Gbah-From Village to Town …. how SDPL transformed a small village in Liberia

By: Antonio Dee |

Anyone who ever visited Gbah town in the  early 1990s or  in 2005 and returned there today, will see  how the city once  considered as a no-go zone  area during the war and even after  the war, would know how it  has gradually been transformed into a modern town.

There were check points mounted in the past by former rebels to interrogate people who commuters from one place to another. There were fears that some of the travelers were either the enemies of the other group or spies; hence the need to interrogate.

“This fear used to exist here those days. This place used to be a fearful place for many people. Most of the time, you will see armed men roaming the streets.  At some instances, people would walk and when they reach, they would pretend like they are coming to the town to sleep; all to ease fear,” Anthony Massaly , a resident of the town told this reporter recently.

This story was attested by a man who said, he helped to rescue the life of a Roman Catholic Priest in Gbah town.

“I remember this small town. In 1990, one Catholic Priest, Fr. John Thomson was arrested by fighters from Charles Taylor at the border with Sierra Leone. The priest took some Liberians to Robert Sports in Cape Mount County for rescue,” the man who declined to be name said.

“But one day, when he went to the border to get some food, we saw him in handcuff. The rebels brought him and said he was seen with SSB radio communicating. When he got to Gbah, they wanted to kill him. But thanks to God that I was around and appealed to the fighters who later released him. I will never forget that small town,” the person added.

Today, the town which had one shop at that time and later went to three shops in 2010, the story has changed completely.

“We have to give credit to SDPL for the level of in direct support they brought to this county. The coming of SDPL meant a lot for us here. This place was fearful and one could see ex-rebels roaming around here. The Guthrie plantation here was a no man’s land. People killed one another for different reasons,” Roland Davies, a resident of the town said.

“If you look here today, you can see bank in Gbah, several shops,  cook shops, restaurants, night clubs and many more. If SDPL had not come to employ people from this town, the story would have been different today. Even when you go back the other side, you will see an estate that one employee is constructing around here. This is what we call development,” he added.

Madam Kebeh Passaway said the women have market center that they can go to sell.  I have been able to start from small business to a bigger business today. My children are attending SDPL School. All this, have helped us today. Some companies came in the past and not much was done. But today, I can say that SDPL has made impact on our lives here.”

Some residents in the town said they will always remember SDPL for the level of work it carried out. “Even though, there were some tough times and we clashed with management here. But at the end of it, we settled down. Even children and parents can have confusion and later settle their problems. So, it was with SDPL and residents here.”

“From this town, many students are going to school. They do not pay one cent to attend the school. They ride bus to go to school.  When we get sick, we go for treatment to the clinic. Our children too take treatment as well. That is the type of transformation that has been made,”  Boakai  Sambulleh said.

These were buttressed by the former head of the Bureau of Concession, Mr. Gregory Coleman when he once toured the facilities of the company and went to Gbah.

“I think that SDPL has done a lot for the people of this place and they are doing more. I remember years ago, most of these things we see today, were not here. But I think there is room for more,” he said.

According to him at the time, things would be much better if the residents were seen part of the entire operations of the company. Once that was seen you would see lot more of things being done indirectly.

Will miss SDPL:

“For me, I have to say here that I will miss the company. We have a saying  that you will not know the importance of a river until it runs dry.  Today, SDPL is the river. It has run dry and we are getting to know its importance,” Abraham Koroma, a youth in Gbah said.

But there were some level of disagreement with some youths who were with him  in the discussion.

“For me, I will miss the company small. I did not enjoy a lot from them. I just got to  Gbah  six months ago. But some of you  that were here many years ago, will say all the good things about  the company. I am trying to get my first contract with them. At least if I have been benefiting from the company, then you can say something of enjoyment,”  Boima Fahbuleh said.

Many of them agreed that the transformation could have been  more than it is now, if the company has been given the chance to expand. “The more  they expand, the better it is for us. We think that some of these things were the fault of the government at that time.  If the government has done the right thing by meeting the locals first, all these issues about land problem were not going to come out in anyway,”  Jerry Swaray said.

His statement was  earlier buttressed by the NBC. The former chairman   admitted that along  the way, the government made some errors. That was why this current government of president George Weah  decided to look into many of these things.

The former acting Agriculture minister Mrs. Precious Tetteh, at one of the meetings held at the Executive Mansion said it was regrettable for SDPL to pull out at this time.  According to  her, the company has made an impact on the lives of the locals and the government was prepared to work on it.

The level of transformation  seems to be great on the lives of the people of Gbah and its environs, but those  that  actually wanted to see a lot more are the students  who attending the SDPL school system.

“I think we should have benefitted from the company in few years to come if we have stayed her them.  This town has changed and so it is with some of us who have changed. In the past, there was no bank here, but today, we can easily walk around here to get money,” Amos  T.   Kiazulu a student of six grade said.

He said,  “we regret the leaving of the company. It is better to deal with the devil you know than the angel you have not seen. So, the way this little town face has been changed, many of us are happy and proud of that.”

No matter the situation  would be, one thing that has remained on the minds of  residents is indeed SDPL transformed Gbah, once a small town to a big town with many facilities that attract people to live there.

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About Cholo Brooks 13542 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.