…Of Exclusion In Local Governance
Women and youth of Kokoyah Statutory District in Liberia’s central region of Bong County have complained of neglect and exclusion in the decision-making and governance processes of the county.
The Kokoyah District women and youth said local authorities in the county have failed to regard them over the years in all of the decision making processes of the county.
“The local government here is not concerned about the welfare of women in this area (Kokoyah), because they (local authorities) don’t even involve us in anything in this county…be it decision making or other processes,” said Rebecca Dennis, President of the Kokoyah Women Association (KOWA) in an interview over the weekend in Bong County.
Madam Dennis said after several calls by her group and other women groupings in the county, the local authorities were constrained to hold a meeting with them at which they (local authorities) promised to include them in decision making processes of the county.
The KOWA boss said since the meeting was held in 2009, nothing has been done by authorities in the county to remedy the problem.
She said as a result of the continuous exclusion of women in decision-making and governance processes of the county, majority of them are not aware of how funds allocated the county are being used.
Also, the President of Kokoyah Statutory District Youth corroborated the assertions by the women leader in the district.
Mr. Lloyd Ngwayah said the young people in the district and Bong County in general have, over the years, been involved in the decision making process of the county.
Ngwayah, who is also Chairman of the newly established Bong District Youth Caucus (BDYC), indicated that the young people in the county have never been part of discussions surrounding concessions and other agreements in the county.
“We don’t have idea about the various concession agreements in the county; it was only through the help of the international and other local non-governmental organizations that we were able to even see and understand some of the agreements…,” Mr. Ngwayah noted.
He accused the county authorities of being insensitive to the plights of young people in the county.
The youth leader said several attempts made over the years by young people to be heard in the county have been considered and seen by the local Bong County leadership as creating confusion in the county.
He said as a consequence of the local authorities’ actions, young people in the county also have no knowledge on how funds that are allotted to the county through the national budget and other contributions are being utilized.
The Bong County youth are currently being trained in several areas, including budget tracking and monitoring, organizational management skills, among others, by the Community Development and Research Agency (CODRA).
CODRA is a local NGO helping to, among other things, empower communities in setting their own development agenda and pursue other positive course of action aimed at finding solution to their development problem.
However, efforts to contact Bong County Superintendant, Lucia Herbert, did not materialize as her mobile phone was said to be perpetually switched off since Monday, August 8, 2011.
Meanwhile, Bong County is currently paying host to concession companies including ArcelorMittal, China Union and Bhp Billiton.
The county is also a recipient of US$2,383,000.00 annually as Social Development Funds (SDF) from these concession companies for the development of the county.
The county gets US500, 000 from Arcelor Mittal; US$1,750,000 from China Union and US$133,000 from Bhp Billiton annually.
In addition to the SDF, the Government of Liberia also made an annual appropriation of US$200,000.00 in the National Budget for each county as a way of decentralizing the economic spending of the country.
On November 23, 2009, the Cabinet endorsed the National Decentralization and Local Governance policy.
By its endorsements, the Cabinet thereby authorized the ministry and agency heads to have proceeded with the implementation policy.
The National Decentralization Policy was established as one of the Unity Party’s led-government’s key deliverables of devolution of the government, thereby empowering and/or disbursing power to the periphery which comprises the local government structures in the 15 political subdivisions of the county.
Bong County was established in 1964 by the National Legislature and is divided into 12 administrative districts.
Bong County, according to the 2008 National Housing and Population Census, is the third most populated county in the country with a population of 333,481.
The county is strategically situated within the central region of Liberia and borders Lofa and Gbarpolu in the north-west, Margibi and Grand Bassa in the South, and Nimba in the East. Writes, Sam Zota, Jr. (August 11, 2011)