The Analyst (Monrovia)

29 January 2013

Liberia: Week Monrovia Shut Down - HLP Meeting Creates 4-Day Pseudo-Ghost City

Starting Tomorrow, January 30, and ending Saturday, February 2, and if traffic edicts publicized come into force, Liberia goes into the Guinness Book of Record as a host country of an important international meeting that got no citizens. The guests ply the Roberts International Airport route from Margibi to Monrovia and return home without setting their eyes on inland moving vehicles and people; courtesy not only of police regulation detouring traffic in directions far removed from routes and venues of the meeting of High Level Panel, but also by the Ministry of Information asking Liberians, including Government officials, to stay away from the meetings. The Analyst reports.

The menace of vehicular traffic is expected to reach its asphyxiating peak this week in Monrovia. Though becoming nearly a routine in the city these days, the unusual thing is that the menace would be felt in suburbs of Gardnersville and Bushrod Island. But while the clamor for space on the narrow roads will be reaching stampeding proportions, the route from the Roberts International Airport and leading to Congo Town and Sinkor would be quiet like a graveyard. The occasional humming of official vans of international guests and local security personnel will be seen.

In anticipating the visit of the High Level Panel that includes heads of state of some big nations, the police have instructed that the Monrovia Robert Field Highway will be free of vehicles because it will only be used by the UN high panel delegation to Liberia and that traffic coming from the Robertfield and surrounding will be diverted to 15th Gate.

The police say no truck will be allowed to move on the Monrovia Robert Field highway. The Police has further warned that traffic will be diverted from Congo Town to Airfield through Vamoma House, and traffic from the city center moving toward Sinkor will be diverted to Jallah Town.

According to the police only emergency vehicles are exempt to these rules.

The police further instruct that all traffic coming from Paynesville to Central Monrovia will be diverted back to Paynesville through Red Light and Somalia Drive.

A University of Liberia professor who followed the announcement on radio chuckled, in a chat: "What is the Government trying to prove? That Liberians are not good looking enough to be seen by the guests?"

He added: "I can imagine one of the suspecting guests on his way back to RIA to leave country asking a government official: 'Is Liberia a ghost country? How come we could not see a moving object on the long stretch of road from the airport to and within the conference hall?"

To compound the problem, no other Liberians except President Sirleaf who is a member of the panel would be in the hall. All other government officials and public employees, like their counterparts will be in the blaze of traffic on the far end of the city.

In an "Open Letter" addressed to "Madam/Sir" the Ministry of Information wrote: "This is not a Government of Liberia meeting. As with the first two meetings, the agenda, the content of the meetings, as well as who can attend the Monrovia Meetings of the Panel, have all been determined by the HLP Secretariat in New York. And as it also was with the first two meetings of the HLP, the Monrovia Meetings of the Panel will be closed to the public permitting only the HLP members to attend and to participate. As such, no government officials will be in any of the HLP meetings other than the President, in her capacity as Co-chair."

"How can a meeting of perhaps less than 30 participants freeze the entire city of over a million residents," said the University lecturer quoted earlier and who prefers not to be named.

Though MICAT recognizes that the meetings "will cause some disruptions to government business, to the normal flow of activities, and to our ability to move around the city," the Ministry said the country can be proud of "these achievements sustained over the period of the last 10 years. As a result of our collective hard work and steadfast leadership, Liberia is now seen by the international community as a country making significant progress, and importantly, a country within which to invest."

Liberians, including officials of government save the President will not be in attendance to see and say a word on what MICAT said will be the priorities of Africa and Africans – the issues affecting poor countries and post-conflict societies – are properly reflected.

The quoted UL lecture said, "While we have no qualms with the news that Liberia's cost for the meeting will be limited because the international delegations will be funding their own travel and accommodation arrangements, Liberian businesses and government will be losing millions of dollars to four days of stop order on normal activities."

The MICAT communication however apologized for inconveniences the regulations characterizing the HLP meetings will cost Liberians during the next four days.

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