“While our Country, Liberia is at peace as a Nation, Bong County is not at peace with itself. The problem with us is US. We are our own problems in Bong County, and there is a need to solve that problem, so as to remake our County to claim its future.”
These were the exact quotes from Mr. Jeremiah C. Sulunteh, Liberia’s newly accredited Ambassador to the United States of America, when he served as Keynote Speaker at the annual National Convention of the United Bong County Association in the Americas (UBAA).
Ambassador Sulunteh, who is also a son of Bong County, made these assertions in the state of Minnesota, where this year’s UBCAA National Convention was held during the weekend of Friday, July 13 through Sunday, July 15.
The Ambassador advised his kinsmen by suggesting that “in order to claim the future, we must reflect and heal the past and envisage the future.”
“Many experts on reconciliation would suggest that to succeed with reconciliation, we must break away with the past. But to break away with the past does not suggest that everything in the past is wrong.” He pointed out to his kinsmen arguably.
The Liberian Diploma again told Diaspora Citizens of Bong County that “there is some excess baggage from the past that we must leave behind if we must move into the future in Bong County.” He suggested.
He then went ahead to enumerate some of the excess baggage in Bong County, which according to him include the following:
- Envy and jealousy among Bong County citizens
- Financial impropriety/corruption by county and local leaders
- Weak leadership and political sympathy
- Nepotism, apathy and poor work performance
- Good intentions but lack of implementation strategies
- Putting self-interest above county interest
- Spoils of the society and patron – clientlelism
- Insensitivity to youth development/empowerment
- Building lies against one another, rather than building system
- Making false pretense, rather than being oneself.
He again told his Fellow citizens that what was enumerated were just few of the excess baggage which, “we must leave behind in order to make a good future trip to Bong County.”
Bong County was created in 1964 alone with Grand Gedeh, Nimba and Lofa counties during the administration of President William V. S. Tubman.
The county’s first Superintendent was James Y. Gbarbea and Samuel B. Cooper as its last Commissioner of the then Central Province, prior to its establishment as a County.
The County has 12 political Districts, 13 Chiefdoms, 42 Clans, 26 Cities and 468 Towns. According to the Bong County Health Team, the County’s population is estimated at 520,000, even though other sources estimate it at 378,161.
The growth rate of 4.5% per year and about 98% of its population comprises the Kpelle-speaking Liberians, while the balance 2% represents all the other ethnic groups, according to Amb. Sulunteh.
Ambassador Sulunteh stressed that the developmental priorities of the County are common to all districts which he named as roads, health and educational facilities.
Mr. Sulunteh emphasized that to bring about development in those priority areas, the following developmental initiatives are needed, which he listed as follows:
- Construct/rehabilitate 144 secondary roads
- Construct/rehabilitate 7 major bridges
- Construct/rehabilitate 6 high schools
- Construct/rehabilitate 83 elementary schools
- Construct/rehabilitate 2 teach training centers
- Construct/rehabilitate 2 nursing schools
- Construct 64 health clinics, 2 midwifery facilities and 2 hospitals
Although not included in the priority areas of the County development agenda, other areas need urgent attention which he listed as Safe drinking water.
The Ambassador further listed the following in a statistical manner the following which include, hand pumps and open wells that according to him, are used for drinking and other domestic purposes:
District Open Wells Hand Pump
- Fuamah 85 13
- Salala 111 14
- Sanoyea 12 7
- Jorquelleh 118 52
- Zota 22 19
- Kokoya 39 11
- Kpaai 45 33
- Suakoko 221 107
Amb. Sulunteh noted that a UNICEF survey shows, 45% of households use toilets, with only 15% using ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines or flush toilets. The rest use traditional toilets –open field or bush.
In terms of natural resources, the County is endowed with the following, the Ambassador disclosed,three alluvial diamond and gold mining areas with sizeable deposits which he claimed are found in the following areas:
- Gold found in Wainsue, Jorquelleh District
- Diamonds and gold found in Totota, Salala District
- Gold found in Kokoya, Kokoya District
- Hugh deposits of iron ore along the Bong Mines Belt in Fuamah District
- Water resources, including the famous Kpatawee Water Fall in Suakoko District
On the vision for Bong County, Ambassador Sulunteh said, “we need to address the questions of “where do we want Bong County to be in the next decades and how do we prepare to get there?”
He then answered the hypothetical question by saying, “the first thing to do is for the citizens of Bong County to leave behind the excess baggage, reconcile with each other and build the future.”
“Reconciliation is a process and not an event and requires patience, perseverance and forgiveness. It starts with the individual, the household, the community, the district and the County.” The Liberian Envoy proposed.
It requires all stakeholders, the elders, women, youth, civil society and citizens in the Diaspora. It requires our law makers to engage national government for more support to the county development funds.”
“It requires visionary and results-oriented county and local leaders to push the development agenda; it requires the civil society to monitor and report on the ills of the society.”
“It requires the youth to build their capacities to take on future development.” and it requires YOU, the diaspora community to craft an agenda to lobby, engage in fundraiser and give back to the home of your ancestors.” He recommended.
“As soon as we can engage this process, all of us will begin to see the future of our county unfolding before us.” He predicted. “Once again, our County has come a long way and our people have demonstrated immense resilience and resolve through the decades.” He declared.
“During Liberia’s ugly past, things happened to us as a County and as a people. Gbarnga, our County Capital, changed hands several times and at last was forced to be referred to as the headquarter for one of the many groups that wanted political constituency.” He recalled.
“Furthermore, during the last two democratic elections in Liberia, about 75% of all political parties had chosen Gbarnga for their political party conventions.” He stated.
“During both elections, sons and daughters of Bong County were chosen to be vice presidential candidates, including your humble servant.” The Ambassador recounted.
“I am convinced therefore, that something good must be in this great County that continues to attract the Liberians people. No doubt, YOU the people are that great thing in Bong County.” He analyzed.
“Your kind-heartedness; your warm receptions/generosity to strangers; your sober responses to issues of national interest, and your love for your County and its people make you attractive to Liberians.” He suggested.
He concluded by again reminding his kinsmen that “in order for Bong County to continue to play a major role in shaping the destiny of Liberia, we must have the moral obligation to craft a vision for the reconstruction and development of our County.”
He challenged the leadership of the United Bong County Association in the Americas to “take the lead in achieving the developmental priorities of the County, while promoting reconciliation.”
“You have heard loud and clear the critical needs of our people.” He named schools, clinics, roads, hand pumps, pit latrines, and other areas of intervention, it is now incumbent upon all of us to do something to move our County forward.
He then concluded by saying “if we are convinced that there is something good in Bong County that continues to attract Liberians to the County, then certainly, there is something good that can come out of Bong County.”
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