Does anyone remember the day in 1983 when Head of State Samuel Doe and Justice Minister Jenkins Scott shut down the Daily Observer newspaper over our front page caption story, “Bad, Bad Roads”?
Yes, some people do, but the vast majority of our people were either in childhood or yet unborn.
It was Sando Moore’s Candid Camera that spotted far into Lofa County, on the road to Kolahun, two huge trucks stuck on both sides of the road in deep, impassible mud. One was filled with produce bound for the Bong and Monrovia markets. The other was empty, bound for Kolahun and Foya, two of Lofa’s breadbaskets, to pick up produce for Gbarnga and Monrovia.
Doe got angry, insisting that the caption story was meant only to make the government look bad! So he ordered his spineless and sycophantic Justice Minister Jenkins Scott to shut down the newspaper.
Today we ask, how long will it take for the Daily Observer to write the headline, “Bad, Bad Roads” before something is done to fix our highways? Or must we face another closure? And how many such closures will it take before something tangible is done to fix Liberia’s roads once and for all?
Our Bong Correspondent Marcus Malayea departed his studies at Cuttington last week to travel on part of the Bong-Lofa highway to confirm what the few travelers who managed to reach Gbarnga from Lofa had once again been crying about: “Bad, bad roads!”
On last Tuesday our Nimba Correspondent Ishmael Menkor reported about ‘bad, bad roads’ imperiling travelers and goods, mostly farm produce, that were stuck in the crippling mud on the Ganta-Tappita highway. This led us to write another Editorial appealing to Public Works Minister Gyude Moore and Defense Minister Brownie Samukai to do something quick to rescue our stranded, frustrated travelers and their highly perishable produce and other commodities.
Here we are today, again, in a decades old cry to Public Works! We are again appealing to this critical Ministry to rescue our hapless people, imperiled by ‘bad, bad, bad roads’ that hamper their travel and spoil their produce.
Within a week following our closure in 1983 following our ‘Bad Road’ story, then Public Works Minister William Amara Freeman convened a press conference and confessed that indeed the roads throughout the country were in deplorable condition. This, he lamented, was due primarily to the lack of funding available to Public Works to do anything about the situation. Yet the Daily Observer remained closed for another month, until Doe felt moved to reopen the newspaper.
Here we are once again today, 33 years later in the exact same situation, bringing to the attention of Public Works the selfsame perennial plight, the seemingly incessant cry, “Bad, Bad Roads.”
Minister Moore of Public Works has yet another war on his hands, beyond the Ganta-Tappita and River Cess-Sinoe-Grand Kru highway. This time, it is the Gbarnga-Voinjama-Kolahun-Vahun highway.
As mentioned in our Editorial last week, help is within Public Works Minister Moore’s reach: The Engineering Battalion of the Armed Forces of Liberia. If the Engineering Battalion, as may be the case with Public Works, is also crying for money, then the palava reaches President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Finance Minister, Boima Kamara. Can they cough up some money from somewhere and empower these two agencies to help fix our mud-plagued highways?
As a follow-up to this age-old plea about our roads that we face every Rainy Season, we ask this crucial question: when will Liberia develop the political will and resources to initiate a railroad system to make transport easier throughout the country—from Vahun through Foya through Kolahun, Voinjama to Gbarnga to Monrovia; and from Monrovia to Harper, Cape Palmas?
In 2006, at the onset of the Ellen Administration, there was talk of a Beach Highway from Cape Mount to Cape Palmas. That was a wonderful idea which the Chinese said they could help us to achieve.
We hope and pray that it is not yet another great Liberian idea that, like so many others, died after its originators became overwhelmed with the trappings of power and bureaucracy and forgot about implementing it.