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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Liberia switches on street lights
By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC News, Monrovia

An electrician works on a street lamp in Monrovia
The street lamps will be powered by generators
Liberian leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has switched on generator-powered street lights in the capital, which has been without electricity for 15 years.

She had promised to bring electricity to the whole of Monrovia within six months of assuming office in January.

"When I made this commitment... I was an outsider looking in," she said.

As Liberia celebrates 159 years of independence, every effort is being made to ensure visible signs that life in the capital is improving.

On Tuesday, tapped water became available in the war-torn capital.

But after decades of misrule, Liberia's road network is still in ruins, an there is no national telephone network and no national electricity grid.

'Proud'

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf won presidential elections last year that ended a brutal 14-year civil war and promised to rebuild the resource-rich country.

President Johnson-Sirleaf admitted that she had expected to do more by this stage, but contracts and plans already in place were difficult to change.

As lights dispel darkness, so with the restoration of power to Liberia the period of gloom and darkness engendered by political turmoil must come to an end
President John Kufour

Ghana's President John Kufour joined her to switch on the street lights in Congo Town, an eastern suburb of Monrovia on Wednesday morning.

Ghanaian technicians have helped install the street lights for the event, and the generators and poles came from Ghana.

"Ghana is proud to have been able to render this support to you and your nation," Mr Kufour said to Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf.

"As lights dispel darkness, so with the restoration of power to Liberia the period of gloom and darkness engendered by political turmoil must come to an end," he continued.

Low fee

In another landmark event, parts of the capital got access to pumped water for the first time in 15 years on Wednesday.

Water
The water will supply greater Monrovia and the east of the city

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf led an array of officials to the densely populated Fiamah community of Monrovia for the launch late on Tuesday.

"I just want to say how proud we are. This was done by a full Liberian team," the president said.

She was told that 30% of the city's water needs had been addressed so far.

The water will flow from there to greater Monrovia and at least two large communities in the east of the capital.

The president was clearly impressed by what she saw and waved to a crowd, mainly made up of local children.

For a low fee residents and businesses in coverage areas can now apply to be connected to mains water.

Those who cannot afford this can rely on 23 strategically placed stand pipes, eight of which have already been installed.

'Clean'

After years of neglect, the vast majority of the city's underground pipes were dilapidated.

The country's water treatment plant outside Monrovia was destroyed during the civil war that ended in 2003 when in interim government came into power.

Since then there has been serious renovation work on the main 36-inch pipe that supplied greater Monrovia before the war.

In one area near the site of the launch, a group of children watched a water technician struggle to mend a rusty pipe.

Managing Director of the Liberia Water Corporation Hun-bu Tulay insisted that the water was safe from impurities.

"The water meets WHO (World Health Organization) standards; that's the highest standard any water treatment can meet," he said.




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