The Inquirer (Monrovia)

19 February 2013

Liberia: Belle Yella Road to Be Completed July, But...

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's dream to construct a motor road to Belle Yellah has become a matter of reality, despite negative criticisms that the government was not able to fulfill its promise to the people of Gbarpolu County.However, debates and skepticisms that greeted the President's promise to the people of Belle District, Gbarpolu County, about an ongoing politicized road project to Belle Yellah for the first time in history of the community will soon be over, giving the President leverage and victory over her detractors.

The Liberian leader in 2009 led an array of government officials, including American and Chinese Ambassadors and celebrated the year-end festivities with the people of Belle District who had been marginalized in terms of infrastructural development by various political administrations.

It was during that visit that Pres. Sirleaf formally shut down the notorious prison compound named after Belle Yellah, where successive political regimes before her, reportedly tortured and dehumanized student leaders and opposition politicians indiscriminately along with hard core criminals into submission under draconian circumstances.

Although the President did not stop there, she reportedly promised to turn the former prison compound to a vocational training center and ensure that the road from Bopolu, the Capital of Gbarpolu County to Belle Yellah was fully constructed.

The Belle Yellah project is the first major road that is being built and exclusively funded by the government excluding rehabilitation works that have been taking place across the country on previously built roads by her predecessors. There are those who believe that the completion of the road will leave an indelible mark on the legacy of the Sirleaf administration.

But it appeared that those promises soon became a major challenge to the Sirleaf Administration since the government was dragging its feet to ensure the timely fulfillment of those promises, particularly the road, something that generated stern criticisms, debates and skepticisms across the country about the ability of Madam Sirleaf to make real her promise.

Critics of the regime said, the promise was a mere political posturing only intended to win the votes of the people in that part of the country since, according to them, Belle Yellah had no economic benefits to the country, but forging to know that there is a huge deposit of natural resources, including gold, diamond and timber amongst others.

However, despite government's protracted hold-up to make timely financial allocation and commitment to the project which has significantly caused delay in the completion, the Pealat Construction Company contracted by the government to implement the project has demonstrated commitment since 2009 when it made the first preliminary clearance into the Belle Forest which allowed the President and her tourists to reach Belle Yellah during the Christmas Season successfully.

The Belle Yellah Road is amongst several infrastructural projects Pres. Sirleaf is expected to dedicate during the 2013 Independence Day celebration in Gbarpolu, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties. She announced during last year's Independence Day festival at the Executive Pavilion that she would make a 'non-walk' trip to Belle Yellah during 2013 July 26 Independence Day Season.

Although it is not clear whether the government has settled its financial obligation with the contractor ahead of the celebration, Pealat has intensified progress on the road apparently in preparation of the dedicatory ceremony.

A team of journalists over the weekend toured the road to independently verify reported progress Pealat is making following the President's visit to the county last week ahead of the July 26 Celebration.

The contractor, according to our reporter who travelled with his colleagues all the way to Tuma River passing through Goma Hill, Pealat's engineers were actively engaged with simultaneous operations, including grading, compacting, clearance, installation of culverts, laying of drainages and backfilling as well as commencement of the final birlay bridges along the road.

As a result of the accelerated progress, commercial activities in the region has increased, thus giving hope to the people that indeed, the government has already fulfilled its promise and have no reason to doubt. According to some businesswomen who praised Madam Sirleaf for her determination to complete the road, transportation fares have reduced, because vehicles are now reaching as far as Tuma River.

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