You are campaigning for election as senator for Grand Gedeh County, the home of the first indigenous citizen-president of our nation. That which you seek from the People of the County is a Position of Leadership – enlightened, committed, courageous, open, rational, free and fair but decisive, available and reachable, with dedication to the principles of classical democracy, under the rule of law.
The person – man or woman – chosen to occupy this Position of Leadership will be a member of the Grand Gedeh County Delegation to the National Legislature, the traditional County Legislative Caucus, representing and, indeed, be the Voice of Grand Gedeh County and its People. As such, the person chosen must possess impeccable character, integrity, maturity, stature, training/experience, demonstrate willingness/ability for cooperation, coordination and unity of purpose. The individual chosen must be a listener to counsel, respects, entertain the views of others and opposition, with the knowledge that he/she, the senator, is a servant of the People of Grand Gedeh County.
Most importantly, the next senator of Grand Gedeh County must consult and report, periodically, to and act diligently as the socio-economic and political Voice of the County, dedication, loyalty and patriotism to the County and, indeed, the Republic of Liberia.
In the light of the foregoing Requirements, we present, briefly, Grand Gedeh County as it exists today:
One of the fifteen political, administrative sub-divisions of the nation and, also, one of the vibrant, five counties of the nation’s Southeast, Grand Gedeh County is bounded on the northeast and east by the Cavalla River which forms the boundary between the Republic and La Cote d’Ivoire; on the west by the Cestos River, the boundary between Nimba County and Grand Gedeh County; and on the south by Sinoe and River Gee Counties.
The County, with a population of 126,146 (2008) lies in the rich-soiled, flood-plains and valleys of several rivers – the Cavalla, from its northeast source to its southern entry into the Atlantic; the Cestos, on the west; the Duogbeh, in the central plains and River Gee in the southeast – with many creeks and streams.
According to Oral and written history, the Kwa-speaking peoples, of which the ethnic Krahn of Grand Gedeh County is an integral part, migrated from the East/Northeast – the “Ivory Coast”, present-day La Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, etc., etc. They migrated Southwest in search of socio-cultural, economic, political and religious freedom; fertile soil and water for settlement and farming; and forest for hunting and timber. For, these tribespeople were and are farmers and hunters.
Their leaders were brave, fabled and legendary warriors/fighters who fought diligently to protect their rights, homes and families, imbued with humankind’s enduring quest for justice, freedom, equal treatment, honor, respect for the dignity of the human person, with mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. Indeed, the Krahn-speaking people of modern, Grand Gedeh County are descendants of brave and legendary warriors; they inherited the traits and principles of classical, liberal democratic thought and practice. To the Krahn citizen, respect of and obedience to law; respect for experience, age and wisdom of elders; and respect for and obedience to authority are cardinal virtues for successful, democratic society.
II. The County at War With Itself
Grand Gedeh County, however, is at war with itself. One of the major, recognized political/administrative sub-divisions of the nation and home of the Krahn, Mandingo and several other ethnic groups; the county of the Late, Paramount Chiefs and Legendary Leaders as Beddah Beh, Kpah Garley, Flah Tofoeh, Bargblor; Gbaryono Barwu, Blayee Jeddah; Sherow Toe andCharlie Gwein, the socio-cultural and political icons who, with vision, courage and dedication, shaped the destiny of modern, Grand Gedeh County, is at war with itself; yes, the socio-cultural, political entity and ancestral home of the Krahn People, is breaking at the seams due to graft, greed and dishonesty (corruption); division, jealousy, rivalry, fear, in-fighting, power-plays, abuse of power, incompetence, and withdrawal among, by and between elected and appointed officials of the county.
This condition, at home at the County Capital, is compounded by the shameful disunity, power-plays, antagonism, rivalry, in-attendance to policy issues, absence of consensus and consultation of constituents, dis-organization, also fear, incompetence, concerns only with cars, salary allowance, foreign travels among, by and between members of the Grand Gedeh County Legislative Delegation. One of the senior members of the County Delegation declared that he is not member of the County Legislative Caucus and, therefore, does not consult or cooperate/coordinate. The same member, also, declared that “there is a leadership vacuum in the county”.
III. Poverty, Hunger, Disease . . .
Meanwhile, the majority of the county population – the body politic or voting-age citizens – is poor (uninformed on the political issues – the application or use of votes to secure collective benefits), relatively illiterate, hungry and, more often than not, sell votes to the highest candidate-bidder for personal, individual survival. The appointed, county official or “elected” lawmaker-candidate for re-election knows and exploits this condition. This, in our county, is “savvy” politics, emulated by the young, future leaders of the county and nation.
