Averting a ‘Death Trap’: Bravo to Cape Mt., Gbarpolu Women

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The women of Lofa Bridge Community have done their country and people a great service by reporting just in time a bridge connecting  Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties that is about to fall apart.

Our reporter Gloria Tamba wrote last Tuesday that the women, led by Madam Massa Gorla, had been observing the bridge for some time and noticed that not only  are the planks on the bridge floor falling apart, but the very pillars on which it stands are cracking!

They made noises, but no one listened.  So these patriotic and determined women, whose children cross that bridge daily for school, got fed up and took decisive ACTION.  They mounted road blocks on either side, making it impossible for motorists to pass.

This caught the immediate attention of the two key Ministries of government, Internal Affairs (MIA)  and Public Works (MPW).  Soon, MIA Minister Morris Dukuly and MPW Minister Antoinette Weeks were on their way to see the bridge and both ordered it immediately closed to traffic.

Public Works Minister Weeks pledged that her engineers would carefully examine the bridge and determine what to do about it.

The women of this communities deserve the commendation and gratitude of the  entire nation for their action in averting what could have been a major disaster.

It remains to be seen what Public Works will do.  Are they going to simply mend the broken bridge, or are they going to study it comprehensively and recommend that it be torn down and a proper bridge be built.

But a number of questions arise here.  Why did it take these women to alert the government about this cracking bridge?  Has Public Works no program to monitor on a regular or periodic basis all government construction–bridges, buildings, etc., to determine which one needs repair?  It has long been said that the Liberian government knows how to build but not how to maintain.  Look at what happened to the Executive Mansion in 2006: the place caught afire due to an electrical fault.  Why? No one could remember when last the wiring of the building was checked since the Mansion was completed in 1964!

Does Public Works have a detailed listing of all the government buildings and their architectural drawings? Does it have the same for all   the roads and bridges it has built?  Is there any place where the nation's architectural archives are kept?

What happened to the government's Decentralization Plan  that the Governance Commission designed between 2006 and  2012?  The Plan called for the election of county superintendents, city mayors, district commissioners and paramount chiefs. It also called for the major government ministries to be represented in each county. This would include, for starts, the Ministries of Justice–Police, Immigration and Joint Security; Education; Internal Affairs; and Public Works.  And since we are dealing in this editorial with physical infrastructure, the Plan called for a Highway Department in each county, working in close collaboration with   Public Works.  The
Department's function was to maintain all the road networks and public buildings in the county.  Had there been a Highway Department in Gbarpolu County, there would have been no need for the women to advise Internal Affairs and Public Works that their  bridge was on the verge of collapse.

The President has just under three more years in office.  She has enough time to finish that which she has begun–the  decentralization of the Liberian government, to share power with the people at the local level and hopefully, to enable the government to be a little more efficient.

It remains to be seen whether she will be the first Liberian President to accomplish the devolution of power–the transfer to the people at the local level, of some of the powers of the President.

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