President Sirleaf Attends Third Consultation on Liberia’s National Vision 2030 At Bentol; Also Tours Centre Songhai, Camp Sandee Ware, Hydro Plant in Montserrado

Monday, 30th November -0001
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf embarked on the third in a series of dialogues with citizens on their vision that will enhance Liberia’s development, as she continues regional consultations on the Vision 2030 Liberia Rising. Thursday’s exchange brought together hundreds of participants from Montserrado and Margibi counties. The national visioning consultation is part of the broader national reconciliation agenda and seeks answers to five important questions: Where have we come from as a nation? Where are we today? Why are we here today? Where do we want to go? And how do we get there? Addressing the participants at the Administrative Building in Bentol, President Johnson Sirleaf reminded them of a list of previous development agendas, but noted that the Vision 2030 Liberia Rising is different as it attempts to go to the depth of Liberia’s beginnings. “We are here to examine our structures and our systems that have pertained over time, to see whether they are suitable for the future Liberia that we want to see,” she said, admonishing the participants to feel free to speak openly on any long-standing historical issue that may have tended to divide Liberians. The Liberian leader hoped that through the dialogue, this vision will set a new course for the country and she called upon the participants to candidly discuss what they see as issues that have divided the country and its people, in an attempt to reconcile the nation. She urged the participants to challenge those traditional things that have kept the country divided or underdeveloped, pointing out that this was the opportunity to change the situation and to put together a long-term development agenda. The President acknowledged that all the suggestions cannot be achieved immediately, but if there is a roadmap and Government moves progressively towards the implementation of that plan over the years, it will then set the pace for the younger generation to continue on that path. Over 40 residents of the two counties intervened with their suggestions, but only a few candidly addressed the questions that had been posed. Meaningful suggestions at the dialogue included: the need to revisit the land issue; for companies operating in the country to establish factories; empowering farmers to produce more food; the need to build more technical colleges nationwide; and the need for taxes to be distributed throughout the country to ensure development in the rural areas. Other suggestions made were the need: for a single currency, the Liberian dollar; to encourage entrepreneurship; to ensure the rights of the physically challenged; for greater central government support for decentralization; to build more schools, hospitals and roads, among others. Earlier, the Superintendent of Montserrado County, Mrs. Grace Tee Kpaan, welcomed participants to Montserrado County’s capital, Bentol, and called upon all Liberians to join hands to lift Liberia. “In order to Lift Liberia, you have to be lifted as well,” she said, adding that Liberians must fix their hearts and minds to lift Liberia to higher heights. The Chairman of the Governance Commission, Dr. Amos Sawyer, also a member of the Coordinating Committee, provided an overview of the vision. He reminded the participants that the Vision 2030 Liberia Rising is a broad vision for Liberia in which Liberians will agree on the major issues and direction of the country so that when government is embarking on its development plan, they are guided by that vision, and a succeeding government can proceed from where this government leaves off. Dr. Sawyer reminded participants that one of the goals of this exercise is to empower Liberians so that they are driving the process of development. And to drive this process, he said, Liberians have to know who they are; and how to become better Liberians, and build across the various divides which includes history and war. The Chairman of the National Steering Committee, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, in introducing the members of the team, said the President had appointed them to encourage Liberians to come out and say what they want their country to look like. If you don’t say how we should get there, he stated, we will not get there. And if you don’t speak up, you’ll have only yourselves to blame. In final remarks, President Johnson Sirleaf expressed delight over the exercise, noting that it was a great experience. “We leave from here with a lot of thought, suggestions and counsel,” she said, adding that those suggestions that she can address immediately will be taken into consideration. The next two regional consultations are scheduled for southeastern Liberia later this month: in Barclayville, Grand Kru County (for the people of Maryland, Grand Kru and River Gee); and the final one in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County (for Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe). The dialogue will later continue at the district level. Visits to Centre Songhai, Camp Sandee Ware, Mt. Coffee Hydro Plant Following Thursday’s consultation, President Sirleaf visited other locations in Montserrado County, stopping along the way to meet, greet and give provisions to the local people. At the Centre Songhai Liberia Initiative, the President toured the facilities of the Rural Enterprise Development Center, which manufactures and supplies equipment for processing cassava, rice, and palm nuts, making soap from the latter. When presented with a long list of challenges facing the REDC, including the lack of water, electricity, accommodations for students and faculty, training materials, etc., the President suggested that the management prepare a project proposal, divided into phases, and she would see how to assign the relevant ministries.The President also toured a poultry farm and a piggery, and purchased some of the products produced at Center Songhai. At Camp Sandee Ware Barracks, staff of the Armed Forces Training Center held a program for the “maiden visit” of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Force of Liberia. The former VOA facility serves as the training ground for the Armed Forces of Liberia. In her remarks, President Sirleaf said it had taken her a long time to come to Camp Sandee Ware; she was happy she had made it, and was impressed by what she was seeing and the level of professionalism. The challenges facing the Camp had been carefully documented, and were being addressed by the Ministry of National Defense. Despite the shortcomings, the President observed, “you continue to be good soldiers,” and she thanked the trainers for preparing soldiers to be professionals in the AFL. A third stop was at the Mt. Coffee Hydro Plant, in White Plains, where the President inspected the structure and saw, first-hand, what will be required to make it operational. On the way back to Monrovia, the President and her entourage drove over the Caldwell Road which, when completed, will offer a more direct route to the county seat, the University of Liberia Fendall Campus, and other points.