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Sunday, May 19, 2024

THE REAL STORY BEHIND THE GBARNGA-MENDIKORMA ROAD & HOW THE RULING CDC HAS EVEN HURT THAN HELP LOFA

Date:

By Paul M. Kanneh

The media have spoken just as the main opposition has said their own, as the ruling CDC and supporters too have echoed their side of the story. I mean everyone is talking their own but not everyone seems to be saying the truth. Going through my files this morning, I came across an interview I conducted with former Finance Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan in September 2017 regarding the Lofa road project. At the time, Minister Ngafuan, who hails from Wanhassa District, Lofa County, was serving as Campaign Manager for the UP Campaign. Halfway into the recording, the voice said: “As finance minister and son of Lofa County, I, with the strong support and follow-up of Vice President Joe Boakai, did a lot amidst financial and other challenges to bring development to Lofa County. The most notable was the construction and operationalization of the Lofa Community College and the construction of the Gbarnga-Mendicorma Highway”.

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President George M. Weah

Former Finance Minister, Augustine K. Ngafuan, revealed the truth behind the construction of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma road. “In late March 2011, I was set to travel to Kuwait to conclude debt cancellation negotiations with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Our outstanding debt obligation, contracted during the William Tolbert administration, was now US$12 million. Knowing Liberia’s rights to borrow from the Kuwaitis would be restored after we sign the debt cancellation agreement with them, I decided to meet President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf before traveling to Kuwait to get her guidance on which projects to prioritize for funding from the Kuwaiti Fund. One of the projects I put on the list was obviously the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway.

When President Sirleaf and I discussed, we agreed that the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway project should be the topmost project to prioritize with the Kuwaitis. In fact, Madam Sirleaf told me that VP Boakai had been relentlessly following up with her to prioritize the pavement of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway for the second term. Madam Sirleaf informed me that we, the people of Lofa, had helped her bring development to other parts of the country, so it was time for us to receive just reward for actively supporting the success of her administration.

While we were talking in her office and as evidence of VP Boakai’s active lobby for the project, President Sirleaf went behind her desk and brought up the old design/drawings of the Gbarnga-Mendicorma Highway as was it was planned to be constructed by the Taiwanese in the late 1980s . Joe Boakai gave me this design/drawing. Madam Sirleaf said, ‘Take it along to Kuwait to help make the case that we need them to help us construct that very important road. We have to do this road for all of you, the people of Lofa, especially for VP Joe Boakai. I took the drawing/design and held productive discussions with VP Boakai before traveling to Kuwait along with officials from the Ministry of Public Works. In Kuwait, I signed the debt cancellation deal and convinced the Kuwaitis to help fund the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway Project. I gave them a copy of the old design/drawing of the road that VP Boakai had given to President Sirleaf. I succeeded in convincing the Kuwaitis to take up the road as their top priority. The other project they agreed to fund was the dredging of the Port of Monrovia.

The Kuwaitis told me that the money to construct that road will be too huge for them alone to fund but will assemble a consortium of Arab financiers including the Saudi Fund, the Abu Dhabi Fund, BADEA, etc to help. The authorities of the Kuwaiti Fund then approved a grant of US$1.8 million to help the government fund the conduct of a new feasibility study for the construction of the Gbarnga-Mendicorma Highway. The Kuwaitis lived up to their promise and funded the feasibility study that lasted for nearly a year. The study put the total cost of the road to over US$400 million. The feasibility study put the construction in three phases – Phase 1: Gbarnga-Kornia, Phase 2: Kornia to Voinjama; and Phase 3: Voinjama- Mendicorma”, direct comments (word for word) from Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan. (See link: https://frontpageafricaonline.blogspot.com/2011_04_06…)

When Ngafuan was appointed Foreign Minister in January 2012, his successors Amara Konneh and Boima Kamara, with active support from and follow up b VP Boakai, continued the engagement with the Kuwaitis and the other Arab lenders. As we speak, the UP government has secured the financing for the construction of the Gbarnga-Kornia phase of the road.” (See link: https://evelynkpadehseagbeh.wordpress.com/…/430…/).

