In posting on Yamoussoukro, I realized that I've never posted about Liberia's dreams of a planned capital. Although plans are still rather vague, there have been some interesting proposals over the last few years. Rather than one long post, I'll detail the sporadic developments in several shorter posts.
Talk of having the government vacate Monrovia stretch back at least to the Tolbert years, when President Tolbert openly desired to move the capital city from Monrovia to Bensonville, his hometown in north-central Montserrado county, which he had rechristened Bentol. He was not successful in moving the national capital, but he did decree that Montserrado County relocate its administrative center to Bentol, where it is today. He was also mostly able, up until his assassination, to construct a sort of Americo Versailles in Bentol.
President Doe may have talked about moving the Liberian capital, but I have seen no evidence of any plans for this. While Charles Taylor operated the capital of his "Greater Liberia" out of Gbarnga, Bong County for years, Monrovia and its Executive Mansion were always the prize for him (as they have been for every Liberian Presidential hopeful before and since).
But during the recent reconstruction era of the Sirleaf Administration, at least as early as 2009, mention of moving Liberia's capital from Monrovia was made again. The first notice of it that I saw was in the local papers, when the Liberian legislature passed a resolution to move Liberia's capital, much before there had been any public discussion of it (or demand from constituents). From an editorial published in the In Profile Daily on 2 September 2009, titled, A New Capital, Not the Time [bolding is mine]:
There wasn't much more detail at the time, such as a location, but there did seem to be a number slapped to the project from the only contemporaneous report: US$10 billion, which at the time was easily ten times the country's GDP (and roughly still is).
So it was an astounding, absurd proposal, far outweighing the nation's resources for an entire decade and put forth without public or technical consultation.
Most interestingly, I think are two points: one that Monrovia's post-conflict condition left the government no choice but to flee its putrid streets, deplorable halls of administration, and unsightly, overcrowded slums. This is of course a remarkably self-serving priority. How this phrasing echoes much of the arguments for abandoning America's industrial cities for their suburbs in the mid-20th century is both academically intriguing and pragmatically exasperating.
Its important to underscore that Monrovia's condition in 2009, as detestable a state as it unquestionably was, was much more comfortable than everywhere else in Liberia, and the dire conditions of the city and its people should be a major focus of the public servants' efforts. Instead, the new capital is plainly described as a scheme to abandon the mess of Monrovia for some sort of brand-new Abuja, which would surely include air-conditioned villas and apartments for all the honorables, which despite a lack of plans, drawings, and technical specifications was without a doubt the sugar-plums that were dancing in the legislators' minds when they rushed to passed this meaningless act.
The furtive progress that this quixotic campaign has made since that sudden blip suggests that, while not the only reason for such an undertaking, the entire plan evinces the deep division between the governing class, who remain in control of the country's few resources, and the governed, who enjoy neither access nor consideration.