Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gbarpolu County, A Possible Way Forward?

The recent electoral shuffle in Gbarpolu County is one of the latest changes in the history of the newly created County. Gbarpolu County was created under the leadership of former Liberian President “Charles Taylor” in 2001. Gbarpolu County Capital “Bopolu” was the historic headquarter of the Condo Kingdom which led to the establishment of Liberia as a nation state. The Qua speaking are the dominant ethnic group in the County. Gbarpolu was formerly a very important part of Lofa County. Known for it dense forest and wildlife collection, Gbarpolu County is also economically known for it logging, mining, and agricultural contributions to Liberia.

On December 18, 2007, voters (even though less than fifty percent of register voters) queued up to cast their final ballot in the county’s run-off elections. In that final, Independent candidate A. Kanie Wesso suffered an embarrassing 29.5% defeat. His challenger “Unity Party’s” Theodore Momo won with a hurricane force of 70.5%. Momo comfortably led from day one of the entire process. Momo’s potential force was detected when he pocket more than nine of the twelve votes at the Unity Party Primary in Bopolu. During the first round of the bi-election which took place on December 4, 2007, in the crowded electoral field of nine candidates, Unity Party ‘Theodore Momo’ obtained more than 39% of the total valid votes cast. The rest of the votes were shared among the rest of the eight candidates. Theodore Momo’s rival A. Kanie Wesso “according to the NEC” obtained 17.8% of the votes left behind by Theodore thus pushing him in the second place position to wrestle Unity Party young giant Theodore Momo in the run-off. Although Independent Kanie Wesso nudged high among his remaining eight colleagues into the first round of the elections that was over crowded with nine senatorial candidates, the story changed on December 18th when Unity party “Theodore Momo” came back with a determine and well strategized smack down in which independent “Kanie Wesso” suffered a huge casualty.

The electoral race in Gbarpolu was a titanic struggle between Unity Party Theodore Momo and independent candidate A. Kanie Wesso. The by-election was an important millstone in the current development and political crisis in the newly created county. Unity Party ‘Theodore Momo’s emergence as a senior senator of Gbarpolu County starts the disintegration of Armah Jallah, Jallah Lone and former Lofa County senator Eddington Varmah’s political influence and clout, and the emergence of alternative leadership in Gbarpolu County. In a recent telephone interview with cross section of Gbarpolu County Citizens in the Diaspora, Theodore Momo’s election has drawn a close attention to the County’s development agenda. According to one of the Gbarpolu Citizens interviewed in the Diaspora, “the people of Gbarpolu deserve more than what has been offered (if any) in the past”. He went on to further explain; we have had too much from the old or recycle Politicians in our area, even when we were still under Lofa County. When we were part of Lofa County, we had Willie Belleh as a Senator. Willie Belleh was one of the voices of those days. All he did was to second all motions in the house at the time. In 1997, Cllr. Eddington Varmah was elected the first Senator of Gbarpolu County, a year later, he willingly packed and walk out of his elected position to take an appointed position offered him by Charles Taylor. Those are just few of the disappointments we’ve had over the decades. I think our elders and other residents of Gbarpolu are just tired of political rhetoric.

Another person (who also preferred to remain unidentified), referred to the recent electoral Smack down as “a new alternative for development”, he described Theodore’s emergence as very timely and maybe wise since in fact Theodore Momo is a brand new name among the many questioned ones in the County. He said, most talents are discovered through delegation of responsibility and authority. He further explained; over the decades now, we have not had the chance to exercise this level of Democracy that we are exercising now. “None of us from the Belle District would ever imagine someone from the “minority” Gbandi speaking area to be elected to such high position in our County, but it has come to reality. I think it is for a very important reason”.

During “District #3” Representative Dickson T. Yarsiah’s last visit to the U.S., this author had an exclusive interview with Hon. Yarsiah. During that interview, Hon. Yarsiah was asked:
Q. What are your legislative caucus’ major development pillars for Gbarpolu County?

Dickson T. Yarsiah: Immediately after our induction into offices, we wrote a five years development package covering four major key focuses, those focuses are: one, road network, two, health, three, education and four, agriculture. We decided to do these as priority because of the fourteen years of destructions our country experienced. As you know, all of our social institutions were destroyed. Roads were locked, right now; most places are not still accessible. This is why we decided to make road network our priority. Next is health, and that’s followed by education, and as we said, four is agriculture so as to make them self sufficient.

Q. According to your county development agenda, the first priority is placed on the rehabilitation of road networks. To date, Bokomu and Ngue-nwolala districts are still land-lacked and completely inaccessible to NGOs and other humanitarian institutions that may want to deliver basic social services to residents of the two Districts, what percentage of your priority has been achieved after nearly two years in office?
Dickson T Yarsiah: Well as you know Sam, a nation on this fate with a little over three hundred and some years when the war came for almost fifteen years and destroy all those institutions, we cannot just build them over night. When it comes to the roads leading from Bopolu to Gue-Ngwolala and Bokomu districts, that includes also Belle District, really Gue-Ngwolala and Bokomu Districts have been land-locked since the existing of our country. Belle District had some kind of path roads where some past so-called investors used to only harvest their logs and bring them forth. So, Sam, to be candid with you, this government has done all she could. What we decided to do first was to ensure that we prepare a development agenda or package. Well, now that we’ve prepared the development package, as we speak, we’ve started rehabilitating the roads from Tubmanburg “Bomi County” to Gbarpolu County capitol “Bopolu”. And from there we are going to continue the road rehabilitations as promised by this government. We will also ensure that the road is build between Belle Yalla. That will also touch portion of Bokomu district. We will later be connecting Gbarpolu County to Bong County by way of the St. Paul River to palakolleh. We just got a company that has agreed in principal to build the bridge over the St. Paul River. That company will also be extending the bridge construction to the Tuma River in Bokomu. So, this government has just started the implementations of those promises made to our people during the campaign. But the first two years or the first twenty months were designed to prepare ourselves to commence your work. You know you can’t just get up to build roads without studies because it is capital intensive and there are lots of studies you need to do. You first of all need to survey, you need to do assessment, blue print, before you can commence and this is exactly what we are doing.

The above analysis by Representative Dickson T Yarsiah seems to be a new direction for Gbarpolu County. Many believed that with the hard working and clean record of Theodore Momo on board the development drive, Gbarpolu might be heading to a positive direction. Theodore Momo’s election also coincided with the formation of Gbarpolu County Association in the Diaspora. The formation of this Association “on the County level” is the first of it kind in the County’s history. The Interim leadership of the Association has been arranged. Those selected at the meeting were: Sam K Zinnah, Interim Chairman, Cllr. Alvin Teage Jalloh, Interim Secretary, Dwanah S. Dwanah, Interim Treasure, Dempster Khuta Yallah, Interim head of the constitution committee. With the work of the Gbarpolu County legislative caucus and other appointed County officials backed by the Diaspora development oriented force, Gbarpolu is likely to graduate from the current development sink to emerge as one of the fastest growing Counties. The possible way forward is our center of attention for now and in the future.

Sam K Zinnah
Smyrna, Delaware

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