Internal Minister Dr. Tokpah Wants Local Chiefs to Encourage Farming
Gbarpolu County – Internal Affairs Minister, Henrique Tokpah, says chiefs of Gbarpolu County must recall the significant impact farming had on the country and should now focus their local administration attention on encouraging farming, but added that the next elected leadership in 2017 will determine the respect chiefs will enjoyed.
Dr. Tokpa was speaking in Bopolu City over the weekend during what is being reported as an acquaintance tour of the county.
Outlining the purpose of his first visit to the county as Internal Affairs Minister (MIA), Dr. Tokpa said he was in Gbarpolu for citizens to know him, interact with him as well as ask him some questions about the functionality of the MIA.
The Interior Minister called Paramount chiefs during a meeting in the Bopolu City Hall to restore their self-respect by engaging in agriculture in their various chiefdoms throughout the county, adding that chiefs must think about the days before the outbreak of the first Liberian civil war’.
“I want you to think about those days; about your yearly communion farming,” Dr. Tokpa pointed out.
“Think about the ways you used to mobilize the locals to come together to provide services for their own communities (and) about the kind of respect people had for you-those days are no more in some of our chiefdoms.”
According a Local Voices Liberia reporter in the county, the former Cuttington University President further called on local leaders to think about the past and asked themselves ‘what has lost or is actually missing in the local administration?’
Local Government Act Debate
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her first term pointed out the importance of decentralizing central government which includes de-concentrating public services and giving administrative powers to county superintendents and local chiefs.
But there have been heated debates sparking within the political climate of Liberia about Liberia’s local government act when Lawmakers and chiefs attending a recent consultation raised serious concern about the implementation of the Local Governance Policy.
One contentious issue is the restructuring of cities in various counties according to the require standards and the election of superintendents, as some of the locals and lawmakers see the process as a witch-hunt. Many chiefs are wary about maintaining their statutory responsibilities and respect from locals in their control areas once the bill is enacted.
And Dr. Tokpa also used his visit to inform the citizens about the Local Government Act, saying: “The Local Government Act is now with your Lawmakers.
That law when passed, Local leaders-DC, Clan chiefs, General town Chiefs, Paramount Chiefs all will be elected including superintendents”. He pleaded with chiefs to influence their county lawmakers to pass the Local Government Act.
‘Contribute Meaningfully’ – Dr. Tokpa
Meanwhile, In Gbarpolu County, Minister Tokpa said if chiefs must be respected and even contribute meaningfully to the sustainable development of the country, they must return to agriculture activities by reactivating communion farming, stressing that proceeds from these initiatives shall be used to develop community which will complement national government efforts as well.
The MIA Boss emphasized that cooperative farming and agri-business are the fastest ways for developing a country but he pointed out the essence of producing food I order to foster food security.
“I am not asking you to get in rubber business, because the price of rubber has dropped. Iron ore price has also decreased – those were some major sources of government income,” he informed the local chiefs. “But you can grow cocoa or Oil Palm and in 4-5 years’ time, you will be your own boss.”
Dr. Tokpa Talks Politics
Dr. Tokpa, who contested in the 2014 Senatorial elections in Bong County, is rumor to be on the list of politicians being consider as running mate to Vice President and Unity Party’s Standard Bearer, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai.
Speaking to the chiefs he asserted that their respect will be restored once again as chiefs within the local government depending on who will come to power during the 2017 general and presidential elections.
The MIA boss visit to the Western region of the country, some say, is intended to build his popularity amongst the local government which will in return improve his popularity ahead the UP selection of its Vice Standard bearer.
Locals Flag Concerns
Many locals speaking to Local Voices Liberia are concern about the development challenges of Gbarpolu with some calling for central government’s intervention.
Many chiefs, governor, commissioners, and elders from six administrative districts attending the meeting expressed excitement for the Minister’s visit citizens but also expressed some concerns.
Emmanuel Gbessay, a resident of Bopulo said: “My concern is there is no road, no market for local products. For example in Belle district, people produced banana, eat sme and the rest get rotten. What is the government doing to build roads”?
Responding, Dr. Topka said: “Central government is building some roads. Partners are also helping us and that is one of the reasons the County Development Fund (CDF) is intended for. So, the Sup has informed me that they are working towards that area”.
Meanwhile, County Superintendent, Armah Sarnor, disclosed to the gathering that the security of the county is now upon the shoulder of the joint security, claiming that Gbarpolu is safe and stable.
“We have established security councils in the six administrative districts and they are working along with our LNP. Also our District Commissioners will soon be empowered through our County Development Funds.”
Editor’s Note: This story was written in collaboration with Local Voices Liberia media network. Local Voices is a network of Liberian journalists from across the 15 counties working to lift the stories that are underreported by using its platform www.localvoicesliberia.com