Roads To Development

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 3, 2005


At the core of economic development is a network of roads. Reconstruction takes shape on the road. Resettlement of Internally Displaced People happens on the road. Relieving congestion in Monrovia is down the road. All the farmers that we are training will only get to the farms by road. All the crops the farmers will harvest can only get to the market by road. To go to school, the learner has to walk or ride a car on a road. When one is sick, to get to a clinic or a hospital, we use a road. To get to your hometown, you need a road. All Presidential, Senatorial, or Representative campaigns hit the road. Even to ride an over priced Cherokee Jeep to work you do that on the road.

If you are from Pleebo, Maryland County, you would think the above sounds like a song that Minima Setu would sing. Setu would always tell you that he had a new song, only to do for you the same old song. So go ahead, add your own line, and let us all join in the chorus.- “We Want Roads; We Need Roads”.

On the same road, a friend once said that when President Richard Nixon made a brief stop over in Liberia and took a trip from Monrovia to Bomi Hills, when asked to comment on the trip, the President said that he thought the whole trip took place through a subway. He could not see anything out of the window; the security detail that headed his motorcade just gave him ‘plenty’ dust. See, that’s what happens when the President (Liberian) puts coal tar only on the road that leads to his farm, and leaves the rest of us in the dust. At Water Side in Monrovia, you can always tell when one has just arrived from the country. Just check the color of his/her hair. A car boy would make ‘plenty’ money renting out over-sized caps.

We are talking about prioritizing the stages of reconstruction/development. What aspect of development is not covered in the above? Health Care, Agriculture, Transportation, Education, Commerce, etc., they all go down the same road. Building roads, arguably is the top most priority save Health Care. Our coastal line is only 360 miles long, but just try to take a trip by road from Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County to Cape Palmas, Maryland County. Consider yourself lucky if you make it in two days. Where is the Cape To Cape Coastal Highway that would do wonders for our country? Wow! With such a highway, even a smoke-spewing-rattling “hole hole” would make two trips before sun down.

An attempt to build a coastal highway, coming from the West and going East, has been made. But it stops at the Cestos River in River Cess County. Why? May be the builder was scared of water, and was not about to go anywhere near building bridges. We all know the money to do so was there. If we play stingy, better yet, if we keep pocketing the money and opt not to build bridges across our big rivers, the road to economic development will be a very long one.

See how many counties that would boom with tourism just from a coastal highway - Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado, Margibi, Bassa, River Cess, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland .We are talking about inter connecting over half of the counties in the nation with just 360 miles of road. That done, rest assured that even if thatch-roof huts are the only affordable resort structures, tourism will still flourish.

To the soon to be new government:

We are tired coming to Monrovia and finding no jobs.We are sick of our tomatoes rotting after harvest. We lament our sick relatives dying before getting to the nearest clinic.

I lost a little brother once. His entry into our world was marred by a birthing complication that he and his mother suffered en route from Gbetah (Picniccess) to the J, J, Dossen Hospital in Cape Palmas, a distance of only a few miles. In the absence of a road connecting the two points, ferrying the laboring mother by canoe over the rough sea was the only logical means. As the canoe landed on the Cape Palmas shore, and as if in a psychological relief of finally making it to the hospital, the mother gave birth, but it was too late for my baby brother, he was still born. The painful journey had taken its fatal toll after over twelve hours; it took the life of my little brother. How many similar stories are there? Several. My little brother never had a name. His surviving mother’s name is Snohwie, which means “Heaven’s Road”.

For Heaven’s sake, show that you (government) care, make the roads a top priority, to help the people help themselves, to alleviate poverty, to accord the people the convenience and ease of movement, to save lives.