STATE OF THE CITY MESSAGE DELIVERED BY
LORD MAYOR JEFFERSON T. KOIJEE
ON THE OCCASION MARKING THE 45TH MONROVIA DAY CELEBRATION IN THE CITY HALL OF THE CITY OF MONROVIA FEBRUARY 16, 2021
The City Council, officials of government, local government officials, traditional and religious councils, your lordship Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Professor Patrice L. O. Lumumba of Kenya, other special guests, civil society organizations, members of the private sector, our international development partners, the fourth estate, citizens and residents of Monrovia and staff of the Monrovia City Government, ladies and gentlemen:
In keeping with City Ordinance No. 4 which established Monrovia Day as a holiday for the City of Monrovia in order “to create a sense of identity and to increase the awareness of the residents and thus accelerate the pace of development in the city”, the Mayor is mandated to deliver a State of the City Message to the City Council and residents of the city in which he shall report on activities, including the progress made and problems encountered during the period under review, and also present his programs for the ensuring year. Today, I stand before you for the third time in fulfillment of this responsibility.
May I request your indulgence to observe a moment of silence for those who passed away last year due to the global COVID-19 Pandemic and other causes, particularly five staff of the Monrovia City Government namely, Mr. Samuel F. McGill, Mr. Emmanuel S. Nagbe, Mr. Prince Korvah, Mr. James T. Brapoh, and Mr. Richard Massaquoi. To their families, we extend our deepest sympathy.
Ladies and gentlemen, In invoking the triumphant spirit of our Heavenly Father to whom all of our leaders (past and present) of this city and nation are deeply committed, I wish to also from the inner most depths of my heart extend to our distinguish guests, citizens and residents, council members and staff of the city government warmest greetings and a joyful welcome to Monrovia. Despite grave trials we celebrate today’s great triumph of over 192 years of existence first from Christopolis to Monrovia, formerly the capital of the Capital Region (Montserrado) serving both as capital of Montserrado County and Liberia until 1972 when Monrovia became the capital city of Liberia alone.
As you join with us in this fruitful and momentous Monrovia Day occasion, the citizens and residents of Monrovia and the authorities of local government invite you to share with them in the confirmation of their belief, in the dignity of the human soul and with faith in that belief pledge for a new era of understanding, cooperation and good feelings, and intercourse between and amongst them.
Today, we should pledge to ourselves that we shall work in concert and demonstrate cohesive unity. In a renewed culture of self – discipline and esteem and demonstrate that despite our differences we can forge stronger links of togetherness that will compel respect, human rights and dignity.
Ladies and gentlemen, Last year, we set out and accomplished several milestones for the city government. The Monrovia City Government revisited her 2020 programs with topmost focus on collaborating with the National Government in the fight against the Coronavirus Pandemic which became a global emergency in March. At the onset of the outbreak in Liberia, we commissioned the Monrovia City Task-force on COVID-19 Preparedness and Response which rallied the cooperation of sister cities, townships, and other local government authorities and redirected our resources toward a massive clearance of garbage, with emphasis on removal of backlogs, cleaning and disinfecting drainage, markets, public toilets and other facilities. We were also appointed as lead on Hygiene and Sanitation Pillar on the National COVID-19 Incident Management System.
With support from the National Public Health Institute and the Ministry of Health, Republic of Liberia, our task-force partnered with the Crusaders for Peace and engaged into social mobilization, active case findings, specimen collections and sites preparation within Montserrado County. We launched a two-thousand (2,000) person vigorous community, radio and social media awareness campaign, recruited six thousand(6,000) persons trained by NPHIL and MoH as Active Case Finders to work with COVID-19 Contact Tracers, and established five centers for testing and specimen collection. Moreover, approximately 2 million inhabitants in Monrovia and Montserrado were reached by our mobilizers and active case finders, which activities explain the low number of deaths in the city and county.
Due to our effective COVID-19 resilience mechanisms as a city and country, we have made significant strides to restore economic life. The Coronavirus has become complex with variety of mutations in other parts of the world. It is not only real but deadly. We want to urge our citizens, residents and visitors to remain vigilant and continue to implement the health protocols vigorously. We want to extend special thanks and appreciations to our international and local partners for their generous contributions and cooperation during this period of dire life-saving needs.
Our COVID-19 Task Force is prepared to work with relevant health authorities to implement the President’s mandate which calls for increasing EPI Surveillance due to the Ebola outbreak in neighboring Guinea. We established an Economic Policy Management (EPM) unit that is spearheading the development of a five year strategic plan of the Monrovia City Government. We commenced the reviewing of our city ordinance in order to bring them up to speed with current realities. We also started coordination for the revision of the City Charter. These institutional reforms are on-going as they involve intensive and extensive levels of consultations and processes.