The overwhelming population of the county lives in abject poverty, hunger, and disease; some of the citizens and patients die of curable ailments because nearby or available clinics or hospitals are without approved drugs and medications, poorly-staffed and inefficient/ineffective operations. Besides, transportation in the county (including to and from the “hospitals” or clinics) is a major impediment. In fact, there are no roads, transport and communication facilities in the small county; no social and economic services to enable the people to engage, at least, in traditional, subsistence agriculture. Given this prevailing condition, there is no production of rice, the nation’s and county’s staple food. Traders in the villages and in the county capital city of Zwedru do brisk, successful business in rice, cooking oil and several, tropical food items imported from other lands, although there is more land in the county than there are people.
In the context of this life-threatening, local condition, the NGO approach, a recent innovation and foreign-aid policy revolution is a joke. For, the people of Grand Gedeh County, the NGOs have changed little or nothing.
The over-all, painful result has been and is massive migration of the residents from the towns and villages with some to the county, capital city of Zwedru, without the skills necessary for urban survival. This condition created and continues to create a source for recruitment of the unemployed, hungry and angered young people for drug-dealing, abuse and high crime; other young, able-bodied men and their wives end up in illicit mining, gold camps in the forests to earn a hand-to-mouth, living-income and children left with aged grandparents unable to relocate from some villages without schools for these children. Therefore, it is highly likely that these children, born in ignorance, disease and abject poverty, will live in ignorance, disease and abject poverty and, will die in ignorance, disease, and abject poverty.
IV. The County Development
A. The Context
Like all other Political Sub-Divisions of the nation, Grand Gedeh County suffered a devastating, near-total destruction of its political and economic infrastructure, including its socio-cultural fabric and foundation. Moreover, the city of Zwedru, the present, county Capital and former capital city of the-then Eastern Province, one of the most developed, highly-populated and thriving cities of the Southeast, was laid in ruins, including several towns and villages, during the nightmare of the civil war. We note these painful developments of our past history, mindful of the adage that “those who ignore the lessons of history – successes and failures – are likely to repeat them”, especially, the failures.
B. Political Power
Political power, in general, is the right, authority and ability to administer the affairs of an organized, political community (Grand Gedeh County, in this case) through the exercise of that power. In a democratic community like ours, political power is the absolute, sovereign authority given by a sovereign people. Political power, therefore, resides in and originates from the people – the lawful citizens of a political community – who reserve the right and authority to call their political leaders in check. Knowledge of rational use of political power or the factors that determine the rational use, awarding or giving of political power by citizens of a political community had been, and is, a critical problem throughout human history, particularly, in a political community in which an overwhelming majority of the voters or “body politic” is economically poor, un-informed, un-educated on the issues (as in our case of the county) and lacks the courage and/or the ability to speak out.
The factors are (a), Knowledge of that which is in one’s individual and collective, community best interest; (b), Knowledge of who is servant or master – elector or elected; (c), Relevant qualifications of individuals seeking/holding political power; and (d), Ability to demand information, periodically, on the activities of political power holders.
In the case of Grand Gedeh County, there has been and is lack or absence of all of the above. For, the overwhelming majority of the citizens or the “body politic” of Grand Gedeh County is economically poor and un-informed on the modern, critical issues of political decision-making.
C. County Government
The development – social, economic and political – of a political community is the primary responsibility of the government of that community which, in our case, is the government of Grand Gedeh County with initial, periodic, budgeted finance capital from the national government. Complementary to this capital will be the benefits of the Gedeh-Putu Mountain investment, very important source of revenue for county development. The recent, mandated review of the Gedeh-Putu Mountain Mining Development Agreement (MDA) is intended to familiarize the Grand Gedeh County Government and the people with the details, in the effort to maximize benefits from the investment.
Grand Gedeh County development – indeed, the socio-economic and political development of a political community – begins with education/information and transport/communications. At this time, Grand Gedeh County stands in dire need of all of the above. However, with the recent appointment of a board of trustees for the Grand Gedeh County Community College, there is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully, to energize the tasks and confront the challenges of higher education for all citizens of Grand Gedeh County and other Liberians in our borders.
Transport/communications (by all-weather roads/highways) facilitate not only mass-movement of people, but also effective/efficient production and exchange of goods and services which, in turn, facilitates industrial, agricultural development, inter-intra-county, national and international trade and commerce. But, because of the absence or lack of this necessary infrastructure for county development, there is the critical need for priority, policy attention to construction of all-weather roads/highways linking all three districts and major cities, towns and villages in the county. Meanwhile, Grand Gedeh County is faced with rapid population growth, urbanization/migration and consumption without production. The Gedeh-Putu Mountain Investment in the county is positioned and suited to provide additional source of financial capital empowerment which will enable Grand Gedeh County citizens to engage in business and other economic activities.
V. Efficient/Effective & Transparent Governance
Our research shows that county administrations, nationwide, are saddled with policy contradictions and confusions due to administrative decisions and policies made and dispensed by bureaucrats sitting in Monrovia, creating more and more new sub-structures such as clan and paramount chiefdoms, townships, administrative and statutory districts, in addition to existing sub-structures created by ancient, Liberia Law governing Hinterland Liberia, without the benefit of current, research information.
