Ganta, Nimba County - Aggrieved parties of the Nimba County land dispute, mostly people of the Mandingo ethnic group, are becoming quite impatient over delays in the implementation of recommendations by the dispute resolution committee setup to mitigate the disagreement.
Since the dispute resolution committee, headed by Musa Bility, forwarded recommendations to government, much has not been done to implement the suggestions.
The committee, setup by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has called for a peaceful resolution of the matter and recommended that illegal occupants vacate land for its legitimate owners.
But as the implementation of these recommendations continues to delay, aggrieved parties are “going out of patients”.
“We have to clearly understand why prominent sons and daughters of Nimba took arms and did what they did. We believe that they were forced into it,” Bangalee Trawally, spokesperson for one of the aggrieved parties in Ganta City, read from a resolution.
“When you are pressed against the wall, anything can happen, so it is with us. Be it as it is, but denying us our properties through such fragrant manner, which is in all indication a recipe for disunity, chaos, leading to ugly and wrong path.”
Trawally said it is sadden that the recommendations are far from being implemented while they are being denied their properties.
This, according to him, is creating more division among some members of the Gio and Madingo communities of the county.
Speaking during the weekend in Ganta City at the dedication of the Ganta Central Mosque, Trawally said these delays have the potential of brewing more tension.
He said the reconstruction of the mosque, which was devastated in 2003, clearly suggests their readiness to return and reclaim theirs.
He also expressed disappointment in the discrimination against members of the Mandingo Community in Nimba County, noting that no ethnicity of the county is indispensable.
“It’s only in Nimba that we had been ostracized, denied representation in local governance,” he said.
“Let’s reject the notion that some people are more important than others. Therefore, our coming back to develop our homes and cities is irreversible.”
He blamed the Sirleaf’s leadership for creating more divisions amongst the Mandingo, Gio and Mano communities in the county.
“The coming of former President Sirleaf’s divide and rule style of leadership exacerbated the feud in our country.”
“She introduced a failed policy to remunerate or reward squatters with cash benefits for relocation, but only come back to say, ‘I can’t leave majority for minority’. What a destructive statement from a leader of a nation,” Trawally opined.
However, the aggrieved party, under the banner, Citizens United for Peace and Reconstruction in a position statement, emphasized the need that those occupying properties in Ganta before 1990 be considered legitimate owners.
They, in the meantime, called for recommendation from the dispute committee set up to be upheld as a way forward to resolving the matter.
At the same time, Musa M. Kamara, one of the affected parties to the dispute, said his religion and tribal background have denied him from reclaiming his properties in Ganta City.
Musa, a son of Mohammed Kamara and Sarah Thompson Kamara, alleged that properties left behind by his parents have been encroach on by others, who he claims are of the Gio and Mano tribal groups.
“Because of my religion and tribal background, I’m denied these properties that were capture since 2003 war and the past government has denied me of having access.
Anytime I come to Ganta and see our people renting their own properties, I feel very bad and tears always come from my eyes, because I notice our people in exile still cry, they want to return and the past government deny us saying, ‘I will not solve few handful of people problem from thousands of people’,” Kamara said.
According to him, some parties to the dispute have already received money from the past government to vacate properties they are “illegally” occupying but to no avail.
Kamara estimated that the land being disputed is approximately 65 to 70 acres and is situated within Central Ganta City.
The Nimba land dispute is one key issue that he wants President George Weah address to ensure lasting peace in Liberia.
He said since Weah’s administration policy is pro-poor it should certainly considers that the rule of law prevails.
“Since he took over, he hasn’t asked about what had happened in Nimba and how the people can bring their plight to the table for amicable resolution, but he has never done that,” Kamara said.
“The essence of us coming back in Nimba to build two central mosques is to come back home, it cause for us to come and sleep on the street we are prepared to come home. The properties in Ganta that we are discussing are properties of our parents.
We’re giving President George Manneh Weah six months to call us for dialogue or tell us the way forward.”
Meanwhile, Prince Howard, an eminent son and renowned businessman of the county, is calling for unity among his people.
Howard said Namibians - people of Nimba County - must put aside their political or religious difference if they’re opting to foster developments.
“I will always feel proud to see development coming up in our city and in Liberia."
"Today, most of the young people do not want to get in acts of violence, so it will be important to promote peace which will show togetherness among the people of Nimba,” he said.