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

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Sure Way To Restore Liberia's Image

By: T. Q. Harris, Jr.

Ironically, the most compelling argument we have heard in favor of AFRICOM has come from one of its strongest opponents.

General Victor Malu, a highly respected Nigerian military officer, does not mince words when he speaks of AFRICOM. There is no mistaking his position regarding this issue. The U.S. Africa Command, in Gen. Malu’s opinion, will not benefit Africa; rather it is intended solely to protect America’s interests.

But here is where the good General unintentionally makes the case for AFRICOM: In a recent interview with a Nigerian newspaper, General Malu said he urged leaders of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) not to dismantle the ECOMOG (Economic Community Monitoring Group) following its successful missions in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. He also proposed standardizing the weapon systems and training the troops together on an ongoing basis. Much had been learned, the General intimated, in resolving the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia. These lessons, he believes, would prove highly beneficial in future peacekeeping and/or peace enforcement operations.

But his advice went unheeded. Hence, today ECOMOG as a unit does not exist.

Failure on the part of political leaders to heed General Malu’s advice only strengthens the argument for AFRICOM or any serious efforts to maintain law and order and prevent unnecessary loss of human lives.

Why would those charged with seeking the welfare of West Africans not listen and act upon the recommendations of the man whose military and diplomatic prowess brought an end to a war which claimed upwards of 200,000 lives and disrupted the economy of the entire sub-region? Should another conflict similar to that of Sierra Leone and Liberia break out today, what plans are there to prevent mass killings of defenseless civilians? Guess where again we would turn for help?

Pride – or should we say fool’s pride - has been the cause of much heartache and pain for the peoples of Africa. It often clouds our judgment, resulting in a lack of progress. Pride in earnest is at the root of the crippling poverty and disease that is devastating Africa’s human capital.

After all the posturing, speeches, hugging, backslapping, and name change, the African Union to date has not offered any real hope. Right from the start, it has failed the first major test. The organization has been totally ineffective in halting the massacre and rescuing those barely clinging to life in Darfur. While the leaders speak of a unified Africa, there is constant unrest and disunity within the individual countries. At this very moment conflicts linger in Chad, D R Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda, to name a few, as HIV/AIDS and malaria claim the lives of tens of thousands of Africans with no end in sight. It’s obvious we need help, but perhaps are too proud to ask. We would rather watch our women and children suffer and die needlessly while blaming others and proffering excuses.

In the case of Liberia, a century of gross mismanagement and the extremely destructive war has thrown this country back into the dark ages. Along with its stature, confidence has been lost. Liberia is now fighting for a place at the back of the line. We have leaders who cannot lead. In order to recover; we - the people - must aggressively pursue every available opportunity and stop pegging our progress to that of nations which themselves are backward. It’s high time we reclaim our rightful place among the nations of Africa and again become the leader that we are.

Democracy is not an event; rather it’s a way of life. Therefore we collectively without hesitation must demand whatever improves our wellbeing. And never as a nation must we lose sight of our strengths and uniqueness.

An awesome opportunity is knocking at this very moment and we cannot afford to lose it. We must wrest it with all the vigor we can muster and claim it now!

Liberia and the U.S. Africa Command are a perfect fit. Therefore the headquarters of AFRICOM must be based in this country. To make this happen we urge all Liberians to immediately call, email, or send a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense and tell him We Want The Headquarters of AFRICOM In Our Country. The final decision regarding a home for these facilities will be made shortly. This is an opportunity for you to help restore this nation’s image while demonstrating that Liberians are ready to turn a new page. Nothing would be more hurtful than to watch another African nation accorded this privilege. Do not delay!

With or without AFRICOM, the resources of Africa – human and material – will continue to flow outward. To ensure there is balance, we must develop an effective strategy. And those in leadership positions must come up with a plan that empowers the individual. Meanwhile, we no longer can continue on the current path of endless talk, criticism, blame, dreaming and finger pointing while the vast majority of our people languish in abject poverty, ignorance and disease.

We are aware that a number of African countries are opposed to AFRICOM. They believe it offers no benefit for Africa. Yet not one of these critics has put forth a viable alternative they are prepared to pay for. However, we believe they mean well. But it is clear they do not have a plan that will transform the impoverished and unstable nations of Africa.

Therefore, we must inundate the offices of the U.S. Secretary of Defense with petitions, so there will be no doubt Liberians support AFRICOM and welcome its Headquarters. If our country is not selected, let it not be because we – the people - did not ask diligently. Although the infrastructure currently are inadequate, there is no doubt Liberia in time will prove to be the best alternative. It has been a dependable ally of the United States with strong historical ties. As stated in its objectives, AFRICOM will work with the African Union to promote stability and rule of law wherever needed; if there is a country that needs this right now, it’s Liberia.

For those uncertain as to whether they should support this campaign, ask yourself this question: Am I willing to forfeit the benefits to be derived by allowing the headquarters of AFRICOM to be based in another African country?

The vast majority of our compatriots, due to circumstances beyond their control, are not in the position to submit petitions. Therefore, if you have family members in this category who share your views regarding this issue, please include them in your petition. Indicate the number of persons you represent in all written and/or oral communications.

Let your voice be heard by calling, emailing, or posting a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense:

Mr. Robert M. Gates Voice Mail: (703) 428-0711
Secretary of Defense
The Department of Defense Email: 1400 Defense Pentagon Click on: Make a Comment…Washington, DC 20310

The Author: Mr. T. Q. Harris, Jr. is currently the General Chairman of Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic and Strong (Contemp UPS: and a former vice presidential nominee. He can be reached by phone in the US at (562) 394-0285 or (979) 599-2295; in Liberia - (231) 652-4295, or email him at

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Yet another defeat

On December 4, 2007, register voters all over Gbarpolu County headed to their various pooling station to elect their senator. According to reports from several stations, turn out was a bit low during the morning hours. One observer attributed the low turn out to “many polling stations” compared to the 2005 elections which had fewer stations. He said; if you compare the number of stations we have now to the number we had during the general elections, you will find a huge difference. So, many of the people that were at these stations during that time are now in their own local areas”.
Another observer said most of the register voters were farmers. The observer said most of them decided to take care of personal business before returning to cast their ballots in the evening.
At about 6:00 PM Liberian time, I called Radio Gbarpolu and spoke to several representatives at the Bopolu Central High School Campus. All the representatives described the process as free, fair and transparent. According to them, ballot counting began immediately after the pool closed. Few hours after the pool closed, preliminary results began to pull in. According to the NEC and other observers, Ruling Unity Party “Theodore Momoh” is in a comfortable lead ahead of eight other candidates. If the Ruling Unity Party “Theodore Momoh” keep grip on his comfortable lead, he will be pushing several other candidates into “yet another defeat”.

Full story coming soon!!