By Morrison O.G. Sayon
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In recent times whenever I woke up and tuned my radio, I would be embarrassed with the news of Bassonians “eating” on a certain dumpsite in the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. Of course no patriotic citizens from Bassa or any other county would love to hear such negative news of their county because it’s not only demeaning but an utter disgrace to all citizens hailing from that part of the country.
The report that I listened to personally on the Fabric Radio was that women, children and some men are earning their livelihood from dumpsites. By what means I don’t know but it is reported that some of the people go there to seek employment opportunity. I was also informed upon my visit to Buchanan that things that are thrown on the dump site are mostly can foods, butter, jam and other products that are sealed up and thrown on the sites by the Marines who have established their base in Buchanan city. It was also reported that the giant steel company, ArcelorMittal usually dump ‘waste products ‘ at the same dumpsite.
When I picked up the Daily Observer Newspaper the other day to get its side of the story, it was also reported in the paper that “Despite attracting about US$16 billion in foreign direct investment into the economy, the Government of Liberia faces the disturbing, embarrassing reality that the majority of its population battles daily against extreme poverty, forcing thousands to fetch food and things to sell from dumpsites around the main city.
The paper went on, “For many months now, an entire community called, Own Your Own, located on the periphery of the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, have been surviving on “trash” dumped in an open area closely situated opposite the newly constructed U.S. military Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).
Own Your Own (OYO), a community in the township of Harlandsville, comes to standstill most mornings and afternoons when garbage collected from other parts of the city are being transported there for disposal.
The Daily Observer also reported that “Interestingly, a bulk of the trash disposed in that locality is being generated by ArcelorMittal, an acclaimed international steel giant that has an investment of US$800 million for phase 1 and US$1.7 billion for phase 2 projects in Buchanan and other parts of Liberia.The paper further quoted the residents as saying that trucks from Mittal’s facility, the U.S. military stationed in the county and other sites arrive daily to dump their garbage at OYO. The arrival of these garbage trucks brings hundreds of people to the site in search of food and any items they can salvage to sell for their survival….
Very interesting article, but again what kind of garbage are we talking about? Who are those dumping their wastes or remnants at that particular dump site? While I do not in any way support the act of people eating from the dumpsite or earning their daily living from there, let me remind all of us that people getting materials or foodstuffs from the dumpsites for consumption is not unique to Liberia. Even in the western world people get food and other things from dumpsites; that does not mean that the people are poverty-stricken or cannot afford at all.
Take for instance, a multi-million dollar company like ArcelorMittal wasting its leftovers on a dumpsite; don’t you think that the ordinary people will go there to collect some of those items thrown on the site. Does that in any way mean that the people are desperate for food or cannot afford at all? Were those people not surviving or eating prior to the arrival of ArcelorMittal or the Marines in Buchanan city? Let us do away with politicizing little things to gain political relevance or let me put it this way; stop using Bassonians to achieve your personal aggrandizement to gain political relevance at the expense of our people.
While the fact remains that this information has a negative reflection and interpretation when people are eating or earning their daily living from the dump site, for me this is not strange in our society especially so the kind of foodstuffs that are being dumped there and who are those dumping their leftovers at this particular site? When I was growing up in the early 80s, in the Stephen Tolbert Estate, it was our usual habit to go on the dumpsite and pick up foodstuffs that were no longer needed in some of the stores in Monrovia or things that were no longer useful to others. I’m sure many of us who grew up in Monrovia and other cities did the same so, for me that was not an issue at all.
In fact during those days the ordinary citizens could afford enough for themselves and family but yet and still their children were also getting materials and food from the various dumpsites. I stand to be corrected that not everything on that dumpsite could be bad or expired for human consumption. There are other dumpsites with pungent odors and there are others like the one in Buchanan where the Marines and officials of ArcelorMittal are dumping their leftovers that are enticing.
Few days ago I heard a Government official pointing accusing fingers at a particular political party of not doing enough to meet the needs of the Bassa people. His argument was that Grand Bassa County is the stronghold of that party and therefore, it should be able to take the people from poverty. Oh! My God; what does that have to do with a political party? In my mind, if people are eating on the dumpsite because of abject poverty as being portrayed by the media and others; who shall take the blame; is it not the Government or do we blame a political party?
Howbeit, the issue of people getting food from dumpsites or getting other useful materials from there should serve as a wakeup call for the government to act in empowering the people instead of politicizing it as being done by other oppositions or those in government. We are tired with the continuous hullabaloo because what we need now is for something to be done to get our people off the dumpsites since their being there will reflect some negative interpretation.
Basonians are proud people who will not compromise their dignity for little things. Moreover, Buchanan is the home of diverse group of people who reside in that part of the country because the county is blessed to be one of Liberia’s concession areas. Grand Bassa County brings together people from diverse backgrounds that are there to earn their living. So, if any negative thing goes on in Bassa it should not be attributed to only Bassonians as being speculated around here by some of our colleagues with some making fun of the issue.
Let’s put the political gain aside and address issues affecting our people. Today it is Buchanan City. Who knows whether it might extend to Bong or other counties shortly? That is why we must all join together in addressing these situations that portray our country as the only underdeveloped nation in the world. What really baffled me is to hear Bassonians especially leaders blaming each others for the unfortunate situation in our county. As Bassonians, let us put on our cap of logical reasoning and play our parts in addressing situations that tend to dehumanize our people.