Sunday, February 2, 2014

Liberia's New Capital City: A Fiasco?

Having just shared a printed op-ed about the saga of the supposed-new administrative complex in ELWA last week, this op-ed from last week in The New Republic Liberia is effusively written and nicely summarizes the noises that have been made in the last two years about the vague and quixotic plan to move the capital of Liberia from Monrovia to the forested village of Zekepa, an under-developed, remote settlement at confluence of the borders of Grand Bassa, Bong, and Nimba counties, an arbitrary yet mythic location in the center of Liberia.  This apparently remains merely a random fantasy alluded to for unclear reasons, as covered in this blog in mid-2012, and absent during more recent public statements, such as the President's State of the Nation Address last month. Quoting the op-ed in full: 

As did in 2006 before the rest of world that her government would unremittingly wage war against corruption, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to an overwhelming approbation, stood before the National legislature in 2012 and made a solemn proclamation about the relocation of Liberia's Political Capital, to Zekepa, the convergence of Grand Bassa, Nimba and Bong Counties.Growing population, climate change and erosion were cited as reeling factors. One year later while performing similar constitutional duty, she re-echoed similar commitment with resounding punctuations. Considered as national nostalgia, many expected full-blown report on the status of the project. But too bad, either knowingly or unknowingly, the President made no mention of it in her 2014 Annual Address. "So, what's at stake? Has it become a fiasco?" The New Republic, finds out.2012 has since elapsed but some of its grandeurs remained stocked in the bottomless parts of humans across the entire globe, but for Liberians is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's pronouncement concerning moving the Capital to the center of the country. . President Sirleaf informed the nation that her administration was in the middle of arrangements that would lead to the moving of Liberia's oldest political capital city to Zekepa, a convergence of three counties with identical links, Nimba, Grand Bassa and Bong."I am talking to every single citizen of this great nation when I say: our progress belongs to you, and the future is yours for the taking, a future in which the process would have started to move the capital to the center of the country. Given the effects of climate change and expectation that rising sea levels will threaten coastal cities, including Monrovia, we will have concluded the plan to move the Capital City to Zekepa, where the territories of Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba converge," Madam President said in 2012 with boomeranging applauds and standing ovation.Not stopping there, the President whose victory in 2006 over other potential politicians hinged on her credentials, reassured Liberians in 2013, a year after the initial pledge, that in developing ment For many, it was one of the president's commitments since assuming office and |Liberians, especially her religious followers exhaled that she was ready to demonstrate her true colors, as a developer. "Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro-Tempore, in my Annual Message to the Sixth Session of the 52ndNational Legislature, I informed your Honorable Body and the Liberian people that in response to the expected effects on population growth, climate change and the expectation that rising sea levels will threaten coastal cities, including Monrovia, in the decades to come, we had decided to commence the process that could lead, eventually, to relocating the Capital City to Zekepa, where the boundaries of Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba converge.Two years on, we have commenced the research and planning that will enable us to make the decision as to how to proceed with the Zekepa project," she said in her 2013 Annual Message.At the time, she noted that a small task force had been set up and charged with conducting the research, technical analysis, master planning and design that will be essential to the comprehensive development plan for the proposed city of Zekepa. Apparently being aware of the ambitiousness of the plan, and considering Liberia's financially squeezed state, madam Sirleaf said "This is not a quick project. This is a long term project.""The Task Force will spend the next six months in the primary stage of research, after which I will consult with your honorable body regarding a greater national involvement and the way forward in achieving this objective."Since these enthralling remarks of 2013, analysts are concerned that not the President, or any official of her government that has ever made it his/her business to bring to the knowledge of Liberians the status of the project, and the extent of the design and planning work mentioned earlier.What also brings the credibility of the project into the question, according to those spoken with, is her inability to disclose names oaf individuals that comprised the task force."The President made the disclosure in January of 2013. The six months she talked about have since elapsed and there is no information, absolutely, as regards the outcome of the design and planning work. I hope this is not a fiasco,' remarked one Peter Kiadii, who said he is political commentator"It is also troubling that she did not make any mention of the new capital project in her speech on Monday to the |National Legislature."That the Madam eschewed talking about the project which is of interest to all Liberians, speaks volume, he said, and argued that she willfully avoided doing so because "nothing is being done there."President Sirleaf's state of the nation address lasted for over two hours but many said it was only a repeat of things she has said over and again in past annual messages.However, the Liberian government disagreed that the Project is a fiasco as many tend to perceive it. Commenting on the state of the new capital project, Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson told this paper via mobile phone exchange that progressive actions were being taken.Without specifying actions so far taken by the government, he said, there are intended to actualize the President's vision of moving the capital. Minister Jackson who said he was in the middle of work, noted "detailed will be communicated to you in subsequent time."

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