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Replacing Monrovia is a tough call: But Monrovia must go!

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh        City of Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa

I love Monrovia. I grew up admiring that old and rugged city as a child. It is a city on the hill surrounded by lakes, swamps, rocks and the Atlantic Ocean. Monrovia is where I was born decades ago.

As the nation’s capital, Monrovia is the undisputed power among the 15 political sub-divisions trusted with a centralized political power structure and bureaucracy envied by the others, for what Monrovia can or cannot do.

“Christopolis,” as Monrovia was once referred to by the settlers in the early days was renamed Monrovia after an American president, James Monroe, and later became a multi-cultural metropolis known for its thriving nightlife, engaging personalities, heated sports rivalries, and also romanticized as a place to visit, live, and do business.

But Monrovia, the seaside city of 2013 is an overcrowded death trap waiting to bury its inhabitants who have been descending on that city from rural areas, refugee camps, and far-away places to raise a family; or to just fulfill a dream of living in a city.

However, some Liberians who live overseas are buying parcels of land to build their retirement homes in Monrovia, with no commitment, whatsoever, to develop their birth villages and other counties they once called home. Liberians who live in the country are also purchasing properties in Monrovia, with no interest in developing other parts of the country, either.

Like any city worldwide that runs its own local government and collects its own taxes, the city of Monrovia does not collect its own taxes, and needs its own elected local government officials and tax collections systems. Monrovia also needs a functioning school system, police force, fire service, trash/garbage collections service, hospitals, clinics, water, sewer and electricity, and public works department to run its municipal government.

Instead, Monrovia has a micromanaged, quasi municipal government lumped with other political sub-regions in a centralized governing system that gives enormous power to the President of Liberia, who appoints the Mayors and other officials of the 15 political sub-divisions.

Successive Liberian presidents of the past with their fuzzy idea of governance, warmly accepted the notion of a centralized government system enshrined in the constitution as a way to discriminate against and control a section of the population, whose rural areas are then taxed and neglected to maintain state power.

Those visionless political leaders miscalculated when they decided against developing all of Liberia, than refused to realize the hard facts that Monrovia is not Liberia; but can be an important industrial and economic player only when the counties or political sub-divisions are developed and economically vibrant.

With an estimated population of 1.5 million inhabitants sandwiched in Monrovia, Monrovia has resembled an environmentally unfriendly and polluted shantytown infested with crimes, shattered lives, crippling diseases, dilapidated and unpainted buildings, and crumbling infrastructure. A prolonged civil war waged for 14 years didn’t beautify Monrovia, either.

Monrovia is also threatened by a stubborn erosion problem caused by the Atlantic Ocean, that is slicing away a huge part of the capital and other coastal areas of the country everyday. Monrovia also lacks modern sewer, waste disposal facilities and modern storm drain system.

Other than that archaic, swamp-infested cemetry on Center Street now used as a place to bury the dead, Monrovia has no modern national cemetry. As a result, individuals are burying their loved ones on private plots, with no zoning laws and local government oversight to regulate where those private burial plots should be located so as not to be a public health and environmental hazard.

As much as I love Monrovia, I must say that Monrovia must go! We have to follow the Nigerian example and replace Monrovia with a  modern capital erected somewhere, some place in Liberia.

Category: Editorial, News Headlines

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