Red-Light Market Relocation IMMINENT: As Super Highway Construction Begins
The Government of Liberia on Monday officially broke grounds for the construction of the 180 miles Red-Light – Gbarnga super highway funded by multinational donors and the World Bank, but Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods says the US$166 million project might be stalled unless the sprawling, open air Red-Light market is decongested and relocated to give easy passage to heavy duty construction equipment and materials. Our Staff Writer Peter Fahn has been assessing the situation and now reports.
Red-light Market Relocation Imminent
From the scheme of things, decongesting the Red-Light market may be a major hurdle to the smooth implementation of the project, because in recent times marketers there have not only resisted relocation efforts, but are also demanding a suitable, spacious site ideally located to accommodate them.
In the absence of a designated site with the requisite facilities to host them, moving the thousands of marketers from Red-Light now may not be feasible giving the fact that they are accustomed to their present location where they raise money to support their families and make ends meet.
Perhaps in anticipation of the ensuing project, the government successfully recovered the former OMEGA Navigation site along the Monrovia- Kakata highway and earmarked same for the construction of a modern market complex to host marketers at the Red-Light. While the fate of that project remains unclear up to date, removing marketers from their current location to somewhere yet to be ascertained seems impossible.
The site where the market is now situated was not originally intended for the purpose; rather it was a major intersection linking Monrovia on two fronts – the Somalia Drive Monrovia axis and the Red-Light Congo Town –Monrovia axis and most importantly, the Paynesville- Kakata axis. This means that locating Red-Light there was meant to facilitate the free flow of traffic from all directions, thereby making possible the movement of people, goods and services without hindrance.
The current situation at the Red-Light may be attributed to the aftermath of the Liberian civil war which attracted a huge population and its attending social consequences, as most rural dwellers now in the city are only surviving on petty trading. Thus, the Red-Light is not only a place for legal hustling but also abnormal transactions because people of different orientations converge there 24-hours around the clock in pursuit of their objectives.
The construction of the Red-Light – Gbarnga super highway which will cost US$166 million will be undertaken by a Chinese firm, the China Chongquip International Construction Corporation, CICO. The project is expected to be completed in three years.
Speaking during the ground breaking ceremony on Monday, Vice President Joseph Boakai said the project was part of the government’s continued efforts to improve the livelihood of Liberians across the country through infrastructural and economic development.
“The construction of the Red-Light – Gbarnga road is a major undertaking which will benefit nine counties in particular, especially those counties dubbed the ‘breadbasket’ of the country,” the Vice President stressed.
He called on marketers, particularly those at the Paynesville Red-Light market and those elsewhere and other residents along the route to cooperate with the construction firm to enhance the smooth and successful implementation of the road project.
The highway is a major economic corridor that links several counties in the hinterland to the capital Monrovia. Counties along the route include Margibi, Bong and Nimba. Other counties also connected to this route are Lofa, Grand Gedeh, among others.
However, the Red-Light – Gbarnga highway is currently in deplorable condition, riddled with potholes and cracks thus hindering and slowing down free movement of commuters and economic activities along the way.
For his part, Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods urged CICO to use quality construction materials to build the road to meet international standards, adding that when built, the value of the road must commensurate with the cost of the project- US$166 million.
The Minister also urged the Chinese construction firm to give preference to Liberian local contractors when sub-contracting part of the project to companies. In addition, Minister Woods called on CICO to provide opportunities to college students studying civil engineering and other technical courses to gain practical skills.
Commenting on the popular Red-Light Paynesville market, Minister Woods said the market needs to be urgently decongested in order to provide easy access to earth-moving construction equipment and materials to enhance the speedy implementation of the multimillion dollars road project. He urged the marketers and other residents along the highway to cooperate with contractors during the building of the road, noting that any demolition exercise during the construction work should not be misconstrued as a deliberate act by government; rather it would simply be to enhance the work.
Despite the inconveniences, the Red Light-Gbarnga Highway construction might cause marketers currently doing business within the perimeters of the project, they need to understand that this development scheme will not only benefit people along the route when it is completed, but will also benefit them by boosting their businesses.
Therefore, the red light marketers must understand and cooperate with the government by accepting willingly to relocate in the interest of the country and its development.