Liberia: Local Platform Highlights Deplorable Roads in Lofa County Ahead of 2023 Elections
VOINJAMA – Lofa County has always had her fair share of representation in government. From the likes of former Vice President Harris F. Moniba, during the Doe’s era to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led government, where again the county was given the Vice Presidency slot for her two terms of office. Since 1964, when the county was created, there has always been one major challenge confronting the county: The quality of roads network.
Jackson F. Kanneh, Contributing Writer
Lofa, which many referred to as the “breadbasket” of Liberia” seem to have lost that edge due to the lack of road or existing bad road network to take its produce to market especially.
Monrovia, the seat of government. The county used to supply folks in Monrovia with almost every food item ranging from rice to plantain to groundnut and pepper. But the pre-war years of Lofa are far from the post-war Lofa county, all because of the lack of better roads. To say that the road network is hampering development in the county would be an understatement. From President Tubman to Willian Tolbert era to the Samuel Doe’s regime, the Lofa’s road construction has always been ignored or paid lip service to by politicians of every governing government in Monrovia, and encouraged by local Lofa politicians. It’s due to this inaction, especially during the raining season when transport to and fro to the county is halted, that gives birth to the ‘Lofa 2023 Project’ by citizens of Lofa both in and outside of Liberia to shame national leaders into action as far as it relates to building the Gbarngba- Menikoma highway. Meanwhile, while the Lofa road network has been kicked around by both past and present governments, other counties such as Nimba, Maryland, Grand Kru, etc in southeast Liberia, have been prioritized by both past and present governments.
Road connectivity in Nimba county is at a greater speed while a single road from Gbarnga Bong county entering Lofa is languishing in the mud. See attached photos. This is the question I posted to the current Minister of Public Works, while other counties have paved roads, but the people of Lofa county don’t? “We’re aware about the bad road network in Lofa and we’re doing everything to start the construction of Gbangba- Salayea road project. She added that one factor that was delaying the construction was for the GOL to come up with funds to pay residents whose homes would be damaged as a result of the road network. I’m glad to say that we now have that fund. Once the dry season comes we will begin the construction.”
Despite what the Minister said, four years ago, Lofians thought their road problem was all over when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took on current President of Liberia then senator of Montserrado county George M. Weah in 2017 to breaks ground for the 81-kilometer road from Gbarnga to Salayea as first face of the original Gbarnga to Mendikoma highway road project. Five years and counting, the Gbarnga to Salayea is at a standstill, as up to the time of writing this article, no single inch of the Lofa land has yet been paved as the project is still languishing on the Bong county side of the border. Meanwhile, transportation to and fro Lofa has soared as a result of the current rainy season. Transport has soared from $,4000.00LD to $7,000.00LD. Even with the increase in fare most goods aren’t making it to Lofa or from Lofa, as you can see in the pictures with various truck and pickup owners laboring to navigate the bad muddy road. Because of the bad roads aggravated by the rainy season, citizens in Lofa county are now using motorcycles as a major means of transportation in the county.
The downside is that the bike might be able to transport people, but what about the goods and commence to and fro Lofa? Some folks who can’t afford the fees of the motorcycles have to use the traditional means of movement by walking on foot to their destination. “We slept in the forest with our market for days and some of our goods got damaged while heading to Monrovia from Lofa,” one distressed passenger narrated upon reaching the red light in Paynesville, Monrovia. At the dismay of Lofians, the projects in Sanniquelle to Ganta and other road projects in Maryland, Grand Gedeh, Sinoe and Grand kru are going on at a fast speed. None of these counties have the perilous muddy road that the people of Lofa go through during the rainy season.
As this writer was recently in Ganta during the retreat of the governing CDC, the roads are like night and day compared with Lofa’s muddy roads. The PWM admitted to this fact during her confirmation hearing at the senate. She indicated that at that time the government had not met her obligation of the agreement in the tone of US$1.3 million to resettle affected property owners along the road. “We were not happy the last time we came here, and so we have been making all efforts to accelerate this process,” she noted. According to her, all materials needed for the project are all available now and road work will be in full swing once we enter the dry season. Madam Cooker-Collin indicated that all factors that was the delaying project are now taking care of including the resettlement of affected property owners by the government of Liberia.
As Lofians eagerly await the rainy season where most parts of rural Liberia can have easy access through paved roads, the debacle of the Lofa road will remain a campaign issue. As one prominent Lofa in the diaspora said. Adding, “All the people of Lofa ever asked for is a paved road and we will feel the nation with our abundance of food.” Speaking to this platform, some prominent citizens from Lofa in the current regime who asked not to be named, because he doesn’t want to anger his boss, President Weah, noted that “it is hard time the government of Liberia prioritize road building especially in Lofa county.”