Tubmanburg, the capital Bomi, is destined to host this year’s official observance of the country’s 166th Independence Day celebration, but with only three weeks away, the city remains in scruffy with poor sanitary conditions being no exception.
We have a problem with toilets; lots of the houses here do not have toilet facilities and we are knocking at the doors of the city hall (Monrovia City Corporation) to help us with mobile toilets,” Tubmanburg City Mayor Rev. Rebecca T. Benson told this writer last Tuesday (June 26) in the country’s poorest county’s capital. “We have been told that mobility – how to being the mobile toilets—is not a problem but how to de-flush it the major problem.
Rev. Benson said they are working to see how the problem can be resolved, but these toilets bare needed as many of the people use bushes and nearby areas to do open defecation which is unhygienic. “We expect to do something towards that.”
The city is still far from being where local and international guests will converge to celebrate the country’s independence day , as most of the houses and buildings there do not have toilets, while the restoring pipe born water and electricity are still opinions.
“We face a very, very serious challenge here in preparing the city for the 26th, but we are doing our best with limited resources, and we will make it,” the overwhelmed Mayor noted.
Madam Benson took over the post May 29, 2013 and met a city deplorable state: dumpsites all over the place, bushes growing close to homes, open defecation/ toilets spread in abundance, and with demolished houses adding up to the unkemptness of a city that boasts of at most three guest houses, with two hotels just being built.
Like Monrovia, there are many public buildings that are unpainted, but Major Benson, unfolding her plans, expressed conviction that if the huge bureaucracy in obtaining resources in government is broken, Tubmanburg would be ready for the national event.
“We need a 100-KVA generator to give electricity to the city, we need to build some canopy around for sitting—because we don’t have places for people to sit so we are going to build canopies in strategic areas—where people will sit and eat…also we want to build some reed benches around the city,” the Mayor explained.
Abandoned and unfinished as well as partially demolished buildings (buildings demolished by the government last month to widen the city’s streets) will be demolished and cleared away to make Tubmanburg looks like a city Mayor Benson disclosed. “The properties are not cleaned, we have not established ownership of the buildings, and we have to clean these places and lots of things we hope to do.”
According to her, most of the projects including the clearing of bushes around the city have been personally funded by her due to bureaucracy getting funds from Government. “Government has the will power but government has its own bureaucracy in acquiring and providing funds, and I couldn’t sit and wait until [funds are available]. That’s why I went ahead and bought the tools, but even the tools I bought is not sufficient; we have 25 sets of tools, but we have mobilized about 50 people.”
She called on those who are occupants of the city to clean their environments, and urged those in Monrovia who are from the county to go join the people prepare the county for the festive celebration.
The Major warned that she “will be very drastic with those who residents of the city who refuse to cooperate in cleaning the city, warning that thatch houses in the city might face demolition. “Gone are the days when we should be using thatched houses in our cities.”
Rev Benson noted that Tubmanburg is in dire need of complete transformation—building the streets, doing the layout, restoring water and electricity and building of public toilets so that people will not use the nearby bushes and unfinished buildings to do open defecation.
A 2006 comprehensive food security and nutritional survey categorized Bomi as the poorest county in Liberia, and at least years later, the county maintains the same status after Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai launched the 2012 report last week.
The 2012 survey noted that Bomi topped as Liberia’s most food insecure county, with 55% food insecurity and 32% vulnerability template. Sanitation levels in Bomi are quite deplorable with 91% of households having no access to toilets compared to 65% nationally.
Meanwhile, after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently returned from the county, home county, expressing satisfaction over development projects in preparation for the hosting of the country’s 166th independence anniversary (July 26th) celebration, an Informer’s visit and investigation reveal that citizens in the county are highly disappointed as preparation remains poor.
Bomi—on of Liberia’s poorest counties and home to top government officials including Speaker Alex Tyler, Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukulay and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Frances Johnson-Allison, among several others—is co-hosting the event this year along with Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount.
It is in continuation of President Sirleaf’s policy of decentralizing the official national observance of the country’s founding day. Montserrado, Bong, Grand Bassa, Nimba, Margibi and Lofa are counties that have hosted the event.
