Despite Ebola, Some Serious Progress Proceeds

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The signing last Wednesday of the US$37.28 million Ganta-Yekepa Pavement Agreement is a tacit indication that despite the havoc Ebola has inflicted on the country, we are making some serious progress.

This includes the rapid recession of the deadly Ebola virus.  President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf acknowledged as much last Tuesday when she told the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Africa  that the intervention of President Barrack Obama had made a big difference, leading  to a significant decline in the viral transmission.  U.S. support, she added, had “encouraged the rest of the world to respond to this global crisis.”

There are so many other interventions that have also made this possible, including our Chinese, European Union, German and Norwegian partners, etc.

Our fellow African partners, led by the African Development Bank and Nigeria, have also pitched in generously. 

On Friday, the Daily Observer reported that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has been in the forefront of the anti-Ebola fight, had “withdrawn” from Lofa County, the first area in Liberia to be hit by the virus.  MSF said the situation had “significantly improved and there was no more need for their presence.”

The other good news of the week is the signing on Wednesday, at long last, of the Ganta-Yekepa Road Pavement Agreement.

The road is being constructed by ArcelorMittal as part of its concession agreement entered into several years ago.  The paved road is scheduled to be completed in 24 months. 

Remember how the Liberian Swedish Canadian American company LAMCO raped and plundered the virgin mines, where over 75 percent grade iron ore was exposed on the ground. They, particularly the Swedes, Americans and Canadians, made billions of dollars from the deal and, departing in the 1980s, left nothing behind.  The poor Nimba people felt no impact from LAMCO, except a few minor jobs.  Top employment went to Swedes, Americans and a few Liberians.  President W.V.S. Tubman, during his last Executive Council in Sanniquellie in 1968, turned down a request of Nimba Paramount Chiefs, notably Chief Wotto Mongrue, who asked him to tell LAMCO to share with the Sanniquellie people electricity and water, which were flowing abundantly in Yekepa.  But President Tubman told them it was government’s not LAMCO’s responsibility.  

Paramount Chief Mongrue, a Gio political giant from Nimba’s Gbehlay-Geh District, on hearing that response,   lifted his country cloth gown up both of his shoulders and shouted, “Aair!” meaning the President could not be serious.

It was President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who renegotiated the Agreement with Mittal, ensuring that the pavement of the Ganta-Yekepa road was included.

It is a sad but true commentary that we Liberians, among us some of the most highly educated, have passed up, indeed frustrated many opportunities to develop our country.

The Tubman government was too deep in bed with Liberian Mining Company (LMC) founder Lansdell K. Christie, to insist that the company pave the highway from Bomi to Monrovia.  And it is alleged that several times the Germans of Bong Mining Company (BMC) offered to pave the road from Kakata to Haindii, the leading town in Bong County’s Fauma Chiefdom.  But each time, the Liberian government said, “Give us the money.”  This was done but the money was eaten. 

That is the same way in the early 1960s—that’s a half century ago!—we lost our opportunity to develop tourism in Liberia. 

President Felix Houphouet-Boigny was among several Heads of State that attended President Tubman’s fifth inauguration.  So highly impressed was President Houphouet with the newly opened Ducor Intercontinental Hotel, West Africa’s first five-star hotel, that he invited Moshe Meyer, the Jewish developer who built it, to build the identical hotel in Abidjan.

The result is Hotel Ivoire, the Towers and the Rivera in Abidjan.

Moshe Meyer later told G. Henry Andrews, Tolbert’s first Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, that he, Meyer, had wanted to start with Liberia in launching tourism in West Africa.  But every Liberian official he approached about the project wanted money upfront before proceeding with the discussion.

Meyer never returned to Liberia.  He remained in the Ivory Coast and in a big way helped launch the tourism industry there.

Let us pray that this present and future generations of Liberians will be more patriotic, more focused and more serious about national development, putting our country FIRST, before ourselves.

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