National Census 2022: Bad Roads May Affect Southeasterners

MONROVIA – With the National Population and Housing Census set to kick off on October 24, 2022, there are growing concerns among South easterners that the prevailing bad road conditions in their region may seriously and adversely impact on the outcome of the results from the exercise, a situation that may also affect the approval of  development projects by the national government and its development partners  which some stakeholders believe may play out similar scenario during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when the entire region was declared not to be within the “Economic corridor” of the country.

Though Liberia has not had a good road network since its independence, the situation is however particularly worse in the Southeastern region of the country, which is the farthest distance from Monrovia.  The conditions of roads in the region have worsened in recent years owing to heavy downpour of rain with no efforts from the national government and even companies operating in the area to rehabilitate or maintain them to enable motorists ply the routes while sustainable solutions are being anticipated.

Perhaps the only consolation the region has gotten over the years amid the untold human sufferings has been the assertion by the Government of Liberia and her development partners is that   the rehabilitation and paving the Ganta – Harper Road (510 km), the major route that links the region to the nation’s capital, is strategic and will ensure sustainability of the investment within the southeastern region considering that the section of road is a missing link along the Trans-African Highway corridors in West Africa. It is assumed that if the road  is paved will not only make it adaptable to the adverse climatic conditions but also protect the current investment in addition to other socio-economic benefits associated with road improvement

Even as the citizens are raising concerns about the deplorable road conditions that may be major hindrance to their people traveling home for the census, some other lawmakers from the region who were trying to make their way to the Southeast have to abort their journey after their vehicles taking them could not pass through the several bad spots around the Tappita-Toe axis.

When contacted, the lawmakers confirmed the story and said due to the importance of the trip, they have decided to pass through Cote d’Ivoire via Nimba County and then from Cote d’Ivoire, they can cross into Liberia. “This is how terrible the situation is with our road but we must make the journey because the census issue is a paramount concern to us and our people”, one of the lawmakers told The Analyst

Besides these important roads, the stories of other roads linking the various counties as well as towns and cities are least to say very frustrating, plunging the entire region into perpetual suffering and have even resulted in them to do more trading with neighboring Cote d’Ivoire. “Almost everything bought from Monrovia and sold in the region is like double or thrice the price depending on which areas of the region the transaction is being carried out”, said Tow Moses Nimely, a trader who does business between Monrovia and Harper City told this paper.

Now that the Census is just few day away, the citizens are not only worried that most of their people may not be able to travel home to register and then return to their various places of abode, they are also worried that the enumerators and other personnel of the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services(LISGIS) may be hindered by the lack of means to get to villages and towns far removed from the main roads, thereby denied the people the access to get counted, thus affecting the chances of increasing the number of the people to be counted in the areas.

Information gathered from the 2008 Census has it that the total population of the entire region was 509,287, which translates to the number of people living in the 5 counties of Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Grand Kru, Sinoe and Maryland Counties. A breakdown of this figure shows that Grand Gedeh has 125,258 people, River Gee 86,789, Maryland 136,936, while Grand Kru and Sinoe counties have 57,913 and 102,391respectfully.

It was expected that the number could be increased during the ensuing exercise but with the region witnessing one of the heaviest rainfall in recent time which has also affected the road conditions, the possibility of most of their people in other counties especially in Montserrado County travelling home to be counted in a matter of few weeks seem to be remote and the consequences could be the less attention from development planners from government, thus eluding them further of socioeconomic initiatives that will alleviate the untold sufferings in the area.

The fear of the citizens that other counties may benefit from the huge numerical strength of Some Southeasterners who may stay where they are currently and be counted there heightened over the weekend when some indigenes of one of the South eastern counties met at a well attended meeting last week to deliberate on the strategies to be adopted to boost their population through the ensuing national census.

They were shocked that after a survey committee appointed by them returned with the information that a district in the county may lose as much as 3,000 of its citizens living in selected communities in Monrovia and if properly counted on the average the county may lose up to 20,000 of her citizens to Montserrado County if measures are not taken to have the said persons, if not all transported to the county during the census period.

“This is the shocking news we got that our people are in Monrovia with this big number and who are not willing to return home. We told them it will not be good for us, we need to find a way to get most of them to the county and register so that we too will have a stake in this country when the other people with a large population are talking”, Winston Teah III, Secretary of the Survey committee said.

The Analyst in a survey conducted last week revealed that densely populated slum communities like West point, Clara Town, New Kru Town and Logan Town are heavily populated by citizens from the Southeast, most of whom were born here and have not gone home because either their parents did not take them there or they have just adopted Montserrado as their original county. Also some others, most of the elderly who came to Montserrado County did not return home during their productive years and now in the 60’s and 70’s they have decided to stay and spend the rest of their lives in Montserrado..

Checks further by The Analyst have it that by way of the 2008 Census, West Point, a slum community in Monrovia with about 90% of the inhabitants being Southeasterners, has a population of about 75,000 which is more than the entire population of Grand Kru with 57,913 persons.

“So we are losing this kind of huge number to Montserrado alone. I am not talking about the other counties where our people are, made the place their home and have decided not to come back to the Southeastern. But we can still try to get a good number of them to come home and be counted even if it has to be just for a day and they can return wherever they came from. We need the numbers for development purpose”, a middle aged man who simply refers to himself as Tarpeh and a forerunner for a committee drumming up awareness for South Easterners to return home said last night.

Reports available to this paper have it that top politicians who are interested in contesting for electoral positions are piling up pressure on officials from the region to find means of getting more people in the various counties to register during the census which will not only increase the population of the region but also increase the chances of more electoral districts to be created because the outcome of this year’s census will determine whether more electoral districts will be created in some places or not.

 While there has not been a regional consensus for the Southeasterners to take a collective approach to get citizens back in the region to register, some other counties have started to map up strategies to encourage their citizens to return home and be counted. Last week, the Legislative Caucus of Grand Gedeh County convened a citizen interactive meeting to discuss various  issues affecting the county, one of which was the need to mobilize Grand Gedeans to return in their numbers to be part and parcel of the exercise.

Modalities are said to be fashioned out and some of the citizens who spoke to The Analyst said that during the 2008 exercise most of the citizens were out of the country, especially in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire where they took refuge during the brutal civil war. “Since that time, many of our people returned home spontaneously and that also included those who returned from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and even in the various counties especially Montserrado County. So this other census will come closer to the reality of how many persons are living in Grand Gedeh County”, Gaye Sampson Jr, a public school teacher said.

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