Gearing Up for July 26 Celebration In Spite of Difficulties


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 25, 2006


Broad Street, Monrovia
Liberians are preparing for Liberia’s Independence Day celebration. This year’s Independence Day calibration is very unique because this is the first time during the past 15 years that Liberians are living in peace. The guns are silent! Elections that ushered in a new democratic process from the aches of the civil war were held last year. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, an international figure with an impeccable record, was elected president.

President is charged with the arduous task of pursuing a policy of aggressive education program for the entire nation, rebuilding the country’s infrastructures destroyed over the years by the various was, restore basic necessities such as electricity, pipe borne water, telecommunication, health centers and schools. The government is to provide the leadership needed to transform Liberia into what the country is capable of being. Expectations are high! Optimists say it can be done, but immediately caution that Rome was not built overnight. The goodwill of the international community towards the president’s efforts in recent months gives Liberians something to celebrate come Wednesday, July 26.

Some government entities have stepped up their efforts for the celebration. The Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) stands out among the groups. During the elections, Madam Sirleaf said she could electrify Monrovia in about six months if elected. LEC has been working during the past few months to make that campaign promise a reality. If all goes well, some parts of Monrovia will have what the government now refers to as emergency power. The lucky areas will be Sinkor, part of Congotown, West Point and perhaps part of downtown Monrovia. Hospitals and schools in those area will be electrified. It does not seem like businesses and private homes will be connected. Monrovia is considered the only capital city in the world with no electricity and pipe borne water. Besides LEC, the Water and Sewer Corporation is testing their system. The “test water” reaches as far as Sinkor 12th Street.

Public Works Employee
In recent days Public Works’ employees have been busy, patching potholes in central Monrovia. The streets in the city are in terrible shape to a point that drivers no longer use the lane-system: they go through wherever they find a good spot. This is due to years of neglect. Sinkor Oldroad looks like it has never been paved before. Somalia Drive in Gardnersville is in total disrepair. It is harder to find adequate words to describe the condition of Bannersville road. Additionally, there is an area in Paynesville called GSA Junction. The intersection competes with the other areas for the #1 bad spot in the city. Traffic comes to a standstill at this junction. It looks like a parking lot at times.

Following the inauguration public Works started patching potholes in central Monrovia and filling shoulders of main road in Paynesville. But the efforts had a short lifespan. Some opine that the ministry went into a slumber and someone noticed the state of the Ministry recently and decided to give it a wakeup call, informing the ministry that the Independence Day was just a few days ahead. They have been working hard since then, but time is not on their side. To make matter worse, the rainy season started has come.

The conditions of the streets have made it difficult to move from one point to another. It takes about 25 minutes on the average to get a taxi – whether you are going to Paynesville, Gardnersville or Barnersville. The difficulties gave rise to finding other to alternatives to taxi cabs. It is commercial use of motorbike to transport people. It is a risky endeavor: the operators are not mandated to wear helmets. There have been some fatal accidents due to this new medium of transport. In spite of the rain, some Liberians will use this method to move from one point to another on July 26. Wheelbarrows are use to transport goods (be it cement, timber, blocks, etc). Another means of transporting goods is via something called Push-Push. It is a member of the wheelbarrow family and made here locally. There is union of wheelbarrow operators here. Some businessmen have fleets of wheelbarrows and/or “Push-Pushes”. But these are used for transporting goods.

My 26 On You
We heard “my 26 on you” about a million times. People exchange gifts during Independence Day just as people do during the Christmas season in the US. Everyone tries to be the first to say it. The offices of Western Union and Moneygram were packed with people who have gone there to claim 26’s from their relatives abroad.

Refurbished Defense Ministry
Defense Ministry
The Defense Ministry few weeks after the inauguration was in deplorable conditions. But the building has taken a new look. There is a different level of security: barb wire and sand bags put in place after the former Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) staged a protest at the ministry. The whole defense ministry has been refurbished. The building is painted (something that every building in Monrovia needs badly). It has intercom system, running water and Internet connection. It is hard to find public building that has these necessities. More importantly, there is that pride on the faces of employees.

Monrovia City Corporation
The corporation started white-washing sidewalks recently to help in giving the city a facelift. But due to the heavy rain, the effort is intermittent.

Liberia does not have the wherewithal to rebuild itself, but efforts by the president to arouse the international community attention to the need to rebuild the country are yielding results and this gives Liberians renewed hope that the country will rise again. Happy 26!

© 2006 by The Perspective

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