LIBERIA: IRIN special report on electricity [19990902]

LIBERIA: IRIN special report on electricity [19990902]

LIBERIA: IRIN special report on electricity

MONROVIA, 2 September 1999 (IRIN) - Two years after the end of the 1989-1997 war in Liberia, there is still no electricity service in Monrovia and residents of the Liberian capital say the absence of power is affecting the city in many ways.

"Power helps to prevent crime, boost economic development and attract foreign investment," a media source told IRIN. A human rights advocate noted: " We need power to pipe water around the city."

Residents of Bushrod Island, an industrial area east of Monrovia, receive pipe-borne water twice a week, but elsewhere in the capital, people either buy water from reservoirs filled by EU-sponsored trucks or pump it by hand from poorly treated wells.

The Liberian city has been without power since 1992 when faction fighters destroyed the hydro-electric plant which used to provide power to Monrovia. Those who can afford it have generators. The others do without electricity.

President Charles Taylor has repeatedly promised to bring power to Monrovia since his inauguration in August 1997 but has never managed to fulfil his pledge. At a news conference in February 1999, he reportedly told journalists that if Liberians wanted electricity they should purchase their own generators.

The Liberian government did not want to invest large sums of money in power plants for fear that they might be sabotaged, according to Deputy Minister of State for Public Affairs Reginald Goodridge.

"We need to achieve reconciliation first and demonstrate our commitment to this process through exercises such as the destruction of weapons," Goodridge, who is also the president's press secretary, told IRIN.

Taylor promised recently to provide electricity to Monrovia by the end of the millennium. One month ago, he even appointed Enoch Dogoleah, the Vice-President, to head a Commission dedicated to achieving this goal.

Local analysts say that to fulfil this pledge, he will depend on an unknown number of generators donated by the Taiwanese government but which have reportedly not yet arrived in Liberia.

Some argue that the death in a plane crash last month of police director Joe Tate, one of Taylor's top commanders during the war, will help to draw attention to the need for electricity.

The Cessna aircraft in which Tate was flying reportedly crashed at Roberts International Airport, some 40 km east of Monrovia, at 7.45 in the evening because there were no landing lights due to the absence of power.


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Item: irin-english-1529

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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