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General News Sat, 24 Jun 2006

Ghana to lead Liberia out of over 20 years of darkness

From Lawrence Quartey, GNA Secial Correspondent, Monrovia, Liberia

Monrovia, June 24, GNA - The darkness that has engulfed the Liberia following the total destruction of electric power supply in the 15-year civil war would begin to give way to light come July 26, this year, which marks country's independence anniversary.

This follows the erection of the first electric pole in Monrovia on Friday under the first phase of an emergency power programme being provided by Ghana government through the Volta River Authority in collaboration with the European Commission and United States of America. Besides providing technical expertise and other logistics, Ghana with funding from the EC is committing 3.1 million dollars to the 7.2 million-dollar-project that covers two suburbs in Monrovia - Congo and Kru towns.

Speaking at the sod-cutting ceremony, Mrs Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, the Liberian President, lauded Ghana's key role in spearheading the project and said: "Come July 26 initial installation would have been completed for public facilities, including street lights, hospitals and schools.

"...Some people, we are not saying everybody, will get connected but some will get some light and the hope will come to Liberian people that, yes, they have a government that is serious about its commitments; a government that truly wants to work to improve the conditions of its people and with the partnership that Liberia has, it knows that it can achieve greater needs of our people."

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Liberia won independence in 1847 and Heads of State are and diplomats are expected to join Liberia to celebrate the occasion, the President said.

Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson said when she made a promise to the people of Liberia on her assumption of office, little did she know of the complications and the timing that would be required.

"I thought we have something in place that could have just moved us very quickly. I found in the national interest that I could not proceed with those arrangements and so we needed to rally around for help. "Finally, when we fell on Ghana, they responded so quickly and effectively by saying we would let VRA come and do what they can to help you with these commitments," she told the Liberian people.

"The three partners, Ghana, US, EC have stood with Liberia, even in the thick and thin; during the difficult times of the conflict. And in our reconstruction today they are the key partners to help us start our economic construction," Mrs Sirleaf-Johnson said.

Mr. Joseph K. Adda, Ghana's Energy Minister, said in demonstration of its commitment, Ghana government provided ahead of time some of its own stock of equipment and materials to be reimbursed by the developed partners, EC and the US.

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He said VRA, Ghana's flagship public utility company, would provide technical assistance with project design and construction engineering for both civil and electro-mechanical works as well be responsible for the implementation of the construction phase. It would also offer training and support for the operational phase in collaboration with the Liberian Electricity Corporation (LEC).

He said prior to the formal sod cutting, VRA had already commenced the erection of electric poles in the Congo Town area.

"We have no doubt that the project would be completed by the end of July as planned. We share in your vision that it is a top priority programme considering the cost of energy at the moment in Liberia which, no doubt, impacts adversely on the cost of goods and services to the people," Mr Adda said.

Liberia at present is without electricity. Only the few rich people have electricity from generators but in the night most parts of the country live in darkness.

Mr Adda said whilst the inadequacy of utilities and other public infrastructure was itself undesirable, the vandalisation and wanton destruction of such infrastructure was most unfortunate. He reminded the Liberian people that the ravages of conflicts were very costly. Therefore it was their basic common duty to ensure that public infrastructure was protected and expanded because it had major dislocation consequences on their national economy whenever destroyed. "We need a peaceful West Africa that could join hands in the development for the good of our peoples."

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The Minister pledged Ghana's readiness to support Liberia in other spheres of rehabilitation, restoration and development saying, "We pledge specifically to help LEC regain its pride of place in the electricity utility business."

Major-General Francis Adu-Amanfoh, Ghana's Ambassador to Liberia, described the occasion as a joyous one.

Dr Eugene Shannon, Liberian Energy Minister of Land, Mines and Energy, said the country had been in darkness for more than 20 years and therefore termed the occasion "Bringing Light into Darkness". Dr Shannon expressed optimism that, come July 26, Liberia would have light saying, "This will not be the end because right after Phase One we are going to have Phase Two which is the extension of light to other parts of Greater Monrovia.

"During the tenure of Her Excellency Sirleaf-Johnson, Liberia will have power, both renewal and non-renewal of energy, in the country, the one that we used to have," Dr Shannon indicated. 24 June 06 TMA/REA 24 June 06

Source: GNA