), in Brewerville, Montserrado County, about 30 miles west of Monrovia, the capital.
We need to find out the size of the area, what facilities are there, and what plans the government conceives to make the area better than what they had in West Point.
The National Housing Authority (NHA), according to the President, is building units to house the people. It seems to us that the NHA should not confine itself to building bungalows—two to three bedroom structures constructed individually for each family on its own land space. These would consume a lot of the land, and the area might not be large enough to accommodate bungalows for the 70,000 or more families that inhabit West Point. The NHA should rather seriously consider building high rise buildings, several stories high, similar to what is called “the projects” in the United States. In that way, one building could accommodate 30 to 40 families or more, and space would be far better utilized. And each apartment should be self-contained, with bedrooms, bathrooms and toilets for parents and children, as well as kitchen and a kitchen porch, just in case there is need for the coal pot. Hopefully by the time these are built, there would be plentiful electricity and Liberians would not need much charcoal.
The NHA should immediately start planning the area BEFORE the first building is erected. There should be spaces for schools, clinics, a hospital, a large marketplace and shopping areas as well as recreational areas—well designed football pitches, basketball, volleyball, tennis courts, swimming pools and a track and field arena. There should also be open spaces for parks, playgrounds and green spaces where people can sit, lie and relax. Please, please, let no one ask “What Kru man knows about tennis?” Our children need to be exposed to all these games, so that they may become proficient in them to be able to participate in local, national and one day international tournaments. It is about time, is it not, that our youth should be trained to participate seriously in international sports?
As mentioned in last Wednesday’s Editorial, the people should be taught a new way to fish, through the creation of fishponds, where they can cultivate various varieties of fish for sale in the Brewerville, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Cape Mount marketplaces, and even in Monrovia, depending on the level of productivity. And these ponds, if well managed and the “new” fishermen and women well trained, could do well financially selling their fish and lobsters.
We plead with, beg NHA NOT to undertake the same old same old and build an ordinary, typically Liberian living area, where there is no uniformity and no order. Let us elevate our West Pointers to a new standard of living!
Of course there would be the need for a city hall, such as Daily Observer Publisher Kenneth Y. Best promised to help them do when he turned 75 three years ago. NHA could make space for that, too, and other developments.
There would be other thoughts that our readers, having read this Editorial, could come up with to make the new West Point a clean and beautiful habitat. We cannot, must not forget sanitation—cleanliness of the township and an efficient garbage disposal system.
The next question would be what to do about the West Point being vacated. The government should engage modern architects, town planners, environmental and hydrological engineers to present ideas and plans for this.