Citizens speaking to this writer Wednesday (June 26) in Tubmanburg, the county’s capital and other parts of the county, said they were quite disappointed over how preparations are slowly proceeding, stating that what they see suggests that the celebration will be very poor.
Though it is being co-hosted by the three counties, the official celebration will take place in Tubmanburg, which many said is not near-prepared to host the event unless government becomes serious and pump in more money towards preparing the devastated pre-war iron ore mining city to host local and international guests.
“We are disappointed; we have a little over three weeks to the celebration, and you can see how things are going—no sign of anything to ensure confidence,” said Boima Blay, standing in front of the TOTAL Gas Station in the county’s shanty-looking capital.
The main street of the capital remains dotted with potholes, far from being repaired, while connecting feeder roads are just being graded, while traditional July 26th projects including the restoration of pipe borne water and electricity are still big daydreams.
A pastor, Rev. Steven C. Kollie, attributed the situation to “poor planning and calculation” and lip service. “You can see that the people here are disappointed, disappointed because what needs to be in place by now are yet to be seen.”
Kollie, who also works at Radio Bomi as Development Officer, said the whole process does not seem to be properly organized and he sees a fiasco July 26th celebration taking place this year. “Up to now, the traditional July 26th projects are not even on course—the restoration of pipe borne water and electricity.”
He noted that Chinese contractors only began digging holes to plant light poles recently after Sime Darby—a multimillion dollar oil palm company investing in the three western counties—donated 30 solar panels to provide light. “Nothing about running water yet,” he added.
According to Kollie, the government did not properly study the situation of three counties hosting the event but only made a political announcement. “It is poor calculation!”
Kollie and many others told this writer that the level of development projects implemented and dedicated in other counties, when they hosted the Independence Day celebration, would not be done in the three western counties, and the people would not really feel the impact of hosting the national event.
“We, the citizens, are not too excited about the progress; it’s so slow and has no momentum; we are on hustling here…and we will hold something here the looks like July 26th celebration,” he maintained.
Several other citizens expressed concerns like Kollie. They said many projects under the County Development and Social Development Funds were proceeding well, hitting at least eighty percent, but those of national funding were stalling.
The 26th will be very poor here,” the Program Director at Radio Bomi Foday Sesay maintained. “No latrines in Tubmanburg, no running water and the roads in the city are in bad conditions. Government is playing lip service because they have not done much on development projects to prepare the city to host the celebration.”
Meloshe D. Roberst added that much needed to be done, and with only three weeks left to enter the celebration week, the prospect of the hosting of the celebration doesn’t look positive.
Government appealed to Western Cluster, a mining concession, to help with construction of bridges on the Klay-Tubmanburg Highway which are under construction, Roberts disclosed.
President recently said she was impressed with ongoing development projects expected to be dedicated in Bomi County as part of this year’s independence celebration.
According to an Executive Mansion release, issued two weeks ago, the Liberian leader, speaking Saturday, June 14, shortly after an inspection tour, said projects are now moving faster to meet the target dates for dedication. “The progress I see today is by far improved than when I last inspected these very projects in early April, and I want to thank all of you, irrespective of status,” the President told jubilant citizens of Bomi according to the release.
The projects inspected include: the Klay and Guei Town Bridges along the Monrovia-Tubmanburg Highway; a guest house in Klay; and a market building being constructed in Gbah Town by the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, a non-governmental organization working to improve the welfare of market women in Liberia. The two bridges being constructed are said to still be far from completion, but workers there said they would complete it by the 25th of July.
Engineers constructing the two bridges informed President Sirleaf that they would be completed by June 25th and would be ready for dedication in July.
The Liberian leader also inspected other Tubmanburg projects, among them, the official residence of the County Superintendent, the Presidential Palace, the Chief’s Compound and the regional headquarters of the West African Examination Council (WAEC). However, these are not projects earmarked for dedication during this year’s Independence Anniversary celebration.
President Sirleaf said she was particularly impressed with citizens’ participation, which she saw as indicative that the people of Bomi are taking ownership of the celebration.
She mentioned Senators Sando Johnson and Lahai Gbabye Lansana, House Speaker Alex Tyler, and new Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly – all from Bomi County – and all of whom are engaged in constructing private properties. Writes D Kaihenneh Sengbeh, firstname.lastname@example.org, +231886586531