The citizens of Maryland County, being imbued with
the spirit of development, gathered last week in scenic Harper City for a two-day Maryland County Development Conference that discussed “a vision for reconstruction, reconciliation and sustainable economic growth” in the county.
Hundreds of Marylanders from every part of Liberia and abroad attended the two-day conference, organized by the William VS Tubman University in collaboration with the government and officials of the County Administration. It was unprecedented since the civil war ended in 2003.
Despite the absence of many county officials at the conference, including members of the Maryland legislative Caucus, the citizens fully discussed reconciliation and sustainable development to boost economic growth needed for speedily awakening Maryland from its protracted slumber of underdevelopment.
Maryland, being amongst the five-seacoast counties, has a deepwater seaport located at picturesque Harper City with sparkling beaches and Lake Shepherd in the heart of the city. But this historic city experienced the brutal 14-year civil war that ruined most of its infrastructure and historic buildings.
Maryland, just like other counties in the country that were hard hit by the civil war, is in dire need of basic social services including roads, water, electricity and a adequate learning facilities and equipment. Harper, which previously enjoyed a radio station only after Monrovia, now lacks such facility.
Dr. Elizabeth Davis Russell, president of the Tubman University welcomed the participants, saying they had gathered “to talk about the issues in the county and to talk about the way forward.”
“As a University, we create knowledge, we hold knowledge, we disseminate knowledge and in doing so, we bring people together to help create that knowledge.
“We ask questions through research about what is holding our county back, how can we move our county forward? Those are some of the questions that the University can help the county to answer. We are not a political entity, we are an educational institution; but we indeed serve as a catalyst to help move the county forward,” she noted.
She said the rationale and purpose of the conference was to also bring both the citizens and county officials to dialogue on past and current activities and seek a “new direction for the future”.
Commenting on the “current issues and pressing needs” of the county, Prof. Isaac L. George, acting dean of the College of Management at Tubman University, said though the county has seen some achievements in the areas of “security, economic revitalization, governance and rule of law, infrastructure and basic services and education, much is still needed in these areas to put the county on a better footing.
“We need a single vision so that this great land of sunshine and peace can once again become a beacon of hope and a place of refuge for those that are disadvantaged.
“We need a single vision to attract well meaning investment opportunities which will unleash the floodgate of employment for our young sons and daughters coming out of higher institutions ready and prepared to make their contributions to their homeland,” he urged.
Eli Tubman, a delegate from the United State of America, also emphasized the need to prioritize reconciliation and sustainable development that will move the county forward.
“Are we ready to envision a brother and sister relationship amongst people or amongst us here in the county? We must reconcile with each other, this most be done if we are to move forward. Marylanders must be determined to say that the ruthless murder of human beings is genocide and a crime against humanity,” he stressed.
Many other delegates separately stressed similar points, insisting that Marylanders must stop “tribalism and nepotism”. They were Phli Merriam and Anthony Riggio, all from the USA, as well as Rev. Msgr. Melvin Nyanti Gaye, Vicar-General of the Catholic Diocese in Cape Palmas.
But Richlieu Archie Williams, director of the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA), directly accused the county leadership for Maryland’s “underdevelopment”.
“These people are not leaders, you can hate me for what you want to hate me; they are not leaders. And we want to invite those leaders in Monrovia and ask them why they are not here?
“They have to answer to us. We elected them, we don’t work for them; they work for us. Now, if you are not working, you get out, that’s the only way this county is going to develop,” he spewed.
Participants also discussed early childhood development, auxiliary entrepreneur system, rubber science and women’s organizations in relation to their contributions to the vision of Maryland County.
Following their discussion of these topics, conference participants adopted reconciliation, reconstruction, sustainable development and economic growth as plans for Maryland County’s development agenda for the future.