Sinoe Citizens Resolve Long-Standing Dispute Over Forest Land

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MONROVIA – The long-standing conflict in the Tartweh-Drapoh Authorized Community Forest in Sinoe County over the forest leadership has finally been resolved by the Forest Development Authority.

A five-member facts finding & Investigation FDA-CSO Team headed by Mrs. Weedor H. Gray, Community Extension Service and Mobilization Manager of Forestry Development Authority (FDA) after a two-day extensive discussion between the Executive Committee (EC) and Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) resolved the long standing conflict. The process was peacefully guided and the election and appointment of the newly elected the EC and CFMB respectively was supervised by FDA. 

The exercise which took place on December 18 and 19, 2020, was in response to the request of the Executive Committee of the Community Assembly of the Tartweh-Drapoh Authorized Community Forest on allegations levied against the (CFMB) headed by Sorbor Wesseh which cause ceaseless chaos in the community.

The investigation which was conducted between the Community Assembly and the CFMB was witnessed by the county leadership, Civil Society Organizations, paramount, clan, and town chiefs and a host of community observers. There were 24 of the 32 CA members and 4 of the 5 CFMB officers and members present at the investigation. During the investigation, the Executive Community of CA was represented its Chairman, Mr. Mike S. Naklen, Sr while the CFMB was represented by its Chief Officer, Mr. Sorboh Wesseh.

According to the FDA team leader, Mrs. Gray, FDA their intervention was due to discouraging news   of conflicts, claims and counter-claims to the point where there was a shootout among the community people. She said the community forest was given to benefit community and Government but noted that it has turned chaotic.

Mrs. Gray said FDA objective for going to Sinoe was to find out facts of the conflict and to get suggestions and/or recommendation from the community through the CA and CFMB as to the way forward to end the conflict.

At the facts finding and investigation meeting, the Chairman of the Executive Committee, Mr. Mike S. Naklen, Sr. represented the Community Assembly and in summary told the Authority that the CFMB and its Chief Officer, Mr. Sorboh Wesseh orchestrated the entire conflict in the community by the following actions including;

Mr. Sorbor Wesseh as head of the CFMB since 2017 not making report to the community, that Mr. Wesseh constantly arrested, detained and instituted court actions against the chiefs, elders, and traditional leaders, and youth for asking for report of the CFMB activities since 2017.

The findings also showed that  Mr. Wesseh refused the give the community access to their forest legal documents such as the Community Forest Management Agreement, the Forest Management Plan, and By-Laws and Constitution and other documents associated with the community forest, and that Mr. Wesseh refused for the Community Assembly to review and have their input into a Third Party Agreement and brought FDA to Sinoe to witness its signing which resulted to a serious clash and shootout among the people.

Following the discussion of the allegations by the CA and the defense of the CFMB, the head of FDA Team said that the both parties should take few minutes break to go out and separately discuss among themselves and reached a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the community.

 The Community Assembly recommended to the FDA team that at their brief discussion on the way forward to resolve the conflict once and for all, the leaderships of both the Executive Committee (EC) of the Community Assembly (CA) and the Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) be dissolved and that FDA should conduct election and/or appointment of a new leadership to replace them.

 The Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) told the FDA team that at their discussion on the way forward to resolve the conflict, the CFMB feel that everything that they did was in line with the law and therefore recommended that the law and other administrative policies must be followed in resolving the conflict.

In response to the recommendation of the CA and CFMB, FDA resolved to the following as a decision on the matter.

FDA noted that the fact that a Third Party Agreement was never shared and discussed with the Community even before FDA came to witness the signing ceremony was one of the worst thing any leader can do. Not allowing the community to see, review and make input in the Agreement was a wrong thing to do.

FDA therefore thanked the CA and endorsed its recommendation that the leadership of the EC/CA and CFMB be dissolved to allow fresh elections and/or appointment of a new code of officers be conducted by FDA.

On the recommendation of the CFMB that FDA should ensure that the law is followed to the latter, FDA said that the law is meant to help the community and not to harm them. The FDA, therefore, said that from all indications, the rivalry in the community forest leadership has been the cause of the CFMB missteps and therefore accepted the CA recommendation that the entire leadership – EC and CFMB be dissolved and that election or appointment, conducted by FDA be held.

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