Power and water return to Liberia

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

The Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf today flicked a switch to restore electricity to the country’s war torn capital, Monrovia, after a gap of over 15 years.

At a ceremony to coincide with the 159th anniversary of the country’s independence, Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson, who was elected at the end of 2005, pulled a switch draped in the Liberian flag illuminating a suburban clinic in the city.

"The switching on today is symbolic. It symbolises our journey from darkness to illumination," President Johnson-Sirleaf said in a speech.

She was joined by the Ghanaian President John Kuffour who said “…with the restoration of power to Liberia the period of gloom and darkness engendered by political turmoil must come to an end." Ghana provided equipment and manpower to assemble Monrovia’s electricity infrastructure after it was largely looted by soldiers during the decade of turmoil in the country.

Pumped water was also restored to the capital at a ceremony on Tuesday, which the World Health Organisation has declared high quality. These two major milestones demonstrate visible progress to the Liberian people that the country is making progress, and will add optimism during the anniversary celebrations.

"My last daughter does not even know what a street light is. When she saw it she did not want to leave," one 45 year old Monrovian told Reuters.

After becoming Africa’s first female head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf promised to restore power and water to the capital within 150 days, a target she has just reached. But after decades of poor leadership, the country still lacks good roads and a working telephone network.

Liberia spent the entirety of the 1990s fighting one of the most brutal civil wars of modern African history. Around 250,000 people were killed under the rule of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front which took power in 1989. After fleeing in 2003 Taylor has since been arrested and awaits trial in the Hague, Netherlands.

But since the peace was signed in 2003 serious efforts have been made to improve the country’s facilities. The country currently holds one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces of 15,000 soldiers.