Liberia: Presidential Candidate Hits the Grown Running in Bong, Nimba Counties
Monrovia – The standard bearer of the Liberian People’s Party (LPP), Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe embarked on a tour of Bong County, heralding a countrywide tour he has in the pipeline.
Following his unanimous election as the LPP ticket-bearer in September 2022, Cllr. Gongloe thought to present himself to the electorates as the viable alternative to lead Liberia. Also, the journeys would enable him to present to the people his Better Liberia Agenda (BLA) that has the rule of law, fighting corruption in public service and expanding the economy as its cornerstones. Above all, the voyages would afford him the opportunity to see and feel himself, the suffering people in the rural areas endure so that when he is elected President of Liberia, he would tackle the problems and relieve them of the difficulties.
By: Weah Karpeh, Contributing Writer
On arrival in towns and villages in Bong, the Counsellor was received by greeting parties of enthusiastic and jeering crowds. They roared. Acrobatic cultural dancers, singers and well-wishers streamed out, filling alleys and squares of the hamlets and boroughs he reached. The town halls, palava huts or under shady trees Cllr. Gongloe met town-folks often overflowed with very attentive audiences. Unlike other politicians who, for the sake of crowds, toot their supporters back and forth, the Integrity Icon did nothing like that. Instead, people came out in their numbers and on their own. No trucking. No ferrying. No lifting. No paid crowds.
In all, Cllr. Gongloe reached and held town halls with 37 communities. Among them were Nyanforla, Salala, Totota, Sanoyea, Gbonota, Phebe, Seinji, Gbartala, Suakoko, Youla, Belefanai, Yopea, Foequelleh, Palala, Zowienta, Gbar-pa, Botota, Gbenequelleh, Dolo’s Town, Quoipa, David Dean’s Town, Quoikapour, Yolo’s Town.
During the town halls, one word lingered from town-to-town. Folks asserted that Cllr. Gongloe was the first person running for the Presidency to personally reach their towns and villages. Others have been unable to do so but through emissaries. Therefore, they exert little or no efforts to change their situations when elected. Accordingly, they stated, he has endeared them by this singular action and modesty.
Throughout, the Standard-bearer was constant with his message that he would run an open government in which the salaries of public servants including the president, officials in the three branches of government and civil servants regardless of ranks would be publicized on State websites and in the newspapers; ensure an impartial disclosure of assets before nominees are forwarded for senate hearing. The LPP Standard-bearer informed the electorates that as strategy for preventing corruption, he will introduce for the first time in Liberian history quarterly lifestyle audits of the president, ministers and other high officials of government to ascertain the sources of probable new standards of living they take on while serving the State and if wrongdoings existed, he will dismiss them and forward them to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for full investigation and prosecution that could lead to long term prison sentences and confiscation of stolen public money. His anti-corruption strategy was met with a spontaneous cheering everywhere he went in Bong and Nimba counties, indicating an approval of his strategy and their unreserved confidence in his ability to fight corruption.
With corruption barricaded the nation, Cllr. Gongloe assured that his administration will provide free medical care for pregnant women, infants and the aged; free education from kindergarten to twelve grade – public or private school students. This package will entail the government declaring free-tuition and fees, providing copybooks, textbooks, pencils & pens, uniforms, feeding students daily nationwide and paying teachers and nurses well and regularly. These kept the LPP Standard-bearer audiences spellbound town-after-town.
Speaking of farming, Cllr. Gongloe was specific about what he will do. He declared to his audiences that the government under his watch will mechanize the sector to end the use of cutlasses and hoes to farm. Toward this end, he announced that he will reactivate farmer cooperatives across the Country and on a 15-year interest-free loan basis, give them turbans to clear their fields, plough, plant, thrash, and bag rice they would sell domestically and outside, with time.
Also, terming hunger as Liberia’s worse enemy, the incoming Commander-In-Chief stated that he will equip and deploy the Agriculture Battalion of the Armed Forces of Liberia to cultivate rice fields in each of the 15 Counties as a part of his intervention to feed the Nation. Ultimately, he said, these deliberate intrusions will scale down the growing of rubber and palm and increase the growing of rice for which he will reactivate farmer cooperatives as well as strategically station earthmoving equipment to keep the highways and feeder roads pliable year-round, stunned all and sundry. Of course, these town halls weren’t one-sided. Town stakeholders that were uncertain Cllr. Gongloe has the political will and courage to do as he says, mounted podiums to express those sentiments leading to their commitment to elect him President of Liberia.
