The Yarr River that runs between Gbeyi Tengbein and Yeahyee in Nimba County’s Saclepea District has long been a death trap for passengers traveling in canoes. But how else could Nimbaians travel between these two major towns except in a tiny canoe dangerously crossing the Yarr.
That, in fact, is how the river got its name. Over the decades too many canoes have capsized and too many people have drowned trying to cross the river. So the people named it Yarr, which in Gio and Mano, the two principal Nimba languages, means danger or death.
Our Diplomatic Correspondent, Joachim Sendolo, who was recently in Nimba for a funeral, brought back a fine story of a great relief that has come to the people along the Yarr. He reported that Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, fulfilling a promise to Nimbaians, financed the building of a US$3000 ferry to transport people and goods across the river.
We commend VP Boakai for his generosity and the ferry builders for utilizing their skills to bring relief and safety to the Yarr River people. We thank the contractors for using their limited skills in designing and building the ferry. What a great difference they have made in the lives of their people in the Saclepea District!
Oh! If all of us were effectively and prudently utilizing our talents, skills and other resources to good advantage, we would have a far better country!
The Daily Observer called the Public Works Ministry last Monday to enquire as to the dimensions of the Yarr River and more specifically, what could be the long term answer to transport along the river.
Fortunately, the one person at Public Works who could answer our questions, Deputy Minister for Rural Development and Community Service, Jackson Paye, had already seen and read the story!
Responding to our reporter, Mr. Paye said the story had made him feel good and bad—good because VP Boakai had responded in a concrete and compassionate way to the suffering people along the Yarr by funding a ferry to facilitate safer travel up and down the river.
“I feel bad,” Deputy Minister Paye continued, “because I have traveled to many parts of the world and know what a ferry is. To see what we call a ferry in Liberia after 169 years of independence saddens me.”
Liberians are among the most traveled Africans. And most of us who have traveled know what a ferry is. The thousands of Liberians who live on Staten Island in New York can tell us that a ferry is a vessel that carries passengers, some in their own vehicles and some on deck, as well as goods, other motor vehicles and machinery.
But closer home, take the ferries that transport passengers, motor vehicles and goods from the Lilongwe Airport to downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone.
There are also ferries transporting people, motor vehicles, machinery and goods all day from Banjul, The Gambia to Dakar, Senegal.
That is what makes Jackson Paye sad. Before the St. John River Bridge was built linking Cotton Tree, Owensgrove and beyond to the St. John River Cities and Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, a ferry crossed people, vehicles and goods across the St. John River daily. That ferry was operated by Captain Sam Summerville, who got his training abroad. So older Liberians know what a ferry looks like.
Surely, it will take a considerable amount of money to construct a bridge across the Yarr. The Ellen government may have neither the time nor the financial resources to do it, given the financial crunch currently facing the country. This financial difficulty is due primarily to the dramatic plummeting of the prices of iron ore and rubber, our principal foreign exchange earners. Arcelor Mittal and other mining companies have gone slow and the mighty Firestone Rubber Plantation is on a retrenchment exercise. Also the failure of Liberian agriculture has forced us to continue importing so much of our food, including our staple, rice, and much more. These are the perilous (death defying) economic realities facing our country and government.
But if Jackson Paye can get Public Works to undertake at least a feasibility study on a bridge over the Yarr, that would be a good beginning.
It may entice some presidential candidate to pledge that if elected, he will build the bridge over the Yarr.