Poor Buzzi Quarter—Another Great GOL Opportunity Missed!

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They and their ancestors have been there since the first several years of President Arthur Barclay’s Administration. It was he who in 1904 established the Liberian Frontier Force (LFF), now Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).

Yes, it was the Lormas of Lofa County who first volunteered and were recruited to join the LFF. These patriotic Liberians came in droves to join LFF, along with their wives and children, to be joined by other family and ethnic members.

The LFF, however, could not accommodate all of them within the barracks, which were named the Barclay Training Center (BTC), in honor of President Arthur Barclay. Many of the LFF soldiers’ relations, therefore, settled in a slum area next to the barracks, and that area became known as “Buzzi Quarter,” after a powerful Lorma chief named Buzzi. The name was so popular that it became synonymous with the tribe.

Because the soldiers’ wages were so low, they could not afford plusher accommodations elsewhere for their relatives who, therefore, stayed right next door to BTC. They have for over a century remained in that slum environment with no proper housing, no running water and no adequate toilet and sanitation facilities. Buzzi Quarter has thus remained the slum closest to Liberia’s power center, ever since the late 1950s and early 1960s when the Capitol Building, home of the National Legislature, the Temple of Justice and presidential palace, the Executive Mansion (1964), were erected.

Then about three years ago our Chinese friends, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), decided to give to our President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a most generous gift—US$60 million to build a Ministerial Complex to house Liberia’s Executive offices.

This newspaper quickly jumped to the rescue of Buzzi Quarter and suggested that the area be chosen as the location for the new Ministerial Complex. We gave what we thought were three tangible reasons. First, it would at once remove the smelly sore eye from underneath the seat of Liberia’s power center.
Second, it would place all of the government ministries in direct and most convenient distance from the country’s power center—the Capitol Building, the Temple of Justice and the Executive Mansion. And third, it would at once clean out one of the capital city’s worst slum areas and turn it into a modern part of the Monrovia metropolis.

Pitched against the backdrop of the picturesque Atlantic Ocean, the citing of the Ministerial Complex at Buzzi Quarter would turn the entire area into one of the most beautiful and glittering tourist attractions in the Liberian capital!

In order to buttress its proposal and make it more palatable, the Daily Observer sent its former Lofa Correspondent, now assigned to the Environment and Roads, Edwin Fayia, to talk with the Buzzi Quarter people to find out how they would react to the Ministerial Complex being built in their area. The people—every single one of them—wholeheartedly welcomed the idea and let it be known that they would willingly be relocated. “We cannot and will not stand in the way of development,” they told Fayia.

But GOL would have none of that. Instead, GOL demanded that ELWA, to which the Tubman administration awarded several acres of land on the Atlantic Ocean for an international evangelical radio station, a hospital and schools, cede some of their land for the Ministerial Complex.

The Daily Observer editorially said that would be unwise for three reasons. First, it would be too far from the center of power; second, how would GOL employees travel to and from work with traffic blocked when there was a major national or international sporting or other event at the S.K.D. Sports Complex?

And third, the newspaper warned the government that it should not try to pick fuss with God. Tubman had given the land to the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) to promote evangelism through broadcasting, education and health—all serious religious initiatives. Who in his or her right mind could quarrel with that?

The GOL backed off and decided to place the Ministerial Center at Peace Island, but the tens of thousands of people, mostly ex-soldiers, already inhabiting there vigorously resisted. So finally, GOL has decided to squeeze the Ministerial Complex in the immediate vicinity of the unfinished Defense Ministry building.

We still strongly believe that GOL’s failure to transform the Buzzi Quarter slum into a glittering, paved, tree-lined, Ministerial Park, FREELY built with money our Chinese friends are willing to spend, would be a most painful, most pitiful and most unfortunate opportunity missed!

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