6 January 2014

Liberia: Reject Violence for Sustainable Peace and Progress

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However, by God's Grace and because of the resilience of the Liberian people, with very strong support from the international community, Liberia, which degenerated into a failed state, has emerged on the global stage as a post-conflict success. With its nascent multi-party democracy thriving, Liberians are enjoying an unprecedented level of freedom in the country.

Under the leadership of President Sirleaf, the rebuilding of war-torn Liberia started from scratch, even while the country was saddled with a debt burden of billions of dollars and was internationally blacklisted. Since then, Liberia has continued on a course of progress in all aspects of national endeavors. The progress includes the cancellation of $4.9 billion debt under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

From infrastructural development, such as rehabilitation and construction of roads, medical and educational facilities, provision of electricity and pipe-borne water, to the institution of policies and programs in order to strengthen national security and institutions, progress has been steady.

For example, a visit to Monrovia today is characterized by paved roads, street and traffic lights, whereas, just a few years ago the nation's capital was dark and traffic on any major road was snarled due to potholes and puddles. Monrovia is being transformed more into a cosmopolitan city, with a skyline that is changing rapidly with beautiful structures that have been or are being erected throughout the city and its environs.

Examples of other development projects completed just in 2013 include the nearly 100-kiilometer rebuilt and paved Monrovia-Buchanan highway, cutting drive time between the capital and the strategic commercial port city to one and half hours, from the more than four hours it took before the reconstruction. The government also completed the road to Belle Yalla, one of the least developed areas long cut off from the rest of the country, which once hosted the Belle Yalla notorious prison.

Mindful that electricity is the engine that drives a modern economy and is critical for improvement in the living conditions of people, the government, with strong support from our development partners, is working aggressively to rehabilitate the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant, which is scheduled to come on line in December 2015, at a cost of more than US $240 million.

The government's effort to electrify the country is gaining added boost under the West African Power Pool (WAPP), a World Bank sponsored project that includes financing the infrastructure of the transmission interconnection between the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Under the WAPP, power lines from the Ivory Coast connecting Liberia were tested in the provincial capital of Sanniquellie and other parts of Nimba County during last year's July 26 national independence holiday season. Grand Gedeh and Maryland counties, which are along Liberia's border with the Ivory Coast, are to also benefit under WAPP.

During a visit to Africa from June 27-July 2, 2013, U.S. President Barak Obama announced the Power Africa program, "a new five-year Presidential Initiative to work with America's partners in Africa and the United States to increase investment and leverage America's position with energy technologies, private investment, policy reform, and investment regulations to increase Africa's energy supply." Liberia is among six countries - Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania - as the first beneficiaries of the "Power Africa" program.

Road construction and energy are emphasized in this article because the Government of Liberia, in partnership with the U.S. Government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), recently completed a "Constraints Analysis," which indicates that lack of affordable electricity, as well as the insufficient and poor quality road network, are Liberia's top constraints to private investment and growth.

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