We are happy that Vice President Joseph Boakai, during his recent weeklong visit to Lofa County, touched this very remote, somewhat isolated Liberian town named Vahun.
It is a town whose people are mainly Mende, although there are some Kissi from Foya among them.
The Mende are most likely the relations of those of the same ethnic group across the border in Sierra Leone. Remember how arbitrarily the imperialists—Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal—divided up the African continent? They placed boundaries wherever they wished, dividing families in half. Because Sierra Leone was colonized by the British, Sierra Leoneans became English-speaking with a British accent.
So when, for example, Thomas N. Brima, who hailed from Vahun but graduated from the Episcopal Church’s Bolahun Mission, came to Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University) in 1960 as a freshman, only few understood why he had a Sierra Leonean accent. It was because, just as our Correspondent, Alaskai Moore Johnson who covered the VP’s Lofa visit reported, most of the Vahun people deal more with Sierra Leoneans than with their fellow Liberians. Most of their commerce is with Sierra Leone to the south because it is so much closer to Vahun than Foya, ancestral home of the Kissi, Kolahun, of the Gbandi and Voinjama, the Lofa capital, of the Lorma and Mandingo.
The brilliant and astute Tom Brima rose high in government, serving first as an official in the State Department, Superintendent of Lofa County, and in various ministerial capacities, including Minister of Internal Affairs. He later became Liberian Ambassador to Sierra Leone, a most fitting post for him, given his connections as a Mende-speaking Vahunian. Mende is one of Sierra Leone’s major languages.
The problem with Vahun—and with the Liberian government—is that the town, which is in the middle of a very dense forest, has been allowed to remain isolated for far too long.
Due to the very bad road conditions, this mountainous and heavily forested area was almost completely cut off from Liberia until around 2013 when then Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods rehabilitated the road linking Kolahun and Vahun. The people were so happy that they gowned him.
But we all know that with trees and forests come very heavy rains, which afflict laterite roads with erosion (wearing/washing away). So this road has again for months been barely passable, especially at a deep curve where vehicles often get stuck.
During the VP’s visit, the Vahun people pleaded with him to fix the road leading through Gbarpolu County to Bomi County, which cuts by more than half, the distance to Monrovia.
The Vahun people are Liberians and they deserve to be connected to their fellow Liberians in Lofa, Bong, Gbarpolu, Bomi and, of course, Montserrado County, seat of the nation’s capital. So it is incumbent (binding) on the Liberian government to find a permanent solution to the roads leading to Vahun, so that Vahunians may be firmly and constantly reconnected to their native Liberia and be able to interact freely and trade with their own people.
We meanwhile extend a word of gratitude to the Sierra Leoneans for befriending and maintaining excellent social and trade relations with their Liberian brothers and sisters across the border. Many of them are most likely blood relations with Liberians since they are all Mendes, separated more than a century ago by the imperial and colonial machinations (plots).
But there is yet another extremely important reason the Liberian government should take Vahun VERY SERIOUSLY: Vahun has immense tourist potential. Only a few Liberians know about Vahun’s dense forest, in which can be found so many prized wildlife including elephants, hippopotamuses, lions, leopards, many varieties of reptiles (snakes, etc.), many different kinds of monkeys and baboons, and even the beautiful zebra! There is also in Vahun a cave of bats of all kinds, where tourists can visit unmolested by these dark, winged creatures.
We reckon that one day, hopefully soon, when Liberia becomes blessed with a well organized tourism industry, and when Vahun is well connected with all weather roads through Kolahun, Bomi and Sierra Leone, this pristine (immaculate, unspoiled) area will become one of West Africa’s prime tourist destinations.