The cogent (strong) question can be asked, Who can afford to ignore Liberia's Southeastern Region?
We raise this question not simply because that is where the trouble came from in 1980; but more so because it has long been one of the
nation's most neglected regions.
A young woman named Chris Tah was Assistant Minister of Justice for Rehabilitation in the late 1970s. She visited to the Southeast in
connection with the establishment of the National Palace of Correction in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County. When she returned to Monrovia, she warned that the government pay more attention to the Southeast because she found the people very angry of neglect. If any trouble ever came to the country, it would come from there, she warned. But in typical Liberian fashion, no one took her seriously. Everyone knows what happened a short while later–and led
Daily Observer Agricultural Correspondent Judoemue M. Kollie recently toured the Southeast and returned with an even more alarming report.
In his story, "Economic Situation Appalling," he reported that five major sectors of the Southeast were at once in desperate need: agriculture and food, in which most Liberians are self-employed, farmland scarcity, education, healthcare delivery and housing.
Reporter Kollie quoted Bannie Brown, president of the Maryland County Farmers' Cooperative Society who complained of "inadequate support
received toward food production in various Southeastern counties."
Kollie recalled that early in the Ellen administration she made agriculture the center of her Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). But after a decade of sustained peace in the country, many southeasterners still live in thatch houses and are finding it difficult to afford even daily meals.
Was this issue of HOUSING not the very point to which this newspaper in a recent editorial called the attention of Finance Minister Amara
Reporter Kollie quoted Bannie Brown lamenting that the thatched huts which they still inhabit constituted one tangible indication of the "economic stagnation" still gripping the Southeast.
Food was another subset of the Agriculture problem: the people are hungry and have serious difficulty finding daily food to eat. The 30,000 hectares of land which the government gave to the Callava River Company (CRC), said Mr. Brown, has robbed the people of sufficient
farmland to grow food. This is aside from the fact that the Agriculture Ministry seems to have forgotten that these people exist. When last did Florence Chenoweth send an Agriculture Extension Agent to Maryland, or anywhere in the Southeast?
Another most serious agricultural problem is that the ONE cash crop on which these people depend for survival is rubber. But there is no
one to buy their rubber since Firestone pulled out of the area. The people say CRC is neither buying their rubber nor employing them–so
they are in a terrible triple FIX–no food, no jobs, no money because they're unable to sell their rubber.
All of this is compounded by the steep rise in the foreign exchange rate, making it even more difficult to buy anything with the little money they have.
Then there are the problems with the schools: no books, no well trained teachers, no libraries and no laboratories. And finally, efficient and reliable HEALTHCARE DELIVERY is unreliable–or absent.
What must be done?
We strongly advise that Presdident Ellen Johnson Sirleaf immediately dispatch to the entire Southeast a fact-finding mission to look into the people's suffering and deprivations and DO something quickly and long-lasting to ease their distress and pain. The mission should comprise experts from the Agriculture, Education, Health and Social Welfare, Land and Housing sectors. The mission must carefully study the people's plight and return with answers and solutions that can be immediately applied to redress this desperate situation.
It is so sad that several years ago when the Rubber Planters Association (RPL) ran the CRC and were doing a good job at it, they were summarily removed by then Agriculture Minister Chris Toe. Since that time things took for the worse, and his successor, Dr. Chenoweth,
seems to have done nothing to fix the problems.
We pray that government will revisit its Poverty Reduction Strategy and DO something alleviate the desperation in Liberia's beloved but
It seems to us that the Legislators, instead of targeting the Central Bank, should be targeting the plight of our people in Southeastern Liberia.