In her recent, Annual Message delivered on January 28, 2013, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf drew national attention to this disabling condition when she observed that “. . . the challenges of the Decentralization Policy . . . the present local (in the counties) governance structures are bloated, and difficult to manage. For example, there are more than 149 cities – 33 in Sinoe (County) . . . 93 Administrative Districts; 251 Paramount Chiefs; more than 689 Clan Chiefs; 1,410 General Town Chiefs; and 250 Township Commissioners. The government has to deliver services to more than 16,000 Towns and Villages. As if these statistics were not daunting enough, the boundaries of all these localities overlap, leading to confusion over jurisdiction and administrative authority . . .” The negative impact or consequences of these socio-economic and political, public policy confusions are numerous and devastating. Therefore, Grand Gedeh County Government must guard against this intrusion.
VI. Elements of County Development
Given the prevailing, Unitary structure of our national government with all administrative, economic and political power rigidly centralized in and dispensed from Monrovia, despite the declared policy of National Decentralization & Local Governance for efficient/effective and transparent governance and delivery of socio-economic and political services, the county government should and must be lean (consistent with populations of its sub-structures), strong, dedicated and competent.
A. The Economy
No county can become truly prosperous without a sustained development and expansion of its economy – Education, transportation/communication, agriculture, industrial development, production, distribution and exchange of goods and services or trade & commerce. Located and situated in the rich, 300-mile, alluvium flood-plained valley of the western bank of the Cavalla River, Grand Gedeh County is endowed, by nature, with enormous, natural resources, led by the great Gedeh-Putu Mountain, a potential source of county revenue for economic development and growth, with a great pool of human resource of trained/experienced and trainable citizens.
Trade, Commerce and Communications
The County Capital, Zwedru, is strategically located at the “hub” or center of the Southeast’s network of communication and trade routes, bordering on the Republic of La Cote d’Ivoire. Zwedru is linked by roads (old, out-dated “paths”) to, almost, all major cities, towns, and villages of the Southeastern Region’s five counties of Sinoe, Grand Kru, River Gee and Maryland, including the cities, towns and villages of Gblor Dialla, Tappita, Gray and Ganta, in the neighboring Nimba County, and beyond to Gbanga, Bong County and Monrovia, the nation’s Capital .
A comprehensive network of trade, commerce and communication routes is critical to the success of regional/national as well as international trade and commerce. In this connection, it is very important that modern, all-weather, safe, efficient/effective roads/highways system, linking all Grand Gedeh county district headquarters, major cities trade centers, towns and villages be undertaken as a major priority. In Grand Gedeh County, it is compelling that we link Zwedru with La Cote d’Ivoire by all-weather roads (a), from Toe Town to Toulepleau; (b), by bridges over the Cavalla at Tuzon; and (c), over the Cavalla at Monsua Town in Tchien Zonny, to facilitate and improve trade, commerce and travel to and from Guiglo and beyond in La Cote d’Ivoire.
Agriculture is not new in Grand Gedeh County. It has been, throughout history, the county’s major economic activity. Agriculture is, should or will be the reasonable, primary, economic rebirth to be followed by industrial development and, thus, form the base or foundation of the county’s modern economy. For sustainable, economic development and growth of agriculture, Grand Gedeh County possesses the major, natural (and human) resources necessary for successful achievement.
For, as indicated earlier, the County lies in the rich-soil valleys of several rivers – the Cavalla, from its northeast source to its southern entry into the Atlantic; the Cestos, on the northwest; the Duogbeh in the central plains, and River Gee in the Southeast – with many creeks and streams rich in several species of fish, suitable for the establishment of fishing enterprises, including on-land fish farming as well as mini- and major-hydro electric power, generating plants.
Properly organized and efficiently/effectively managed, agricultural development will, eventually, make Grand Gedeh County, indeed the nation, not only food-sufficient and food-secured, but also produce varieties of agricultural commodities and by-products for export trade. It is our (Council of Elders’) responsibility to provide the enlightened leadership to encourage and support agricultural enterprises to grow and produce the following, tropical products:
Rice, Cassava, Yams, Eddoes, Sweet Potatoes, Ground Peas (Pea Nuts), Cocoa, Oil Palm, Oranges, Grape Fruit, Leaf Lettuce, Onions, Cucumbers, Papaya (Pawpaw), Banana, Plantain, Coffee, Pepper, Pineapple, Beef Cows, Goat, Pigs, Poultry, Fish-Farms & Fishery, Tomato, Corn, Cabbage, etc. , etc.
Again, the alluvium, flood-plain valleys of the Cavalla River, the alluvium, flood-plains of other rivers and creeks provide Grand Gedeh County with deposits of gold and diamond, and an excellent, potential opportunity to improve and develop its historic gold and diamond mining industry. There is, also, the great, fabled, iron ore-rich Gedeh-Putu Mountain. This is an asset of enormous potential for economic potential.