We experienced a significant decrease in the tonnage of garbage disposed in 2020 from 79,375.77 tons in 2019 to 60,156.96 tons in 2020. While we anticipated an increase in garbage generation, there was a decrease in the garbage disposed due to general economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, thus reducing waste generation. We however remain grateful to the World Bank for the continued assistance to this sector under the Cheesemanburg Landfill Urban Sanitation (CLUS) Project which is supporting the City’s solid waste management system through logistical and financial support toward secondary waste collection and disposal, closure of the Whein Town Landfill and graduation to the new Cheesemanburg Landfill under construction.
We are pleased to mention that Cities Alliance in the same vein will shortly provide and roll out grant and loan facility in the amount of $1.5 million dollars to Community Based Enterprises and Small Medium Enterprises in the solid waste management sector. This initiative which started last year, when completed, will accelerate our drive toward effective primary solid waste collections at the household’s level. Due to the global COVID-19 Pandemic, the city experienced a decrease in construction works by 47% between 2019 and 2020. However, we are presently experiencing an increase in the pace of new constructions. Youths constitute about 65% of our population. In this regard, we launched several signature interventions to build their capacities, provide opportunities and enhance peaceful coexistence and unity amongst them. Accordingly, our Youth Affairs Unit has been engaged into the following activities:
Annual national universities debate competition, Annual national spelling bee competition, National youth Entrepreneurship summit, National scrabble competition; and Annual Monrovia Communities quizzing competition
We are very proud to announce that the winners of the “Monrovia Communities Quizzing Tournament” which commenced October 30th of last year and ended February 15,2021 with District #15 emerging a winner. Congratulations to the champions! Traditionally, these competitions are done among schools in various parts of Monrovia and its environs. This time around, we have changed the mode to a community-based approach with the aim of scouting the Crème de la Crème within those communities. During the tournament, best players were captured and recognized in the categories of Mathematics, Language Arts, General Science and Social Studies. They are now incorporated into our “Monrovia Scholars” fellowship program as the pioneering cohort one, with the aim of serving as ambassadors to promote Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals, and provide peer mentor-ship and tutorial for sitters of the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). “Monrovia Scholars” will also be a platform to provide local and international scholarships to its fellows as a way of promoting their career development.
We launched the annual Street Soccer tournament which H.E. President George M. Weah graced and participated in. During the 2020 special senatorial Elections in the country and the growing wave of tensions among political actors; the City Government organized a dialogue between political actors through our partner the MESSENGERS OF PEACE We organized a workshop for over 19 Mayors from different cities around the country on the preventive measure and awareness on Rape and Gender Based Violence. We signed a joint resolution with zero tolerance for rape and Gender Based violence. We provided two thousand (2,000) metal tables to street sellers in Water Side Market and are committed to doing more.
The City Government has transformed its patio to the beautiful Monrovia City Garden (Bar and Restaurant). I want to invite you to our City Garden experience. In mid-2020, Monrovia was among thirty cities around the world invited by the Carter Center to apply for the implementation of its gender mainstreaming “Inform Women, Transform Lives” project, which seek to demonstrate women access to information and the corresponding change it will produce. I am happy to state that we are among the thirteen winners, the only three from Africa and the only West African city. Preliminaries have been ongoing and the project will officially begin by March 3 and ends September 12 this year. As a city, we will focus on informing women in two selected slum communities on our solid waste management services, particularly primary collection, in order to promote the health of themselves, their families and communities.
The Monrovia City Government initiated a local and international scholarship program. Last year, over 50 staff obtained several certificates in Public Management Services (PMS) courses at the Liberia Institute for Public Administration (LIPA). Two staff left for foreign studies. Mr. Amara B. Kanneh of the Environmental Health and Safety Department is doing Masters in Development Studies at the Kigali Independent University, Kigali, Rwanda. Recently, our Director for Public Affairs, Mr. Pekeleh Gbuapaye, left for Cyprus to study International Relations at the Near East University. Others will be leaving over the course of this year.
CHALLENGES AND CONSTRAINTS
We accept that the City Government, particularly its Services Directorate, continues to face basic service delivery challenges. The COVID-19 impacted negatively our revenue collection and overall operations. However, we shall continue to explore new avenues of opportunities and seek to increase existing ones like revenue generation and support from our long standing international partners and the Government of Liberia. Rapid growth and expansion of the city due to the following demographic factors continued to exert and demand the need for a paradigm shift of the city status:
(A) Rapid natural population increase (B) Urban-urban migration (C) Rural-urban migration and also (d) Immigration. These processes contributed to rapid population growth and expansion of the city and are contributing robustly to transforming the peri-urban areas into fast growing urbanized areas, thus the need to initiate the process of creating a metropolitan city of Monrovia. Whatever may have been our challenges, we must start anew by acting anew. Challenges indeed is a measure of success. It is time for us to consolidate the gains of our interventions last year. We shall never know with any degree of accuracy who, what, why, when and where our resources and inputs were adequate or inadequate, sufficient or insufficient. It is time for us to endeavor equally for the challenges and productivity of our municipality. This is our challenge.
