Spoiling It To Fix It: The Sad Liberia Tragedy

IN THE HEAT OF the Liberian civil war, warlords of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia destroyed the Walter F. Walker Hydro Dam as part of the Mount Coffee Hydropower Project, a hydroelectric project on the Saint Paul River, which supplied electricity most of the country.

AT THE TIME, many Liberians were obsessed of getting rid of the dictator Samuel Doe, that they were willing to accept anything, and willing to do anything, including seeing the country’s only source of power go in ruins.

SADLY, LIBERIA NEVER recovered from the damage of the Mount Coffee Power plant.

Built in 1966 with additional phases completed later, the project has a maximum generating capacity of 88 Mega Watts.

THE PROJECT was jumped started in 1963, when the Liberian government received a loan from the World Bank to develop a US$24.3 million hydroelectric project. Construction of the facility began in 1964 by the Monrovia Power Authority using Raymond Concrete Pile Company as the contractor and Stanley Consultants as the project managers. In 1966, the power company completed the initial phase of the dam and began generating electricity. The project was finished in 1967 and named the T. J. R. Faulkner W.F. Walker Hydroelectric Power Station.

SO, WHEN THE REBELS ruined the power plant, it was ok, as long as it meant putting the country in darkness, while rebels descend on the nation’s capital in pursuit of Samuel Doe.

ALTHOUGH FUNCTIONING OF THE plant was not fully restored until 2018, the Mount Coffee facility has never the same.

TODAY, IN MOST PARTS of the nation’s capital, Monrovia, residents have become used to sleeping in darkness, families can no longer store foods in their freezers due to the lack of stable electricity; children find it difficult to study at night and most have to settle for whatever home with generators they can find to study or make sense of the pathetic life they try to live.

LAST WEEK, violent protests over the presence of armed guards in mining areas in the country’s northwest killed one demonstrator and left several injured.

Both protesters and police were armed when the clashes erupted on last Thursday in the mining town of Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County, according to the government’s chief spokesman, Jerolinmek Piah, who told reporters that the death is being investigated and that 18 protesters were arrested.

The protests followed a demand by the mining district’s lawmaker, Mohammed Dosii, who had asked for an immediate withdrawal of armed guards in the community and at the gold mine operated by Bea Mountain Mining Company.

IN RECENT YEARS, Liberia has seen many protests over its mining sector, rich in gold, iron ore and diamonds, mostly over poor working conditions and the perception that foreign workers are given more opportunities over Liberian nationals.

IN MOST OF THESE cases, including the one last week, rioters and protesters often resort to damaging properties and ruining whatever they can get their hands on.

IN MOST OF THESE cases, some Liberians come to the realization that things will be repaired once the noise dies down.

IN MOST CASES, some assume that violence is not complete without the destruction of lives and properties.

THE SAD REALITY is that this has become the new normal for Liberia, spoilt it now, fix it later.

IN JULY 2014, violent demonstration against the operations of the steel giant Arcelor Mittal Liberia led to the destruction of properties in several towns including Zolowee, Gpaba, Mehkinto and Sehkimpa.

THE VIOLENT PROTESTERS were led by a youth group identified as the Tokadeh Progressive Youths for Peace and Development.  Physical assessment suggests massive looting and vandalism on the company’s assets and damage of offices belonging to Afcons, the contracting company in charge of construction of Arcelor Mittal’s facilities.

 AT THE TIME, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the direct and associated damage done to Arcelor Mittal facilities in Nimba County was more than an attack on a private company; rather they are attacks on the economy and the future of this country.

A YEAR LATER, in May 2015, residents engaged in mayhem, looting and destruction on the Golden Veroleum Oil Plantation in Butaw, Sinoe County.

ONCE MORE, the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf slammed the action, declaring that the violence in Butaw did not only threaten the post-war peace and security, but also undermined the collective livelihood, and unfairly portrayed the country as an unsafe destination for foreign investment.

THIS NEW NORMAL is bad for doing business in Liberia. It also sets a bad precedent for a country lacking resources and expertise to fully repair the damage of the long-running civil war.

VIOLENCE, WARS, RIOTS are not new to a fragile West African subregion but some countries like the Ivory Coast next door rebounded after a brutal civil war. Infrastructures were not looted and destroyed, and lives came back, after the dust settled.

TO THE CONTRARY, Liberia is still nursing and bruising from its war. Age-old buildings, looted, burned, and destroyed during the war can still be seen across the city and some parts of rural Liberia.

WHEN WILL WE LEARN? What will we tell our generations yet unborn about why Africa’s oldest republic remains so poor despite its abundant resources?

THE SAD REALITY is that spoiling it to fix has been, will be and will forever be good on paper, especially for a country lacking vision, a country lacking leaders to do the right things; a country where many believe in spoiling things to fix them later.

THE WORLD HAS CHANGED, nothing stays the same. Roger Ward Babson, an American entrepreneur, economist, and business theorist in the first half of the 20th century, once said, “. Property may be destroyed, and money may lose its purchasing power; but character, health, knowledge, and good judgment will always be in demand under all conditions.”

WHAT THE VIOLENCE, RIOTS, WARS AND CHAOS has shown, is that Liberians serious lack judgement to make the right decisions. Maybe it is poverty, maybe it is ignorance of a population marred by massive brain drain resulting from the civil war.

Whatever it is, it needs to stop. Temporary solutions and temporary fixes do more harm than good in the long term. It is how we shape our minds, ideals and intelligence that will define who we are, what we are made of and the legacy we will leave for generations yet unborn.

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