WHEN PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON Sirleaf was elected to the top job as the nation’s chief executive, they came on bended knees, pleading to fix the hydro at no expense to the government because they realized that it would be an impediment to our national development. The production of electricity then was virtually nil.
THE MOUNT COFFEE HYDRO DAM was built in 1966. In 1963, the Liberian government received a loan from the World Bank to develop a US$24.3 million hydroelectric project, according to Wikipedia. Work commenced the following year and in 1966, the country experienced and enjoyed its first taste of hydroelectric power.
THAT ENJOYMENT CONTINUED TILL the 1990s when, it is said, soldiers of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), bombed and looted the hydro.
There was/is some level of believability as a former member of Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP) had a fiery exchange with of the commissioners of during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) during hearings years back at the Centennial memorial Pavilion.
FOR A COUNTRY THEN JUST coming out of a brutal and devastating civil war, electricity was and still remains the key to economic growth, the spurring of development and also the accelerating of the private sector which is very essential in the economic boom of any nation.
IF THE FREE ZONES AND OTHER areas envisaged by former President William R. Tolbert Jr., to be the industrial and economic hub of Liberia for which encroachers homes were recently demolished by the taskforce led by Mary Broh, it was important for us to have had a hydro built giving out far more amount of megawatts than the recent one which we are now celebrating because, certainly, Santa did not early to warrant this celebration.
IN GUINEA, OUR FRIENDS WHOSE offer we refused built the Kaleta Dam for US$526 million and its capacity is 240 MW. Out of that amount, 75% was provided by their bank and 25% was provided by the Guinean government.
THEY HAD PROMISED TO REBUILD the hydro anew and far beyond its prewar levels and its outage of megawatts in electricity would have been far more than what it was during the so-called normal days.
THEIR EFFORTS, HOWEVER, WERE spurned as it got caught in the geo-political playbook and Liberia, being of no progressive mindset, missed out on this great opportunity for the revival and resuscitation of its private sector.
A VISIT THEN FROM A FEMALE of high rank then and her remark that they would do the job damaged the journey of the long walk to electricity. It would take ten years for such a promise to come true with a small output.
THE COST OF THIS PROJECT is a whopping US$375 million and it just can’t meet the needs of Monrovia alone, even with back up support of the West African Power Project that still isn’t enough. Are we not going to have industries and if homes in Nimba are not thoroughly lit up, can it keep the wheels of the industries turning?
WHAT DID THE GUINEAN government get right that we didn’t? Do they think better or faster than us? Are we only thinking for today and not the future? How do see ourselves becoming like Rwanda who, like us, came out of brutal crises but today they have become the postal child of the success of a postwar country. What’s our obsession with getting back to “normal days” when we should be furthering for better days.
AND SO THEY GATHERED in their droves to turn on the big light for tomorrow at the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant in where even the road which leads there via the township of Louisiana is not even paved.
BUT LEST WE KEEP OUR mouths shut because American political leader, Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) advised us: “In the republic of mediocrity, genius is dangerous.”