How the Gbarnga-Mendikorma road became political?

Early before 2017, the symbolic launching of the road project was done at the St. Paul’s bridge with chiefs and elders of Lofa County in full attendance. Fast forward in 2017, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did another groundbreaking ceremony along with presidential candidate, George Weah. This ceremony was meant to give political leverage to George Weah over Joseph Boakai in the 2017 election. Unfortunately, the ruling CDC would later treat the Lofa road project with less interest as reported by the May 16, 2021 edition of the FrontPage Africa newspaper. Divided into Lot 1, Lot 2 and Lot 3, Lot 1 of the road project (Gbarnga-Konia) was set to be completed in early 2020, 3 years after groundbreaking. Interesting to note that pavement of phase 1 has not yet entered Salayea town making Lofa nearly impassable through vehicular movement. For the first time Sierra Leone is used as option to travel to Lofa, and it is happening no other time, but the time CDC is bragging that it has done more developments in Lofa County than previous governments.

In plain truth, sons of Lofa County, headed by Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan with support from Joseph Boakai under the Unity Party led government are the main drivers behind the construction of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Road, and not George Weah as is being widely spread across the county. From all indications, it is even the CDC that has hurt Lofa more than it has helped.

Since 2018, the political strategies of CDC have been anti Lofa culture and tradition with specific target on the uncle and nephew value system-with many of their supporters terming the over 200 years’ way of life as anti-democratic.

For instance, during his county tour, President Weah took off time to impugn on the characters of former officials of Lofa County-terming their eras in government as worthless for the county. He made specific reference to two of the Vice Presidents Lofa have produced. In Lofa County, it is an abomination to bad mouth reputable people and elders no matter the situation at hand. President Weah didn’t condemn our leaders anywhere, but in our own house even though history records those leaders as some of Liberia’s most intergrous personalities.

In another instance of divisiveness, instead of paying government’s share of the counterpart funds to complete the pavement of Voinjama’s city streets, the CDC government, under the disguise of Foya citizens’ initiative paved Foya city streets, while the streets of the county’s capital remain unfinished.

Also during the county tour, supporters and leaders of CDC maliciously and intentionally disregarded the capital of Wanhassa District and conducted official business in another town simply because of political interest-risking the peace and tranquility of the people that have coexisted for over 200 years.

A President Weah campaign team named and styled “Reelection of President Weah in 2023” was set-up with specific mandate to launch anti Jospeh Boakai campaign in Lofa County, particularly in the Gbandi land. This was when we started hearing “Kissi people hate Gbandi people”. Hence, Gbandi people should not support Joseph Boakai in 2023.

In what appears to be highly political trial, the CDC’s government worked to ensure a credible son of Lofa county, Brownie Samukai did not take his senatorial seat even after paying his share of the 50% payment recommended by the Supreme Court.

Internal Affairs Minister, aided by some officials of CDC wrongfully suspended the Paramount Chief of Wanhassa District for time indefinite without any investigation. This situation led to protest by the traditional people, who boycotted every major festival organized by the district leadership, including Christmas Celebration. For people who know the history of Lofa tradition, they believe this was the first time traditional leaders ever took such decision. It didn’t happen at any other time, but during the reign of CDC.

Representative Thomas Fallah was seeing depleting the forest in Kamatahun town for promises he did not live up to. One of the major failures was his failure to rehabilitate the Massambolahun-Kamatahun road after he had promised the people. The agreement to harvest logs was illegal. See link: https://www.liberianobserver.com/liberia-rep-fallah…

In the County’s first ever County Meet championship, the CDC maliciously, disrespectfully, untraditionally and un-culturally placed the photo of a citizen of Grand Kru on the trophy, instead of the symbols of Lofa. This situation created miss-feelings among Lofians with scores of sport lovers terming the act as divisive and disrespectful to the people of Lofa County.

Meant to be completed December 2023, the CDC’s government has failed to meet the deadline for the construction of the hydro project in Baloma town, Lofa County. In fact, latest and confirmed report says the donors/development partners have rejected the design of the hydro project. As I write, the project has stopped and is far from being completed even in 2024.

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