Red lights seen as sign of progress in Liberia | Africa | DW | 12.06.2013
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Africa

Red lights seen as sign of progress in Liberia

The capital of the West African nation of Liberia has witnessed the first installation of traffic lights since a 14 year civil war ended in 2003. This is widely seen as a sign that life is returning to normal.

Broad Street is one of the busiest in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. Horns hoot and brakes squeal as pedestrians negotiate their way between the many cars, taxis and trucks that thunder by each day. At least that's how it used to be. Broad Street now boasts the first set of working traffic lights to be installed since the end of the civil war in 2003. For drivers and pedestrians alike, it's a new experience to have their movements determined by the red and green lights.

For Monrovia resident Konah D. Roberts, the arrival of the traffic lights is evidence of the positive changes taking place in the country. "For the past years Liberians have not really experienced this, but thanks be to God, we are experiencing a dynamic change in our country," he told DW.

Others, like Andrew L. Saysley, appreciate the reduction of chaos on the streets. "Before, people just crossed the road at any given time. But now, as soon as you see the traffic light signal for red, it means that the car should stop and the pedestrians should cross. So, it's a fine thing."

Not all drivers were so enthusiastic, with some complaining that the new lights have resulted in tailbacks and congestion.

A crowded street in Monrovia, with cars, taxis and pedestrians Photo: Julius Kanubah, DW Korrespondent, Liberia zugeliefert von: Susan Houlton

A typical scene on a busy Monrovian street

Solar power

Work on the installation began in January this year, thanks to a generous donation from the Chinese government. Prior to the installation, traffic was directed by police officers who were then unavailable for other duties.

The new traffic lights are powered by solar panels, which means they do not need to be connected up to an external source of power. A good idea since the supply of electricity in Monrovia is often erratic.

Outside the capital there are still few roads in the rest of the country, and even fewer in a good state of repair. A popular saying among Liberians is that the country is running on just one narrow road, with no option of avoiding traffic travelling in the other direction.

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