The world knows that the God of Nature has blessed Liberia with a wonderful coastline—350 miles of a great and rich natural resource.
But just as we Liberians have done and continue to do with most of our natural resources, even the most important of all, our human resources, we have not only neglected but simply wasted our rich, immaculate coastline. We have thrown it to the wind and the ocean to do with it whatever they wish. And surely, if one gives Mother Nature a chance, the opportunities she gives us can provide a serious blessing—or a bane.
We Liberians have foolishly, and unpatriotically chosen the latter; and like so many other instances, have turned God’s blessing of a wonderful coastline into a bane, which means an annoyance, a blight, a curse.
When the people of West Point recently met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, they told her they were in prison—why? Because the government has allowed their wonderful beach to imprison and distress them with the rushing and overwhelming waves from the Atlantic, which have destroyed their homes and turned them into captives of their own habitat.
Remember, nearly 36 years ago when the Daily Observer was being born, the publisher sent a young reporter, K. Neville A. Best, to West Point, assigning him to “go bring a story.” Keith dutifully went and returned with a piece which became the headline of our maiden issue, February 16, 1981: “West Point Dwellers Are Angry.”
There were several dignitaries, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, other politicians, as well as diplomats, businesspeople and journalists, who in 2011, following the death of Daily Observer Editor-in-Chief Stanton Peabody, came to our Library named after him, to sign the Book of Condolence. We had and still do, on permanent display, our maiden issue. When the American Ambassador, Linda Thomas Greenfield, saw the headline, “West Point Dwellers Are Angry” she exclaimed, “They are still angry.”
Well, three and a half decades later, that is exactly what West Point leaders told President Sirleaf when they met her last week.
What kind of country do we live in where, year in, year out, decade in, decade out, we seem not to be able to make much progress? How is it that the people of West Point have lived in the same squalor for so long? How is it that all these decades we have done nothing to arrest the ecological problem that has brought so much erosion and pain to West Point; and not there only, but to New Kru Town, threatening one of our leading high schools, the D. Tweh?
We then have the terrible sea erosion that seriously threatens Hotel Africa and the Unity Conference Center, a major investment undertaken during the Tolbert administration. It was that imposing complex that in July 1979 hosted the Summit Conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, now African Union-AU). That was when President W.R. Tolbert was elected OAU Chair.
Another major Liberian city being washed away by the Atlantic before our very eyes is our second city, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Mr. Patrick Sendolo, has recently told the Daily Observer that it would take about US$250 million to fix all these places being destroyed by sea erosion. The government may not have all the money at once, but it could begin one place at a time, especially New Kru Town, where a major high school is under the threat of extinction. Can we afford that, given the educational crisis in which the nation finds itself at this time? It would seem to us that GOL would make this Priority Number One and do something immediately to save D. Twe.
GOL should next tackle the problem in West Point. The people told the President when they met her that they want to be relocated somewhere along the Bomi Highway.
We think this is a reasonable request. There is most certainly plenty of land there that could be shared with our beleaguered West Point brothers and sisters.
True, there is not much water in that Bomi region, and you know the West Pointers are seafarers and fishermen. However, here is an opportunity to introduce these fishing experts to another kind of fishing—fish ponds. They could even be taught to grow lobsters, too, and that would financially empower them.
Here is an excellent opportunity for creativity and innovation. Let us reach out to our West Point folk and welcome them and give them a new, productive life, where there will be schools, clinics, recreation facilities, churches and mosques and fishponds, where they can still grow fish—of a very different kind, from ponds rather than from the ocean—and lobsters, too.