Then came the Nimba tour. Set for fourteen, it ran for sixteen days. It started on Saturday, October 22, 2022. A whooping 106 towns – big and small Cllr. Gongloe reached and convened town hall meetings. Critics say the number is negligible knowing that Nimba has more than 700. But Gongloe believes he attained a milestone and set a very high standard that anyone aspiring for public office, especially the presidency will be obliged to meet because the electorates will demand that candidates reach their doorways, like Gongloe. The candidate said that he was reaching out to the people because he was interested in seeing the conditions under which they were living, emphasizing, you cannot solve a problem that you do not know. The Gongloe standard might force other presidential contenders to reach out to the people during campaign time.
Cllr. Gongloe’s tour took him to the major towns and villages in Nimba County including Sokopa, Kpein, Neigbahyee, Gban, Tunukpyee, Benekpalala, Gbeyee, Lao-Zao, Bunadin, Zahn-Boyee, Zahn-Bemon, Zahn-Bahnla, Blowee, Zahn-Duo, Duo-Tornwein, Kopea, Denaman. Zuluyee. Gbeiden, Kitoma, Sanniquellie, Soopea, Dahn-Lorpa, Gboa-Darvoyee, Gehwee, Tiahyee, Borsonnoh, Sehyi-Geh, Zolowee, Gba-pa, Liagbala, Kinnon, Yarmi-Gbelee, Yarmi-Karnla, Yekepa-Camp 4, New Yekepa, Sehkeinpa, Zor-Gorwee, Zor-Tappea, Zor-Goulay, Karnplay, Loelay, Kpaieplay, Lowlay, Veneyenglay and Baylehglay.
Others were Gbor-Wehplay, Gbor-Fiaplay, Geialay, Gweiplay-Bounla, Bahn, Gbor-Payee, Gbor-Kpayee, Gbor-Zayglay, Gleah, Bialatuo, Beeplay, Gbarlay New Town, Gbarlay Old Town, Gbloulay, Nyarlay, Lepula, Yao-Seblee, Gonmanplay, Yor-Butuo, Buutuo, Dianplay, Florlay, Glaarlay, Toweh’s Town, Zuatuo, Zuolay, Graie, Saoley, Beatuo, Yorpea, Blewalay, Dubuzon, Nuoblee-1, Nuoblee-2, Kparblee, Zuodru, Quepea, Gblordiala, Segbeh Town, Vahn Town, Kwendin, Camp-1, Gwah’s Town, Kpoweinm, Zekepa, Kayee, Garnwee, Gleyee-Zorpea, Blaimeh, Mehnla, Fleedin, Yansain, Gbanquoi, Tappita, Ganta, Sacleapea, Gbaryee-tro and Karnwee.
Like Bong County, everywhere Cllr. Gongloe arrived, he was besieged by admirers, supporters and those hopeful that he would transform Liberia. From the onset, signs were glaring that the Nimba tour will succeed. The Counsellor noticed and mentioned of the earliest sign in Gbahn, the hometown of Dr. Nyan Quiawon Taryor, one of the founding fathers and Vice President of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA).
Following what was our fourth town hall, the LPP Standard-bearer went to the foot of the MOJA founding VP father’s grave to pay his respect. As Cllr. Gongloe sat on the slab, rain started and ended abruptly. Some tour members took shelter nearby. But Taryor’s comrade Gongloe remained and half-soaked. For him, it was the blessing of his colleague’s late father that flowed.
Zahn-Boyee, sandwiched by Yah and St. John Rivers, was another highlight of the Nimba tour. Counsellor and team did not visit the St. John, but Yah. There, lies one of Liberia’s undocumented tourism cites. Yah’s splitting and meeting again formed an Island, serene for researchers and writers to work yet, lying idle. It is historic. Word has it that along with his key cabinet ministers, President William R. Tolbert frequented to the Island to rest making the forested-plain famous only to the bureaucrats.
