Road Rehab Reaches River Cess, But Residents Want Compensation for Demolished Structures

YARPAH TOWN, River Cess − The government’s rehabilitation of feeder roads across the country has reached River Cess, with citizens overwhelmingly welcoming the much-needed infrastructure improvement. Some are, however, requesting compensation for their structures affected by the exercise.

As part of President Joseph Boakai’s first 100-day commitment to ensure that “no car will get stuck in the mud,” the work began weeks ago on the Grand Bassa side. When it reached River Cess, the road rehabilitation was met with mixed reactions from residents. While many are pleased with the prospect of better road conditions, others are concerned about the potential impact on their homes and businesses along the right way.

One affected resident, Louise Tommy, said she had just completed the structure for her small restaurant in Yarpah Town. Tommy, the head of a family of 10, said her entire family depends on the business for survival.

“That [is] making me to feel bad because the money I put inside [the construction] is not small money,” she said. “For them to just break it down in vain like that, it [is] really hurting me.”

Another person affected by the road construction added, “We understand the importance of having a good road, but we also need to be compensated for any structures that may be affected by the construction.” They asked to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted.

Ahead of the demolition, the laborers she hired carefully removed roofing sheets on Louise Tommy’s restaurant. Photo: Eric Opa Doue

Janjay Zodehgar, whose motorcycle spare parts business in Yarpah Town is also being affected, said he is not disappointed because his shop is being demolished but because it is being done without prior notice.

“It is the work of the government, and we embrace it, but we were not informed they were breaking the structures [down],” Zodehgar said. “We even tried to talk to them, but they are not listening.”

He called for the government to compensate the homes and businesses affected by the road work: “At least there should be little compensation for the businesspeople. We established this township, and we built this place, so when you come and remove us from here like this, it will be too bad for us.”

The Agency for Rural Development and Maintenance Services, Inc., is implementing the rehabilitation of the 35 km stretch of road between Saturday Town, Grand Bassa, and Cestos City, River Cess.

The company’s general operations manager, Thony Sarpong, said his company will be responsible for conducting periodic maintenance along the road for the next two years.

He clarified that his contract with the government does not include compensating owners of roadside structures.

Despite the emotions involved by those affected by the demolition exercise, Sarpong praised community members along the stretch of the road for being cooperative. He said most people are happy to see the road conditions improve, especially as the rainy season approaches its peak, a time when River Cess is usually cut off from Montserrado.

The rehabilitation is already paying dividends to River Cess residents. Daniel Dolo, a taxi driver who runs a route between River Cess and Grand Bassa, said that last rainy season, he charged between L$1,800 and L$2000 (US$9.34 and US$10.38) to transport passengers from Cestos to Buchanan. Currently, the fare has dropped to L$800 (US$4.15).

“The road is very good now,” Dolo said. “Before then, we [used to catch] hard time on the road because it was bad. At the same time, we used to charge heavily, but now, I, Daniel, can spend less than 30 minutes from here to Buchanan.”

Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue

Eric Doue

Eric Opa Doue is a co-founder of Echo Radio Station, which does a series of programs in Bassa, Kru, and simple Liberian English. Under his leadership, Echo Radio was selected as one of the Moody Radio global partners for training opportunities in 2013 and 2014. Eric was one of a handful of reporters who received training from Internews in 2015 on humanitarian reporting during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He holds a diploma in Journalism, from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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