Fulfilling The Promise
The Government of Liberia has marked yet another milestone achievement in its consistent strive to address the perennial problem of bad road condition in the country that impedes and stifles economic activities as well as hinders the free movement of people which invariably forestalls trade and commerce as well as other trans-regional dealings.
Road problem is visible across the country, but is particularly stark in remote southeastern Liberia. However, the industrial people of the region are now breathing an air of relief while nursing the hope that the inaccessibility of road in the area could soon become a history as News Editor Peter Fahn reports on the dedication of a major highway in the southeastern region of Liberia.
Vice President Joseph Boakai led an array of government officials over the weekend to dedicate the 130.7 kilometer improved and compact laterite Fishtown- Harper Highway linking River Gee and Maryland counties amid dancing and singing by citizens of both counties who turned out to grace the historic ceremony held on Saturday, June 23, 2012 at the Gee River Bridge close to the border of the two remote southeastern counties.
Addressing the gathering of government officials, chiefs and elders of River Gee and Maryland counties, contractors, jubilant traditional women, among others, Vice President Boakai said the road rehabilitation project is aligned with the government’s much hailed Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) drive.
“You reduce poverty by building good roads, good schools, providing improved and affordable health facilities and services, and creating enabling security environment that allow people to support their livelihoods,” he said.
He said without good roads, the construction of other basic infrastructures, including health, education facilities and the promotion of agriculture programs and food security, trade and commerce would be impossible to achieve such vital goals.
While hailing S.S.F. Entrepreneur Inc., a local engineering and construction firm which rehabilitated 76.3 out of the 130.7 kilometers Fishtown-Harper road project for its excellent works and living up to the expectations of stakeholders involved in the project, the Vice President told the enthusiastic gathering of local people that the government is committed to helping to bring about improvement in the lives of all Liberians, including the people of southeastern Liberia.
“I can promise you that there will be more roads. There will be more schools. There will be more hospitals and other basic facilities and services to improve the living standards of people in this region,” the Vice President stressed.
He, however, urged citizens of River Gee and Maryland counties and the people of southeastern region to help maintain the road, noting that Liberians need to be responsible in taking good care of public facilities.
The all weather laterite Fishtown- Harper road rehabilitation project was implemented by S.S.F. Entrepreneur Inc., a local construction company and China Henan International Group Cooperation (CHICO) with US$ 16 million grant from the African Development Bank to the government of Liberia.
The project was divided into two parts with Lot #1 measuring 76.4 kilometer from Harper, Maryland County to the Gee River Bridge awarded to S.S.F. Entrepreneur Inc. while CHICO was awarded Lot #2, the stretch from Fishtown, River Gee County to the Bridge -- measuring 54.3 kilometer long.
Both companies were awarded the contract after a rigorous international competitive bidding (ICB) process.
Until now, the Fishtown- Harper highway has been a nightmare for the people of the region. The region is usually cut off from the rest of the country during the peak of the rainy season when travel along the route becomes extremely difficult and impossible, thus impeding economic activities in the area with untold suffering and hardship for the already poverty striking people in the region.
In recent years, there have been four tragic ship wrecks as mainly local businesswomen sought alternative means on the Atlantic Ocean to get much needed commodities to the region often risking their lives in unsafe vessels on the high seas. The last ship wreck occurred on May 31, 2010 resulting into the death of eight persons, including Clara Nyemah, leader of the Maryland Women Incorporated, a local business group.
At the recent dedicatory ceremony, the County Superintendent Gblebo Brown called on the gathering to observe a moment of silence to honor the dead as he paid tributes to the courageous local businesswomen.
But after the intervention of the government and its development partners in responding to the perennial bad road condition in this region, the people of Maryland and River Gee counties and adjacent areas are now breathing a sigh of relief with the dedication of the 130.7 km Fishtown- Harper improved and compiled laterite road.
Safety features of the newly rehabilitated road include reduction of vertical and horizontal curves and installation of guardrails and signposts. A number of drainage structures such as triple, double and single box culverts have been constructed.
Additionally, storm drainage channels to convey rain water have been constructed in major towns along the Fishtown- Harper highway.
But most importantly, the people of this region are celebrating the fact that travel time between Fishtown and Harper has been reduced because of the improved condition of the road. It now takes less than two hours to commute between the cities while in the past, drivers and commuters say it took them days or even weeks to leave from Harper to Fishtown.
Speaking earlier during the dedicatory ceremony on Saturday, June 23, 2012 which was characterized by festivity, Maryland County Senator John Ballout said the road rehabilitation by the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration is a “real gift to the Maryland and River Gee Counties as well as the entire region.”
Senator Ballout praised S.S.F. Entrepreneur Inc. for its dedication in completing the project and an excellent job, noting that the local construction firm has brought proud to the construction industry in the country.
He however urged the S.S.F. Entrepreneur and CHICO to fulfill their obligation under the contract by maintaining the road. Under the contractual agreement, the two companies are required to maintain the road for a period of 12 months after the dedication and turning over of the road to the government.
Meanwhile, Deputy Public Works Minister for Technical Services Victor Smith, has disclosed plans by the government to pave the Fishtown- Harper highway with asphalt.
Disclosing the news at the dedicatory ceremony, he said the government has already appropriated US$2 million to conduct feasibility study on the pavement of the road.
He added that after the feasibility study, the government will begin to allocate money in the national budget for the asphalt pavement of the 130 kilometer highway, adding that the African Development Bank which funded the recent rehabilitation of the road, has also expressed its willingness to help fund the pavement of the road to make it durable and long lasting.
On behalf of the Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, Minister Smith thanked the African Development Bank for funding the rehabilitation works of the road, and praised the contractors, S.S.F. Entrepreneur Inc. and CHICO for successfully implementing the project in line with the specifications and terms and conditions of the contract agreement.
For their part, the chiefs and elders of Maryland and River Gee counties have praised S.S.F. Entrepreneur Chief Executive Officer Shwaki Fawaz for successful and timely implementation of his company’s portion of the rehabilitation works, 76 kilometers of 130 kilometers highway.
Speaking through an interpreter, the traditional leaders said the improved and compact laterite road will now end years of suffering endured by the people in the region because of terrible bad road condition.