Who can ever forget the notorious Belle Yella maximum security prison where for generations political prisoners and hardened criminals languished under inescapable isolation, hard labor and even torture, especially during the Tubman, Tolbert, Doe and Taylor administrations?
That was until for the first time in history President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2010 built the road through the dense forest to Belle Yella in her extraordinary determination to spend Christmas there. Yes, she was the first President ever to reach Belle Yella by automobile convoy over a torturous terrain—a plethora of creeks, hills, swamps and rivers. That road is still a bit shaky, but perhaps Public Works Minister Gyude Moore will find the civil and structural engineers who will make the road sturdier and the trip to Belle Yella easier.
The prison syndrome affected not only the people in Belle Yella, however. Last Friday the people of Bokomu District in Gbarpolu County told the President as much when she went there to break ground for the construction of a 48-kilometer road connecting Morlakwelleh in Gbarpolu’s Belle District to
Pallakwelleh in Bokomu District. Our Presidential Correspondent William Harmon quoted the Bokomu people revealing to the President they have to walk six hours, at times hauling loads, before gaining access to vehicles to Bopolu City, the county capital.
“We have been for too long in a virtual prison,” Chief Flomo Nyangomo told President Sirleaf. “We would consider it a great achievement if you could liberate us as you did the people of Belle Yella,” he pleaded.
Speaking through an interpreter, he told Ellen that she continued to exemplify her distinctiveness as a true leader of the people by doing things that bring relief to ordinary people. “We are in jail and this is the time for you to save us and we know you can do it,” he said, urging the President “to complete the road before you leave office because we do not know whether it would ever be done after your term expires.” The President assured the people that her government will complete the road.
It would be indeed a great relief, for when completed, it will connect Morlakwelleh to Pallakwelleh in Bokomu District, a short distance. But without the road, people have to walk four and a half hours, without load, through the forests of Lofa-Belleh. With loads on their heads or backs the journey would take them a whole day or more.
Should Ellen make good her promise to the people in Bokomu and Belle Districts, and if her engineers can make the road to Belle Yella sturdier, the Gbarpolu road developments would definitely be one of her distinctive legacies that Gbarpoluans and Lofans would never forget.
The roads would enhance agricultural and trade developments and open the way for a tourism boom in the county, connecting the Gbarpolu and Lofa forests.
We hope that Public Works Minister Moore and his team, encouraged by funding from the Ministry of Finance, would complete the road in the shortest possible time, and also make sturdier the road leading to Belle Yella.