The National Elections Commission or NEC, responsible to conduct presidential and legislative elections in Liberia has since declared political campaign officially opened, allowing political parties and independent candidates to seek votes of electorate, but the biggest question left unanswered: Is Liberia’s Executive Mansion, official home of the Presidency ready to accommodate whoever emerges as President?
Liberians received with shocks news of a fire disaster at the Executive Mansion on 26 July 2006 which coincided with the country’s 159th Independence Day celebration.
The fire engulfed the fourth floor of the Mansion in the presence of three West African Presidents, including former President John Kuffour of Ghana, who had come to celebrate with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the time, barely seven months into her first term of office.
Subsequent investigation launched by the Sirleaf Administration with support from foreign experts from the United Nations, America and findings from Johannesburg laboratory, South Africa pointed to “electrical fault” as the cause of the fire incident, which left no casualty.
President Sirleaf eventually vacated the Executive Mansion and relocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill, where she has ran her government up to now with the Mansion yet to be completely renovated and ready for use.
However, several Liberians, who spoke to this paper on 19 August expressed apprehension whether the next elected government of the country would be seated in the Executive Mansion.
57-year-old Jimmy Barcoon of Todee District, Montserrado County; Mrs. Julia Mamie Abaco of Po River, Bomi County, and Ms. Celia Gibson Mark, among others, say since the government pronounced that renovation work was being carried out to restore the building to normalcy, nothing has been heard about progress made or whether it is completed and ready to host the next elected government in 2018.
According to them, the situation is worrisome, particularly to Liberians, who obtained their voter cards and are eager to elect a new President come October and members of the House of Representatives to manage the affairs of state for the next six years.
They stress that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is under obligation to inform Liberians how far work on the destroyed fourth floor of the Executive Mansion has gone, and if the building would be ready to host the next elected government.
The citizens who sounded frustrated, note that it would be a great disgrace to the country to see the next elected regime housed outside of the Executive Mansion, which is the official home of all Liberian Presidents.
When contacted, the Press Secretary to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr. Jerolinkmek M. Piah, says that if somebody wants to know whether renovation work is going on, yes. But he refers this paper to the Ministry of Public Works for details on progress of the reported renovation.
However, the Director for Public Affairs at the Ministry of Public Works Jusufu Keita, told this paper on Monday, 21 August that he doesn’t know a person within the Ministry that has technical details on the Executive Mansion renovation.
The Executive Mansion was originally constructed from 1960 to 1963. The entire project was designed and supervised by Stanley Engineering Company of Africa; and the construction contractor was Liberian Construction Corporation (LCC). The project was officially dedicated on 3rd. January 1964.
The building also has an eight-storey horizontal arch-like (semicircular) structure, constructed primarily of reinforced concrete post and lintel system, covering a total area of approximately 26,500 sq. feet.
Vertical circulation throughout the building is by means of four major staircases and six elevators. One of the elevators is solely used by the presidency and visiting dignitaries, while another one is used for freight and the rest of the other four elevators are used by the public.
By Emmanuel Mondaye-Editing by Jonathan Browne