New Democrat (Monrovia)

21 February 2013

Liberia: Decreasing Demolition Cries

column

It is understandable that the connotation associated with the word 'demolition' makes it nauseating enough for residents in areas that risk being affected to detest the slightest hint of the word in their areas.

Nevertheless, demolition should be considered in good faith, as its primary objective is to make way for implementing necessary national development for the benefit of all.

It should prick the consciences of people who have lived in Monrovia and Bushrod Island to see business centers and residential buildings nowadays covering the entire landscape opposite Logan Town Cinema, a space that used to be the confluence of railways shuttling between Monrovia and Bomi Hills and Mano River and Monrovia, respectively.

The higher landscape was used for a third railway ferrying iron ore on locomotives from Bong Mines to the National Port Authority.

But, suddenly after 1996, crushed rocks were scooped from these places, while rails and sleepers were removed for scraps before business centers and residential buildings mushroomed where high tension railroad lines made a no-go area.

In fact, if the Bong Mines railroad that also suffered complete scrapping, had not been on a higher ground, squatters might have by now invaded the Monrovia Industrial Free Zone Area that temporarily headquartered Ecomog forces during the war years.

China Union is now obliged to pay huge sums in compensation to demolish structures by squatters that, during war years, encroached on the right of way of the Bong Mines railways from Monrovia to Bong Town.

Similarly, there must be a right of way for railways that will connect operations of the Western Cluster in Bomi County with the Freeport of Monrovia. Should sympathy for persons who now occupy where railways wended stop the new construction project? We believe, no, as such sympathy by President Tolbert prevented the laying of streets as zoned by the late Public Works Minister Gabriel Johnson Tucker in the mid 1970s.

Tolbert succumbed to the cries of many residents of Sinkor between 2nd and 16th Streets where Mr. Tucker wanted to crisscross with streets.

In spite of having a genuine eminent domain and ready just compensation for demolition of structures built in the right of way for city streets, Mr. Tucker was prevented from demolishing those structures to construct planned streets, leaving Sinkor up to 2nd Street in its present state.

As the bulldozer waited, occupiers of the right of way made the Executive Mansion a beehive appealing for mercy not to demolish their structures, though payments were ready for them.

One female resident at the rear of 3rd Street invited Tolbert at her house and literally held the president's knees to prevent the demolition; and she won the day to the benefit of others.

But Mr. Tucker succeeded by applying witty tactics to demolish a building that prevented Clay Street from being connected with UN Drive.

With cheque intended for the property ready, the middle aged property owner refused several times to accept the money and relocate to allow the road construction. So, the clever public works minister one day had his yellow machine ready before sending friends of the occupant with goodies including beverages. As Mr. Tucker watched from a seeing distance, they entered the man's two-story house, had few sips together and cajoled him to descend with them for a walk. Soon the building was vacated the ready bulldozer quickly flattened it, and he was directed to the bank for his money upon return. Otherwise, no vehicles ever turned onto Clay Street from UN Drive before 1972 because they were never connected due to one building that stood there as an obstacle.

Now, we hear huge cries from people, many of whom that knowingly built structures in the right of way and alleyways in disregard for the future construction of streets in their communities, despite indications on land deeds in their possession. Are they going to cry in the future and stifle development like many residents embarrassed the sympathy of Tolbert only to make Sinkor to remain what it is today? Commuters walk long distances to reach main roads for commercial vehicles and disembark for long walks, except for motorbikes these days, when taxis should be passing near their doorsteps. Do we want to continuously stifle development and endure the status quo come 2030? The government says no because it wants for Liberians to work hard and make their country a middle-income nation by then.

Let's give development a chance!

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