Un edited. This is a draft copy of this article. it will be edited in few days.
Gbarpolu is one of the youngest of Liberia’s 15 counties. It is situated in the northeast of Liberia, occupies an area of approximately 1,263 square miles.
Gbarpolu is bordered by Lofa County to the north, Bomi County to the south, Bong County to the west, Grand Cape Mount County & Sierra Leone to the east. Gbarpolu County consists of six districts which is divided into three electoral districts:
District: population (2008)
1. Bopolu District………………18,298
2. Bokomu District………….…10,460
3. Belleh District………………..17,288
4. Gbarma District………………15,972
5. Komgba District………………13,625
6. guonwolaila District………..8,115.
The vast majority of Gbarpolu consists of forest. Mining was the primary economic activity in Gbarpolu prior to the Liberian civil war, in addition to subsistence farming. However, the civil war devastated all sectors of the County even before the 2001 legislation that granted legal County status to the newly created County. Prior to the creation of the county, lack of development was amongst the major problems in the area. To date, most part of Gbarpolu county remains land lacked.
In 2007, electoral district number three representative, Hon. Dickson Yarsiah, during an exclusive interview in the United States revealed that his relationship with his electoral constituent was cordial. Below is a portion of Hon. Yarsiah’s interview.
Q. It is almost two years now since your election as Representative of electoral district number three in Gbarpolu County, how would you describe your relationship with your constituent?
Dickson T. Yarsiah: Well, it is cordial, since our election, we’ve made frequent visits to them. We mainly designed those visitations to ask them what their priority needs are and also to work along with them. As you know, as their true representative, we have to work as per amended, so, to ask me about the relationship between us, our relationship is very cordial and transparent.
Q. What are your legislative caucus’ major development pillars for Gbarpolu County?
D.T.Y: Immediately after our induction into offices, we wrote a five years development package covering four major key focuses, those focuses are: road network, health, education and 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, our fourth priority 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 Gue-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?
DTY: 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-Ngwolaila 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.
Four years later, the above promises are yet to be delivered. With the 2011 elections campaign season few months away in Gbarpolu County, political parties, independent candidates, especially those in the opposition, are working hard to defeat the ruling party’s incumbent Hon. Dickson Yarsiah. The latest to announce his candidacy is University of Liberia’s professor, Alaric Tokpah. This latest development sets the stage for the toughest battle in Gbarpolu County political history. Previous and recent surveys in electoral district number 3 shows that many political pundits in the district are of the opinion with Mr. Alaric Tokpah in the 2011 race, Hon. Yarsiah stand a slim chance of retaining his representative seat in the lower house.
Unconfirmed reports from the county revealed that honorable Yarsiah, during the 2005 elections, solicited and secured the support of Bokomu and guonwolaila Districts with verbal agreement that the two districts supports him in the 2005 elections. The report said Hon. Yarsiah agreed to step aside to support someone of the two districts choice to succeed him. What appeared to be a political betrayal is struggling to become overt before the beginning of the 2011 campaign season. If in fact it is true that such agreement was made and Hon. Yarsiah is attempting to betray the trust of Bokomu and guonwolaila Districts, he’s likely to face a political disaster in his electoral district comes 2011 elections.
Another serious problem faced by Hon. Yarsiah is his unexplained involvement in the Ministry of Labor’s approved $10.000.00 rural road project. Investigation conducted by this author revealed that the project proposal was written by Hon. Yarsiah’s junior Brother, Wilmont Yarsiah. According to a top official of the Labor Ministry (who choose to anonymous), the project was to be undertaken or implemented by The Belle District Development Association (BEDDA). When the project proposal was approved, the $10.000.00 check was instead written in a Catholic Father’s name. Suspicions about Hon. Yarsiah’s involvement in the way the check was switched quickly surfaced among Gbarpolu residents.
I immediately contacted Wilmont Yarsiah to clarify conflicting reports about the project proposal being written in BIDDA’s name and the check surfacing in the Catholic Father’s name. Wilmont Yarsiah clarified that the project proposal was written in BIDDA’s name. When I requested for a copy of the project proposal for my own perusal, Mr. Yarsiah promised to send me copy of the proposal via email the following day. I anxiously checked my email all day without the document arriving. Two days later, I called Mr. Yarsiah to find out while the document had not been sent. I was told by Wilmont Yarsiah to contact Hon. Dickson Yarsiah. Very determined to grab a copy of the project proposal, I immediately hung up and dialed Hon. Yarsiah’s number. At the third ring, Hon. Yarsiah answered his Phone. I slowly expressed my interest in obtaining a copy of the project proposal for accountability and transparency purposes. Hon. Yarsiah responded “Mr. Zinnah, instead of trying to investigate the pass, we should be focusing on the future”. I asked Hon. Yarsiah, “sir, if you cannot give us account of the past, how do you expect us to go forward?”. The tune of the conversation took different route that sounded up ward. I again asked, “sir, am I getting the copy of the project proposal or not?”. Hon. Yarsiah responded by saying “Mr. Zinnah, we should be concentrating on the President’s visit to our county instead of trying to investigate the past”.
I said good-bye to Hon. Yarsiah thus bringing the conversation to an end. A minute later, I placed a call to one of the ministers at the labor ministry who then directed me to the appropriate department. I managed to get hold of a colleague who finally got me a copy of the proposal. I read the proposal keenly and underlined some important points. A week later, I emailed Hon. Yarsiah with some questions. To date, am yet to get respond or answer to my inquiries.
Very determined, I wrote the Gbarpolu County legislative caucus in my capacity as the County Association’s chairman in the U.S. urging the caucus to conduct an investigation into the USD $10,000.00 road project and present us with a comprehensive financial report. That request was never responded by the county legislative Caucus.
On May 2, 2011, I email Hon. Yarsiah and cc all the members of the Gbarpolu County Legislative caucus. The email read: “Hon. Yarsiah, I've attempted contacting you several times to get your side of the story concerning the $10.000.00 mini road project package that was approved by labor ministry (prior to Miniser Woods departure) in your electoral district # 3 sometime last year but all attempts to reach you or get your side of this story are being ignored. Elections seasons are just around the corner, some of these issues might pop up during the campaign. To accurately address some of these issues, I would be more than happy to get your side of this story since in fact you are the direct representative of the people of District # 3.
I anxiously await your respond as I work on a major news article to be published in few days.
Sam K Zinnah
Chairman, Gbarpolu County Association in the Americas.
On May 5, 2011, Gbarpolu County senior Senator J.S.B. Theodore Momo responded the inquiry email. Hon. Momo wrote “Thanks for your inquiry. As far as I know BEDDA wrote out the project proposal for the project in question but my information is that the check of US10,000(ten thousand United States dollars) for the said project was written in the name of the Catholic Priest(allegedly). Since the Office of Hon.Yarsiah spearheaded this effort on behalf of the CAUCUS, it is fair and reasonable enough to seek clarification from him, and by extension, the Catholic Priest.Up to date, the CAUCUS has not received any report on this project.We appreciate your concern and look forward to the final outcome of your inquiry.
To date, Hon. Yarsiah is yet to respond to any of my many inquiries. With all these unanswered questions, should we reward Hon. Yarsiah with re-election.