The very first front page headline which the Daily Observer published appeared in its maiden issues on February 16, 1981. The headline read, “West Point Dwellers Are Angry.”
That story, written by a team of reporters led by K. Neville A. Best, recounted the many desperate inconveniences experienced by the tens of thousands of West Point dwellers. These included the exact same thing these hapless people are experiencing at this very moment—poverty, slum conditions, including poor water and sanitation facilities, poor dwellings, including zinc shacks lined with cardboard materials, poor or non-existing latrines and bath facilities and, of course, hardly any government schools or clinics.
Most Liberians remember what happened during the Ebola epidemic that hit the country in 2014. Thanks to West Point’s persistent congestion, poor sanitation and lack of properly maintained toilet facilities, the area was one of the first places hit by the epidemic, with many falling sick and dying quickly.
For fear of a worsening situation that could spread to other parts of the capital city, Monrovia and elsewhere, the government immediately decided to plant an Ebola treatment center in West Point and quarantine the area. This met with fierce resistance from West Point dwellers, who openly rebelled against the move and came into conflict with soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who had been assigned there to quarantine the area. Most unfortunately, the soldiers, unprepared for careful and measured confrontation from the people, opened fire killing a 16-year-old youth, Shaki Kamara, and seriously injuring others.
West Pointers went on a rampage, looting the Ebola clinic, taking away medicines and mattresses and leaving the area further exposed to the deadly disease.
The identical conditions that provoked the invasion of this deadly epidemic remain firmly in place today. Worse yet, the Atlantic Ocean has been invading West Point, swallowing up many of the makeshift dwellings and causing greater hardship and distress to the people.
It was for this reason that the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf decided to transfer West Point residents to a less risky area, inland Brewerville along the Bomi Highway.
But this plan has been reversed by the new government of President George M. Weah, who believes that the people of West Point, many of whom make their living from fishing, should remain in West Point to continue the trade they know best. Meanwhile, President Weah has vowed to fix West Point, first by using a scientific method of diverting the ocean water and making the area more habitat-friendly.
In addition, the Weah administration, led by the President himself and his new National Housing Authority Managing Director, Duannah Siryon, are in the process of rebuilding West Point, by placing radically improved housing facilities in the area, including modern high-rise dwelling places. The new West Point will include modern and well-designed streets, schools, clinics, shopping centers, recreation facilities, etc.
This is precisely what this newspaper, the Daily Observer, has been calling for ever since President Sirleaf decided to relocate West Point to Brewerville. We contended that in addition to the modern layout of the town, including tree-lined streets, clinics, schools, etc., there should be modern high-rise apartment buildings, equipped with inside kitchen, bath and toilet facilities, NOT single-family dwellings that would soon take up all the land space. The area should be equipped with running water—the only way to make these apartment buildings livable. This, of course, means that West Point dwellers, who have lived for generations—over 50 years—in slum dwellings, will have to be well schooled in how to live in and maintain their new, modern environments.
We commend President Weah and his new Housing Authority officials, including Managing Director Duannah, for this bright, new initiative to transform the lives of these people, and wish the leaders well in their new, modern plans for West Point.
It, of course, goes without saying that the President and all of his officials, including those of the Ministries of Public Works (MPW) and Mines and Energy (MME), as well as the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC)— a member of West Point community — and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) should collaborate in the noble effort divert the encroaching Atlantic, modernize West Point and, at long last, turn it into a truly modern, livable metropolis.