Liberia: Amid Heavy Rains and Flooding, New Kru Town Residents Vent Anger and Frustration; Say No Sea Defense, No Votes in 2023
MONROVIA – Ahead of the 2023 general and presidential elections in Liberia, several aggrieved sea erosion victims in the densely populated Borough of New Kru Town have threatened to shock the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) by voting President George Manneh Weah out of power if government fails to guarantee their survival, livelihood, and properties, which are being endangered by the Atlantic Ocean.
Founded in 1916, the Borough of New Kru Town is located on Bushrod Island, in electoral district # 16 outside Monrovia.
Since his entry into politics in 2005, President Weah and his Representative and Senatorial candidates who have contested on the CDC ticket, received the highest number of votes ahead of candidates of other political parties during elections in the country
But it appears that his supporters seem to be disenchanted and may not align with his popular “party mandate” if government fails to continue the coastal defense project in an effective and efficient manner.
In July 2018, the Liberian leader launched the US$2m project to help address consistent sea erosion, displacement and loss of properties in the Borough.
But speaking in an interview with FrontPageAfrica on Tuesday, May 24, the aggrieved sea erosion victims complained that they normally have sleepless nights as a result of the roaring ocean.
Lesa Kromah, 53, has resided in the Florida community in the Borough for over ten years. His home has been destroyed by the overflow of the Atlantic Ocean countless number of times.
He recalled that last year, a school and medical center along with scores of other homes were also destroyed.
He added that though some residents exerted efforts to return during the dry season to reconstruct their homes, their structures still remain threaten as a result of the overflowing of the ocean into their communities.
“For the past time, the sea came and broke down houses and a church. Where we are standing, there were houses. In front there, there were clinic and school; and a ten-bedroom house was there. But the sea wiped them away. The government came and said they were going to help us. Dixon Seeboe (Representative) came along with Wilson Tarpeh to place some rocks here to stop the water but it only stopped here”.
“Dixon Seeboe fooled the people on that other side that he was going to bring rocks and the people even staged protests and they were stopping in school buildings. If you go over there-from yesterday to today, that place is empty because the sea has disturbed the people”.
Residents living around the coastal belt in the Borough of New Kru Town do not get enough sleep as compare to other citizens residing across the country.
They are constrained to either go to bed earlier, or avoid going into “deep sleep” for fear that their lives may be taken away and properties damaged due to the intensity of the ocean.
“We are living in fear because, we sometimes come outside in the night to watch and see if the sea is vexed”, Kromah maintained.
Coastal defense project abandoned?
Austin L. Seton, 50, is a pioneer of the Borough. He claimed to be a fan and supporter of President Weah for about 35 years.
“I am afraid because, I do not sleep in peace. I am so disappointed because, the President is a native people President. He has seen and experienced a lot and we expect him to do more. For the blocking of the sea, the government fooled us”, he stated.
He observed that the coastal defense project was reported intended to benefit the five communities around the coastline in the area.
He pointed out that out of the five communities specified, only two communities benefitted including Fundaye and Colonel West
He claimed that residents of Florida, Lagoon and Popo Beach communities have not benefitted from the project up to present.
“I have met my Representative so many times and he’s always telling me that we should bear it and he’s talking to the government. The engineers told us that January of this year the people were going to be back to start the project. But since then, we can’t see them. I met the Representative again and he’s always telling us that the people will start the work”, Seton stated.
He indicated that the lives and properties of residents of the remaining communities are at risk due to government delay to complete the project.
“The only thing we want the President to do for the people of New Kru Town is to please come and let his government do something or else, the sea will continue to carry our homes”.
Seton observed that despite their passionate plea, the works being done by those hired to execute the project are substandard.
According to him, coastal defense projects initiated in other countries across the African continent are far expensive and better as compare to just the simple dumping of rocks on the coastal line to prevent erosion, noting that, “the contractors here are playing fun with our government”.
He vowed not to trend the path of other aggrieved partisans of the CDC to vote against President Weah come 2023.
“Everybody has their mind. But for me, I am a CDCian and I will forever remain a CDCian even if the sea carries my house and nothing can change it”.
The residents are blaming the snail pace and the selective manner and form in which the abandoned coastal defense project is ongoing to their poor-representation at the Capitol Building in Monrovia.
They noted that despite the multiple efforts applied to encourage their lawmaker Dixon Seeboe to mount more pressure on the government to guarantee their survival and livelihood, nothing has been done to resume the project.
“We don’t even know that we get Representative because the government is not even thinking about the things they said they will do for the community” Kromah added.
“Our minds are not even set right now and we are not to our senses because anything can happen. Whenever I am sleeping, I can be thinking that I am in the sea”, mother Mary Boyonneh, 49, stated.
She claimed that the current economic crisis in the nation compels her to remain in the vicinity.
She noted that she and her respective family members do not want to leave and reside in the cold elsewhere and as such, government should “settle and find place” for the victims until the situation is addressed.
Madam Boyonneh maintained that in the wake of the Coronavirus and other illnesses, the victims would be more expose to danger if they continue to move from one place to another.
“I am disappointed because when they say CDCian, I am one of them. I walked from here to go in town to go and wait for (President) George Weah and my feet having problem today. I don’t even want to hear about CDC now”.
She wants the Liberian leader to pay a visit in the area and take the lead to finding lasting solutions.