MONROVIA’S URBAN FUTURE
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, We must be emphatic at this juncture that we reaffirm our continued support and commitment to all climate change protocols. In addition to our tree planting efforts across the city, sea coastal erosion defense structures constructed to ward off erosion of the coast line and the cleaning of our rivers and waterways, we want to urge our citizens to contribute by keeping the grass in their yards and open spaces cut low to maintain the green cover as stipulated in city ordinance #1 to keep our city clan and green.
As a demonstration of our commitment to the global and national fight against climate change, we recently recruited a City Resilience Officer to lead our climate change activities, with emphasis on promoting slum upgrades and other resilience related activities Monrovia is the central focus of economic life of Liberia. It is a rapidly growing city with an approximate population of 1.5 million inhabitants. The City Government of Monrovia acknowledges the pressing need to meet up with the increasing urban needs of the city in such areas as hygiene and sanitation, access to safe drinking water, electricity, urban transport, traffic lights and housing, support to marketers, including street vendors, strengthening local government cooperation and service capacity, youth development, and security.
The City is committed to working on these and other indicators which will accelerate her getting on par with sisters cities in the West African sub-region and beyond.
Ladies and gentlemen, We have therefore endeavored to tailor our programs for 2021 under the theme “Sustaining Smart Actions for Smart City.” Continuing on the legacy of the previous year, we have embarked on creating and implementing a city ecosystem that is based on smart actions which will create value addition and transformation of Monrovia in the areas of institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructures. We shall seek to finalize the revision of our City Charter and ordinances to enable us expand our capacity as necessary for demands of present realities. The City will work with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Governance Commission, the National Legislature and local government actors to adequately address jurisdictional challenges and strengthen relations between Monrovia and other local government structures. We also shall introduce innovative means to increase citizens’ participation in city decision making and development initiatives.
We shall continue to develop smart actions to enhance the quality and scale of our sanitation services, particularly in Solid Waste Management. We pledge to work with both local and international actors to strengthen our resilience to COVID-19 as well as other health-related threats. The Monrovia City Government shall source support to preserve and develop open spaces such as parks, playgrounds and recreational spaces to promote a child-friendly environment and improve citizens’ quality of life. The city shall work with partners to enhance modalities for city beautification and create tourist attractions. We shall endeavor to work with the Executive and Legislative branches of government to revisit the act creating the Monrovia City Police in order to strengthen its mandate. We shall to source support to increase the personnel and training capacities of the Monrovia City Police in order to upscale its operations. The City Government of Monrovia through the Monrovia City Police shall work with the National Police to reintroduce and sustain Community Policing in Monrovia and its environs in order to track and reduce crimes and violations. We shall increase our support to marketers and street sellers, youth development, and gender mainstreaming. In an effort to promote local economic development, the city will encourage and intensify engagements in peri-urban agriculture as a strategy for self-employment. The Greater Monrovia Urban Development project sponsored by the Cities Alliance will improve infrastructure and basic service delivery and will bridge us over to other interventions within the city region.
Ladies and gentlemen, To implement these initiatives, we have to explore new avenues and sources of revenue generation as city government. In this regard, we intend to engage and hold discussions with the central government and our traditional international and local partners, and reach out to others. We shall increase city- to-city relations within Liberia, the Mano River Region and beyond, to share experiences and innovations and collaborate in urban development initiatives. The presence of the honorable Mayors of Freetown here today demonstrates our commitment to achieving this. Fellow Monrovians, as we celebrate Monrovia Day, we derive strength from our resolved determination and dedication to pursuing the cause of making Monrovia a better place. God has given us new hopes, friends and indeed new challenges. We stand tall in our triumph over the long and dark hour of an awesome force of international support and cooperation.
And now this glimmer of sunny days ahead we command the spirit and support of our citizens and residents as well as visitors. We remain indomitable and unflagging. Monrovians must renew our resolve to allow democracy to flourish in every community of our city and in every branch of our national tree. Certainly our fore bears and our local government authorities have given realization to the establishment of a city free from all forms of discrimination secured in the firmament of justice, equality and inclusiveness – Leaving no one behind, human security and opportunities. More than that let us gave light and vigor to the advances of our city, while the fragrance of a new sense permeates the air.
Fellow Monrovians, We engage the significant exercise of development of our municipality with the conviction that it can be achieved. Monrovians must invest time, resources, energy in every facet and vocation of our citizenry. Economic security is intrinsic to national survival, stability and peace, which we must pursue. This is the real security we must seek for ourselves and our citizens and residents. Indeed, we have demonstrated our confidence in the goodwill and civil disposition of our citizens and residents so as to prepare them to embrace the new urban agenda.
Indeed, in our expectations lie our incentives, in our aspiration, our momentum “where others might flee, let us see success and sunshine”. May God bless the works of our hands and propel Monrovia to an era of modernization. I thank you.