EJS Adds Sagacious Voice to SONA Debate -Says “Politics is Politics”

MONROVIA – Amidst the plethora of reactions from the opposition camp regarding President Weah’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of his six-year constitutional tenure following which the opposition community lambasted the Liberian leader for unjustifiably trumpeting keys gains of his administration that were reportedly initiated by the erstwhile administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf without the Weah administration giving her government any credit, Madam Sirleaf says these things are the result of politics, because the next president after Weah will also attribute the gains of his administration to her administration.

“As the President rightly said Truth crushed to the ground shall rise again, a next President will come and say that most of the progress claimed by the Weah Administration was put in place by Ellen administration. Politics is politics,” former President Sirleaf quipped in a whimsical Twitter post Wednesday.

 Madam Sirleaf’s post comes in the wake of President Weah addressing the Joint Session of the National Legislature on Monday, January 30, 2023 to deliver his last State of the Nation Address (SONA), where he particularly chose to trumpet the gains made by his administration in turning around a country which he termed to be shockingly on the brink of financial bankruptcy when he took over in 2018.

Paramount among the gains that President Weah spoke of were achievements made in raising the economic standards of the average Liberian, upgrading education, health and roads; and ramping up the provision of electricity to the citizenry.

“These are the broad lines of the story that will define our Administration as we face national elections in 2023. These are the macroeconomic and development narratives that the world is now beginning to learn about Liberia, but which our critics and opposition have tried to repress over the last several years. But as it is often said: “truth crushed to the ground, shall rise again,” President Weah said on Monday.

“The truths of the difficult decisions and courageous corrections we have made during our tenure, concerning the pro-poor investments in education, health, roads and electricity, are out there for all Liberians to see and experience. It is on these truths that we stand, as we continue to face existing challenges to deliver a more prosperous future for all Liberians,” Weah stated.

Of particular note from President Weah’s SONA was the issue of road connectivity which he said continues to remain the focus and passion of his administration. In this light, President Weah heralded the significant gains made in raising funds for the construction of new primary road networks, as well as for the implementation of several additional development projects.

“With the support of our partners, we have made significant gains in the pavement of primary roads for all ongoing projects. To date, a total of 45 km have been paved on the Gbarnga to Salayea road corridor, 20 km has been paved on the Ganta to Saclepea road, and 31 km of the Sanniquellie to Loguatuo road corridor has been paved.

“I am also pleased to inform you that we have paved 30 km of the Ganta to Yekepa road corridor, and continue to make progress on the Robertsport to Medina road and the RIA road corridor; both of which are funded exclusively by the Government of Liberia.  All of these road works are still ongoing.

 “In addition to these gains on our primary road construction projects, the 40 km Tappitta to Toe’s Town road construction project is ongoing, while we have commenced the payment of project-affected persons along this corridor to facilitate early commencement of works when the project is contracted and signed in the first quarter of this year,” President Weah had in his Monday SONA, while heralding the Southeastern road development projects as achievements of his government.

Blistering Opposition Retort

But responding to the President Weah’s summation of his administration’s gains on road development, the Liberty Party through its Standard Bearer Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence discounted some of the claims made by President Weah on projects he did not do but mentioned in his SONA as part of his achievements. She cited the Harper to River Gee Highway which was paved by the Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration, noting that since his ascendency, the President has not paved any road in the South Eastern part of the country.

“The president informed us in the SONA that the road from Harper to Rivergee was paved by his administration; this is misleading because it was paved by the Unity party government. This Weah government has not paved any roads in the south eastern part of Liberia.

“The Broad street to Ganta Road, Lofa Road, Sanniquellie and Bassa roads were all projects of the past Unity party Government. President Weah before his elections formed a part of the delegation to the ground-breaking ceremonies for some of these road projects including the Lofa road. The Weah government has benefited from projects initiated by the previous administration, whereas the president fell short of mentioning investment attracted to the country so far by his administration”, Senator Lawrence blasted.

Responding in similar fashion, the former ruling Unity Party condemned President Weah for refusing to give credit to the Unity Party-led government for its role with regards to the ongoing construction of about 400 kilometers of primary roads (including the Lofa Road).

“Here is what the CDC-led government refused to tell you; we concluded the financing mechanism to pave a key remaining major economic corridor: Gbarnga – Salayea – Korneah -Voinjama – Foya – Manikorma; the Unity Party Government established the Arab Consortium (Kuwaiti Fund, Saudi Fund, Abu Dhabi, OPEC, BADEA) to provide concessional loans.

“President Weah also refused to tell the Liberian people that the road project in Maryland commenced in 2015; Harper-Ivorian Border, Harper Junction-Pleebo-Karloken-Fish Town, River Gee County was constructed by the Unity Party-Led government. Additionally, as the result of our domestic resource mobilization we left in place financing infrastructure, the Road Fund which was established through legislation in 2015.

“We also negotiated the South Eastern Corridor Road Access Management Project (SECRAMP) with the World Bank providing guarantee for the financing arrangement to pave from Ganta to Zwedru using the Road Fund Mechanism. Also, as part of completing the Trans West African Highway Project, we secured 50% grant from the European Union and a concessional loan from the African Development Bank to finance the pavement from Luogatuo to Sanniquellie,  Ganta – Yekepa which commenced in 2015 and financed by the GoL. The Coca Cola Factory – ELWA Junction road expansion project financed by the World Bank.

“These are the same roads President Weah referred to yesterday when he boasted of ongoing 388 kilometers for which the CDC-led government will be only too willing to take credit. Pavement of major roads completed under the UP-led Government include the 90-mile Monrovia-Buchanan Road; 200-mile Monrovia-Gbarnga-Ganta Highway now named Suakoko; Fish Town-Harper Road; the SKD Boulevard and Kakata-Bong Mines Road. We completed the pavement from Harper to the Ivorian Border and up to Karloken and extensive work up to Fish Town, Rivergee County. The UP-led government secured funding for Sanniquellie-Yekepa Road which commenced five years ago; Freeport-Red-light was funded by the people of Japan,” stated the Unity Party through its designated spokesperson Madam Dabah Varpilah.

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