28 December 2012

Liberia: Vahun District Reconnected - As Kambo Hill Finally Falls

Virtually cut off from the rest of Liberia for at least three decades, the people of Vahun District of Lofa County have finally been reconnected with the rest of the country following months of intensive works on the road that connects the region with the Kolahun and the rest of the county.

Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, on a weeklong tour of inspecting and dedicating several road rehabilitation projects in the county, told the jubilating citizens of Vahun Town last Saturday that they are "now connected" and will never be "disconnected" as witnessed over the last nearly four decades.

Hundreds of citizens thronged the Vahun Town Hall to welcome Minister Woods and the County's Senior Senator Sumo Kupee, moment after the for the second time saw a long convoy entering the town.

Minister Woods in January took risk to drive into the town for the first time in at least three decades and assured the people that by the end of the year, the road will be pliable not only by 4-wheel vehicles--many of which usually got damaged--but by all types of vehicles.

Citizens of the region said the road was cut off in the late 1970s and was never rehabilitated until the war. Lack of maintenance, even before the war, made the road quite inaccessible, thereby cutting the region and its people from the rest of Liberia.

Until recently when taxis and other smaller vehicles began entering Vahun, the citizens heavily depended on Sierra Leone for all their goods and services. They heavily trade in Sierra Leonean currency, and most of the youth complete high school and seek college education in the neighboring country.

Despite the heavy rainfall this year, SSF Entrepreneur, the company contracted by the Ministry of Public to revamp and widen the road, split the most dangerous three-into-one Kambo Hill and replaced rotten log bridges and corrugated metal culvert with reinforced concrete bridges culvert to make way for any vehicle to ply the road.

Being transformed into a supper laterite highway that may link Liberia and Sierra Leone (if the one-mile segment from Vahun Town to the Sierra Leonean Border town of Bomaru is opened), the new Vahun road will heavily boost trade and commerce in the region and the rest of Lofa, thereby bettering the lives of the people and raising needed revenues for government, observers said.

The Commissioner of Vahum Michael Siafa said the district has been the remotest part of Liberia, but that situation has now changed after the Government's intervention. "Today, for the first time in nearly 40 years vehicles are moving in frequently; it is a new day for us here," he stated enthusiastically."

Senator Kupee said he was there to spend the Christmas Holiday with them because he can now drive on the road after easily. The Senator who later explained horribly experience that could have taken his life in 2007 on the Kambo Hill stated that the opening of the road was the biggest Christmas gift for the thousands of people in Vahun.

The Senator hailed the Public Works Minister as described him as a field minister. "This is the first time we have seen a Public Works Minister spending much of his time in the field than in the office," Kupee noted, hoping other could be as serviceable as the Infrastructure Minister in the rebuilding of Liberia.

In his remark, Minister Woods lauded the people of Vahun for their patience and understanding for many years before the road was considered for rehabilitation.

Woods assured the people of the region that with the opening of the road, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with for the first time, since she became President in 2005 pay an official visit there next March.

"This Vahun road? Nothing has happen yet; this is just the beginning," Woods assured the people who broke into jubilation--singing and drumming traditional songs. After the Kolahun-Vahun (about 85Km) smaller feeder and or farm-to-market ro9ad will also be rehabilitated to enable formers to move their produce on the main road and to the bigger markets.

"You are our farmers; we don't want for your sweat to go in vain," Woods sounded to the delight of the predominantly farming population. "We want you to take your produce to the market so that you can make money to send your children to school, to clinics and to improve your lives," he repeated what he told them in January.

"So, tell Liberia and the rest of the world. You are no longer cut off; you are connected." He lauded the citizens of Vahun and Lofa in general for their "spirit of development" and urged them to keep supporting the government's development agenda. "I want to thank you for your patience, understanding.

Woods applauded SSF for the construction work, but cautiously said it was too soon to praise the company until the work was complete. "We told them to do a good job, and they are doing their best, but we can't praise the now."

The Ambassador of Liberia accredited near Freetown, Brahima Kaba, a son of Vahun, told the citizens that the development was the result of their resolve to vote a responsible leader.

With the new road being constructed, Ambassador Kaba challenged the citizens to maintain it and cooperate with the contractors to foster development in their region, something they've yearn for decades.

Vahun, a very small town seated on a hill, is reputed for being the town in which Senegalese peacekeepers were murdered by rebel forces in the early 1990's.

Today, the town is has greatly expanded, occupied by both Liberians and Sierra Leoneans, and is poised to become a vibrant economic melting point with the opening of the road.

As the Minister and delegation left following a nigh in he town, the citizens of Vahun Town were among the happiest on Earth over the weekend when they saw a fleet of vehicles leaving the town--something that never could have easily happened only a year ago.

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