“I want George Weah himself to walk here and come see the ocean because, this is his stronghold and he is not a stranger here”.
No to ration
Most often, victims of sea erosion, flood or fire disaster are given food and non-food items as means of encouraging them to “wipe their tears” in the midst of a national phenomenon or incident.
Opposition and other politicians from the ruling party usually capitalize on their situations to win their votes during electioneering periods.
They trooped in one after the other donating mattresses, few cups or bags of rice, and other sanitary materials to the victims. At times, the donations from the highest bidders win the minds of the victimized electorates at the polls.
But this time around, residents of the Borough have a second thought.
They vowed not to accept donations until lasting solutions are put in place to address their plights.
“No, we don’t want rice or food. We want to see development to block the sea. Only food and mattresses the government can give us here; but we don’t need it anymore” Kromah emphasized.
“Most of the rocks have already been covered by the sand. From now to August if you come back here, we will not be standing here and the houses that you are seeing today, you will not be able to see it. The sea has already eaten about 85% of the land around the coast”, Sarwee Kumeh, 30 noted.
He said citizens are sick and tired of the “little token” that is normally given to them by government and others whenever they are victimized.
“I have lived in the Borough all my life and I am not thinking about leaving from here now. But if the government can give me a good sustainable package, I can leave and go somewhere”, Kumeh added.
He continued: “I was about 100 miles away from the ocean. But for now, I am around 15 feet to the ocean and we are in the rainy season right now. I am worried”.
Kumeh vowed to accept, with a “sympathetic mind” any ration or assorted items that would be given to sea erosion victims by the government due to the harsh economic constraints in the country.
Frustration and disappointment
Many of them are frustrated and disappointed over their decision taken in 2017 to canvass and vote for their kinsmen, George Weah as President. They claimed that they are not receiving the fruitful results or dividends.
“I voted for George Weah and felt that he was going to change things. He is a leader but his followers or people he put in big, big positions are the ones spoiling his government today and so, he should think wisely”, Kromah added.
He observed that these sycophants surrounding the Liberian president continue to put him under the impression that “everything is alright”, but, according to him, “nothing is alright in Liberia even for the youth”.
“The only thing youth can do in this country is to ‘get high (smoke drugs) and ride kehkeh (commercial tricycles) or motorbikes” Kromah maintained.
Susan Moore, 32, stated: “I am very angry because the sea is carrying our places. We are getting homeless and we can’t continue to be voting for people and we can’t get sleeping place. I am staying in a six-bedroom house and see it-pretty soon it will be affected”.
Like others, she expressed disappointment over the alleged failure of Representative Seeboe to intensify efforts to ensure the resumption of the coastal defense project.
“We tried calling him but he can’t come to our calls. We need our houses to be here and we don’t want to go in different districts. I can buy my own food and I don’t want rice. We can’t buy rocks and we want the rocks and not food. Or else, if we can’t get the rocks, because we are getting homeless every day, we will not vote”, Susan added.
Sarah Nagbe, 70, has lived in the Borough for the past 35 years.
She pointed out she and others who voted President Weah in 2017 are being mocked on a daily basis due to the current situation that they are encountering.
“I had been behind George Weah from PHP from 2005 up to this time. I came here because of my mother business and the sea coming to carry her house. She is not feeling well. They told us that they were bringing the rocks but they can’t come” Madam Welleh Gibson, 53, a choir member in the Georgia Patten United Methodist Church. noted.
Madam Gibson maintained that though she and the President are members of the same church, she will act the other way come 2023 if the ocean wipes away the six bedroom-house of her ailing mother
She continued: “I am a bonafide CDCian and when they say who love George Weah? Da me here. But if he let my ma (mother) house to go because the sea is almost there, I can’t vote for him in 2023-I swear to my dead pa (father) under this ground”.
NDMA not around
The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) is the agency of the Liberian government responsible to provide relief to victims of disasters including flood, sea erosion, and fire incident, among others.
Their mission is to apply and effectively implement all legal and institutional frameworks and innovative technological approaches to reduce national and local community vulnerabilities and disaster risks within the context of sustainable development.
“No, I have not seen them and I don’t even know we have NDMA in Liberia or in the government”, Kromah disclosed.
The residents of the Borough are claiming that the harsh economic constraints cannot permit them to leave their ancestral homes in the Borough to go elsewhere to start a living.
Most of them are unemployed and as such, they survived from rental fees being paid by occupants of their respective houses to cater to them and their respective family members.
During the rainy season, rooms around the coastal belt are easier to find because many tenants normally vacate the area for elsewhere due to the erosion.
For the sake of having a suitable place to lay their heads, the locals are constrained to go into their savings or “hustle” for money to carry out major rehabilitation on their dilapidated homes or shacks that have been destroyed by the erosion.
The Atlantic Ocean is getting “rough” as a result of the rising of the tides and the intensity of the rainy season. But the locals are not sitting back to allow themselves to be displaced without sounding an early caveat to the government.
With their survival and livelihood being threatened in the wake of disappointment and frustrations due to the failure of the government to fulfill their expectations and improve their living conditions, residents of the Borough of New Kru Town will go down in history if they stand by their decision to vote against President Weah, who has been their favorite in past elections since the end of the country’s brutal civil conflicts.
Up to present, concrete reasons have not been given by the government for the delay in the full completion of the project in the slum Borough of New Kru Town on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia.