>A. Abbas Dulleh
Source: All Africa
It would have been far more convenient for falling on the mode of travel the ancestors had at their convenience–the hammock–through which ‘lesser’ men carried dignitaries on their heads from village to village. But for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in this 21st Century, it must have been odd and unbelievable that Africa’s oldest republic, independent since 1847, lacks basic roads on which its president can travel.
As the President’s convoy crawled on the rugged path, it became evident that not even the best 4-wheel drive vehicles would conquer the terrain. Swiftly, the cars turned around, unable to continue the journey.
After 14 years of war and the first 6 years of uninterrupted peace, the country as a whole has a huge infrastructure dilemma, and the disappearing roads in Bong County, the country’s 3rd most populated political sub division, hinder economic development.
At some points during the tour, impassable road prevented President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s convoy from reaching citizens in some of the 12 districts of Bong County.
Residents say these impediments forced them to use hammocks and motorcycles to transport patients (some of them pregnant women in complicated delivery pain) to the nearest clinics.
The roads in some of the towns and surrounding villages have disappeared under bushes, while residents use logs as makeshift bridges.
In spite of warnings from Radio Gbarnga, alerting that the President’s convoy against the bad road condition of some of the remotest parts of the county, the presidential party ventured on the bumpy Gbarnga-Kokoya District road, taking 5 hours, instead of the 2-hour drive when that road was newly built, to reach Botota where Grand Bassa and Nimba border with Bong.
Citizens expressed surprised to see the president in some of the remotest villages, like in Yolota where she had gone to dedicate a clinic funded by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
“Oh, this old lady is not afraid. Some government officials do not visit us due to the bad road condition. We heard that she was coming, but we did not believe it. Look at this ugly road,” one elderly male villager said in Yolota.
It was observed that members of the President’s advance security detail had laid logs across some areas where the roads are cut off by drainages to enable the president’s convoy to reach some villages.
Due to the terrible road conditions, some of the villages are not accessible by drivers and motorcyclists who charge passengers exorbitantly.
“As you can see, I am carrying a little boy, a goat and a sheep from this village to Gbarnga. There is no other way we can manage it, but I will push until I can reach today,” one motorcyclist told this writer.
In the isolated village of Yolata where President Sirleaf dedicated two clinics — the Rock Crusher Clinic and the Yolota Clinic — the inhabitants asked the president to address their road problem as priority number one.
The citizens appealed to President Sirleaf to assist them with a better road so that they can access their clinic faster.
The president assured them that the ongoing government road rehabilitation project will include their district, but advised them to cooperate with the team if and when the work starts.
“Before I came, I was told that bad road is one of the major problems in this area. But I will do something about it. The road, we say, is bad but we will do something about it,” she assured the citizens of Kokoya District.
With a population of 30,330 persons in Sanoyea District, most of its towns and villages remain isolated due to bad roads or lack of motor roads.
Inhabitants of the district told President Sirleaf that their district is affected by bad roads and insecurity.
Sanoyea District commissioner, Canton Bornor said there is no police deport in Sanoyea and that ex-fighters make the place ungovernable whenever they come from the gold mines across the St. Paul River in Gbapolu County.
The placement of chiefs and teachers on payroll is one of the major problems affecting the district, and this is a serious problem for us here,” Prof. Richard Dorley, an executive at the National Bank, told President Sirleaf when she visited Sanoyea.
Some teachers of the district also told this writer that they might drop their chalk if their plight was not addressed.