Liberia is preparing to celebrate its one hundred sixty fifth Independence Day celebrations next week. Montserrado County is hosting the festivity after Bomi County declined due to lack of preparation.
The usual momentum associated with “Independence Day” celebrations is yet to surface in the face of prolonged delay in the passage of the 2012/13 Fiscal Budget still in the hands of the 53rd Legislature.
It remains unclear how much the government has allocated to expend on activities befitting the festive event; as local officials talked to claimed not to know the budget for the celebrations.
When a team of In Profile journalists including editor and reporters toured the county last week to ascertain first hand information on preparations especially in rural parts, a low profile fever of the nation’s Natal Day was observed.
Visiting Bentol, the political seat of Montserrado County gave an impression of some kind of preparation taking place especially at the premises of the county’s administrative building around which a renovated “ Presidential Palace” expected to be dedicated during the event is also located.
Superintendent Grace Kpaan was absent to provide official information on the level of preparations being done in anticipation of activities that should grace the country’s independence anniversary. Attempts by members of the touring team to get official statements from her on how the county has put things in place for the occasion have been unsuccessful as she evaded an interview when she promised to meet the team members at the paper’s Capitol-Bye Pass offices recently but failed to turn out.
The visit in Bentol on Wednesday, July 11th provided Harrisburg Township Commissioner Samuel T. Miller the opportunity to thank God that this time around Montserrado is hosting the celebrations.
Commissioner Miller said celebrating the Independence Day in Montserrado would help to lift the county when it comes to development, indicating that wherever the occasion is held, infrastructure development takes place to impart citizens’ lives.
He assumed that those residing in rural parts of the county would benefit from the event. Mr. Miller is with the conviction that if President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is to visit Harrisburg she is likely to do the ground breaking of the Mont Coffee Hydro for rehabilitation as according to him, the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy has in recent time announced such project, which he noted would provide job opportunities for the livelihood of the citizens.
“Well, as for me I would say it will take place in Bensonville but other big hands are there and we don’t want to comment on that,” he noted.
It was also disclosed during a visit to Careysburg that a superintendent compound being constructed there is to be dedicated during the celebration, but Statutory District Superintendent Nathan Greaves could not be reached for interview as he was reported to have gone to a health center for treatment.
However, sources claimed that County Superintendent Kpaan has not been able to relate to Mr. Greaves during the construction of the compound as far as fund expended on the building was concerned.
Moreover, it seems ironical that as close as Todee District is to Monrovia, unlike other districts in rural Liberia, major infrastructure developments are yet to reach those rural dwellers there.
“Well, I’m even happy to hear this; we received a letter and they never told us that there is going to be dedication because we have not started a project,” Tubmanville Township Commissioner Doris Holder told the In Profile last week in Holder Town, Todee.
She noted that if any project should be earmarked it should be the road leading to the district because the road is “deplorable” thereby stopping drivers from plying the route.
According to her, they usually ride motor bikes to get to Monrovia due to the bad road condition in the district.
Commissioner Holder disclosed that they have been submitting series of proposals to central government for projects but there has not been any redress.
Regarding the 26th celebrations, she said they have received information that the program will be for kids (children party) in the township, noting that President Sirleaf may not go there due to the number of dignitaries she would receive adding, “ but we are representing her so we have to work on her behalf “.
She said a document sent to her for the ceremony indicates that US$700 would be allotted for children party in the township.
“ Well, we are grateful because it is a welcomed initiative. We understood from the county superintendent that this was intended for Bomi but due to some other problems they could not so Montserrado decided to host it,” Todee Statutory Superintendent David G. Johnson told this paper in Koon Town last Wednesday.
Mr. Johnson said as far as budgetary allotment for the ceremony was concerned, they have not met but information available to him suggests that a small committee was constituted to formulate a budget which the Montserrado County Legislative Caucus will have to endorse.
He said if any project would be undertaken during the course of the celebration, it could be a ground breaking for a high school in Nyehn Town, the district headquarters. According to him, there is no high school in the district, disclosing that twelve acres of land have been identified for the purpose, while additional acres have also been made available for the construction of teachers and DEO’s residence.
Mr. Johnson revealed that because Todee and Careysburg made up Electoral District 14 during the last fiscal year, the development fund allotted at the time was used only for project in Careysburg thereby denying Todee the opportunity to identify and undertake a project especially so when the fund reportedly allotted at the time was US$25,000.
Like Commissioner Holder earlier stated, Superintendent Johnson reiterated the need for road rehabilitation in the district, hoping that when the 2012/13 Fiscal Budget passes, the government would see reasons to rehabilitate road network in the district.
He said in the past, through the assistance of the American Government the road was rehabilitated but has since depreciated and prompt attention is needed to enable the citizens to move freely.
However, the issue of project implementation in other rural parts of Montserrado during the celebrations could not be guaranteed by those interviewed. Most of the townships and other communities visited are yet to see the construction of government projects to be dedicated or programs to be put into place for the celebrations, as it was done in other counties that previously hosted the event.
Commissioners and city mayors of some areas could hardly say whether or not there are planned programs in their areas for the celebrations. However, they saw the visit of the team as an opportunity to disclose problems they are faced with.
The team which visited Brewreville, Virginia,Clayashland Millsburg, Artington, Louisianan, Dixville and Caldwell discovered that major obstacles in those areas are deplorable road condition, lack of adequate medical and educational facilities, among others.
Most of the local officials who spoke to the team could not confirm whether or not there were projects ongoing in their areas, but rather stressed the dire need for development for their people.
Artington City Mayor Alfred Hill noted that the city which is about 75 square miles and has the population of over 27,000 inhabitants drawn form over hundred towns and villages, lacks a city hall, clinic and a high school. “This place being the home of former President Charles Taylor was vandalized during the civil war leaving everything destroyed,” he claimed.
He however praised government for the ongoing road rehabilitation, as curvets on the road leading to the Mount Coffee Water Plant are being replaced.
The Township Commissioner of Dixville, Wellington Zayzay, also stressed similar concern, but said the township remains threatened as a result of the bad road condition. Commissioner Zayzay also stressed lack of a clinic or hospital and a high school to cater to citizens of the area. He however praised the government of Liberia and its UNMIL partners for the construction of a police station which was dedicated last week to help curtail crime rate in the area.
Also, the Township Commissioner of Louisiana, Solomon Miller, noted that the township now has a relief with the newly constructed road and two bridges, which he said have been the major challenges of his people over the years.
Mr. Miller further said though he has not been informed of the dedication of the road for the July 26th celebrations, it could be a possible project for dedication. He disclosed that apart from the road, citizens of the township are also involved in a self- help project aimed at taking the only junior high school in the area to a senior high school level with the construction of an additional three classrooms annex.
The team also discovered that apart from the newly constructed Caldwell Road, it is only the Caldwell Market that is undergoing construction through the Liberia Agency of Community Empowerment (LACE). “They have not told us whether the market will be ready before the July 26th, but we hope it will be completed by then,” a marketer noted when asked.