In the past several days we have published two major stories about the deplorable road conditions in the country that call for urgent attention.
The first, published last Wednesday, concerned the Ganta-Yekepa Highway, which ArcelorMittal, the iron ore giant operating in the Nimba Mountains, promised several years ago to pave. The road is already there, but given the heavy rains, it is constantly in disrepair, making passage extremely difficult, especially during the rainy season.
That is why everyone, especially the Nimba people, rejoiced over Arcelor Mittal’s 2007 pledge to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that it would pave the highway from Nimba’s commercial capital, Ganta, to Yekepa, the main point of the company’s operations. In keeping with the pledge, a Senegalese contractor, Saheliemae d’Enterprises (CSE), was hired to undertake the highway rehabilitation and pavement.
The company commenced its work in 2015, but our Nimba Correspondent, Ishmael Menkor, has reported that CSE had “abandoned” the project because the Liberian government had failed to make part payment on the project. The company has therefore stopped work, parked its equipment and left.
That is indeed bad news and we are hoping that the GOL will find the money from somewhere and make good its pledge to CSE. Finding the funds admittedly, is not an easy proposition, given the dire straits the GOL faces in this post-Ebola period.
Compounding this is ArcelorMittal’s own financial difficulties, owing to the plunge in the world iron ore price, which has caused the company to slow down its operations.
The question on most people’s minds is whether or not the company, at the time of its promise to pave the Ganta-Yekepa Highway, set aside the funding for the project. Up to the writing of this editorial, a spokesperson for ArcelorMittal Liberia could not confirm the fulfillment of the company’s pledge.
What will be the GOL’s response remains to be seen. But the people of Nimba can hardly wait to see this long awaited promise fulfilled.
As though that is not enough of a headache for the GOL, two southeastern Senators have made a desperate plea to government to “prioritize” the repair of the highways leading to their respective counties.
The Senators of Grand Kru and River Gee counties, Dr. Peter Coleman and Albert Chea, said the deplorable road conditions leading to their areas remain a serious hindrance to people in that part of the country.
The road conditions make it difficult for people in other parts of the country, particularly Monrovia, to visit their relatives in the southeast.
Moreover, the bad roads contribute to poverty and suffering, since the transport of food, medicines and other essential goods are next to impossible to reach the southeast.
There is certainly no need for us to reemphasize the SOS calls by the Nimba and southeastern people, for all of us, including the GOL, know the importance of good roads and the desperate needs of the people in the affected areas. Hardly anything good can happen in these areas without good roads. Even farming is seriously affected; for if the main highways are in trouble, what of the farm-to-market roads which, though essential too, are not the main thoroughfares through which people must pass from one county to another?
The GOL does have a long range plan to pave the highway from Monrovia to Harper and Cape Palmas, Maryland County. A good chunk of that has already been done, from Monrovia to Ganta and on to the Guinea border. The remaining task is to take it from Ganta through central Nimba—Saclapea and Tappita and on to Grand Gedeh, to River Gee and Grand Kru counties, and finally to Harper. Once the road reaches Barclayville in Grand Kru then the stretch to Greenville, Sinoe County will be done.
River Cess County is also considered a close neighbor of the southeast. That paved road will come from Buchanan, where the pavement from Monrovia now stops.
We pray that somehow GOL will find the financial resources to complete the highway to Yekepa, and then the paved road through the entire southeast.