Pres. Sirleaf Transforms Infamous Prison Camp of Belle Yella
By: Our Staff Reporter for Ceasefire Liberia
The infamous prison camp of Belle Yella in one of the country’s newly created political sub-divisions of Gbarpolu County has been transformed into a national museum by the Liberian Leader President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
“We intend to turn Belle Yella into a place of hope from a place of horror,” the President told journalists in an interview.
The town of Belle Yella was once famous for its political prisons, where past governments locked up not just opponents and hardened criminals, but political prisoners including those who were even at times suspected of being anti-governmental. Pres. Sirleaf herself spent time there.
President Sirleaf who led an array of Government officials and the Ambassadors of the United States and China to Belle Yella transformed the prison to a national museum as what could probably be the greatest Christmas gift of the people of that remote part of the country. President Sirleaf had promised them that she would spend the 2009 Christmas with the people of this northwestern forest town.
The Liberian President had assured the County’s most famous son, Paramount Chief Old Man Jallah Lone, now 106 years old, and other prominent people of Gbarpolu that, come what may, she would spent Christmas in their town, not by way of a helicopter, but by road. “If the road doesn’t reach Belle Yella in time for the Christmas, we will walk wherever the road stops, to get to Belle Yella,” the President repeated recently in a holiday message and in subsequent interviews.
What made the Belle Yella visit even more historic is the fact that, for the first time in the history of Liberia, Belle Yelle is linked to the rest of the country by a motor road being constructed by the Government of Liberia through its Ministry of Public Works. It was the first time ever in the lives of the bulk of the residents of Belle Yella to have set their sights on vehicles.
“You have fulfilled the vision of our forefathers,” District No.3 Representative, Dixon Yarseah, said. He regretted that the area was marginalized by past governments, but was now hopeful that, with the construction of a motor road linking Belle Yella to the rest of the country, the area would now attract more development.
The President’s comments to walk to Belle Yella may not have been taken literally by many. They were wrong because the President actually walked for more than an hour and a half to reach the town when it became clear that the Ministry of Public Works construction crew would not be able to connect Belle Yella by road by Christmas Day.
As is traditionally done, women spread their lappas on the ground for the President and her entourage to walk on as a symbol of joy.
The residents of the region were particularly grateful to the President for undertaking the construction of the over 40-mile stretch of road linking Bopolu, the provincial capital of Gbarpolu County, to Belle Yella. The President thanked the citizens for their warm welcome and reiterated that her visit was in fulfillment of a promise to the people of Belle Yella that she would spend the Christmas with them.
The Liberian President also thanked all those who had made the trip, taking time from their families to spend Christmas in Belle Yella. She was particularly full of praises for the Minister of Public Works and his engineering crew for their hard work.
The first entry of a motor vehicle was a dream, which the President described as a fulfillment of a promise to the people of Gbarpolu to end the isolation of the town and bring development to the area.
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Tags: Belle Yella , Ceasefire Liberia , Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , Gbarpolu , Liberia , Museum , President , Prison , Sirleaf
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