The story of Zahn Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief, Jimmy Saye Dahn is remarkable and another reason the town (Zahn-Boyee) was adored. Born in 1938, the selfless exemplary Paramount Chief Dahn acquired no formal education, but he was highly respected even beyond Zahn for the way he carried himself. It is said that he befriended people that came his way. Thus, a Swede, then general manager of the LAMCO Iron ore mining company, he made friend with not only built the only motor-road to Zahn Boyee, but he also regularly visited and spent time on what he, henceforth, called “Zahn-Boyee Island”. Accompanied by town-folks and students of a bilingual (Mano and English) school, Cllr. Gongloe toured the grave of Paramount Chief Dahn as an appreciation of the selfless leadership his namesake (Saye) provided.
Then, was the famous Gbloulay. It is the sprawling hometown of respected politician, Jackson F. Doe. He indisputably won the Presidential election running on the Liberia Action Party (LAP) ticket in 1985. But the win was stolen from him by the military regime at the time.
In a town hall meeting there, Cllr. Gongloe said he considers Gbloulay the “Shrine of Nimba Politics”, and that he would complete Jackson’s project of putting in place good governance to develop Liberia. According to him, Jackson’s vision to democratize the Country was so clear that he and others vehemently campaigned to elect the farsighted public servant. But the junta denied him the chance to help transform the Country.
Gongloe ended his Gbloulay engagement with a courtesy visit to Jackson’s surviving brother, Sockor Doe. He was mourning his wife’s death; therefore, he did not attend the town hall. Seeing him was grieving. The aged has been left alone – best friend gone. His situation rekindled memory of my mother, Betty Slobert-Karpeh. She walked alone when her husband, Lower Grand Gedeh County’s Gbeapo Chiefdom Paramount Chief Joe Karpeh died in January 1985. She remained lonesome until she joined him in October 2010. We heartily wish the aged, Mr. Sockor Doe, well.
Any politician walking into Buutuo today or tomorrow would be doing so in the footsteps of the LPP Standard-bearer, Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe. The sprawling Liberia-Ivory Coast border town has a place in the history of Liberia. Until it became venue of the beginning of the civil war, little must have been about it to write. Like the entire Country, the town and its people suffered. They felt pain. They incurred human and material loses.
Unfortunately, because some of our journalists and sociological researchers hardly go places, Buutuo, where the rebellion started is not mentioned in history books. Instead, “Yor Butuo”, the small nearby town is being erroneously spotlighted. In fact, until the well-like aspirant Gongloe toured the locality, no candidates for the Presidency nor past and present Presidents of Liberia (Charles Taylor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Weah) have ever gone to Buutuo. Thanks for breaking the ice.
Lest I forget, Buutuo has rebounded and vibrant. Modern structures outweighing some in Monrovia are plentiful, lining the pothole-streets, nonetheless. Backyard gardens one can equate to plantations are commonplace, but their yields lie in waste. For example, the front of the house Cllr. Gongloe slept, littered with oranges and grapefruits that must have dropped overnight. The produce could have put money in the pockets of their growers had they been sold directly or processed into juices and traded. Overall, the bitter experience of Buutuo has past and perhaps rarely recalled.
During a town hall meeting there, Cllr. Gongloe applauded the people of Buutuo for their resilience and encouraged them to carry on in peace and harmony. He announced that his administration will build a “Buutuo Peace Museum” to memorialize the civil war and its effects when elected President. However, in terms of development, Cllr. Gongloe bemoaned the sharp contrast between Liberia and Ivory Coast. He said it was shameful that electric lights could be seen on the French side just across the Cavalla River whereas the Liberia end was dark. Even the ferry meant for the two Countries is frequently stationed on the French side where economic activities seem to flourish. For this neglect, he blamed the government that takes solace in corruption and stealing from the Nation instead of developing it.
Throughout the Nimba tour, many things fascinated the Presidential candidate. But agriculture stood out the most to him. He noticed that Nimba farmers were doing extremely well and productive. Particularly, he was intrigued by the fact that they diversify what they grow. For example, not only rice farms were there to see, the peppers, garden-eggs, eddoes, pawpaw, potatoes as well as plantain and banana plantations amazed him. Nonetheless, the lack of pliable farm-to-market roads and storages to preserve the produce largely weighed him down. “Our people labor in vain. They get no financial return for their hard work because the government has not been able to build storages, pliable roads.