Liberia: Citizens of Gbi-Doru Petition President Weah for County Status over ‘Decades of Neglect’
Dorgbor Town, Gbi-Doru – Citizens of Gbi-Doru Administrative District in Nimba County have petitioned President George Manneh to lead the campaign to grant their area a county status amid “years of neglects and underdevelopment.”
Gbi-Doru is a vast forested land located at the southern tip of Nimba County, forming border with Rivercess and Grand Grand Gedeh Counties.
In terms of local government arrangement, the area is found within Tappita Statutory District which headquarter is located in Tappita City, a predominantly Gio settlement. But electorally, it is found within Nimba electoral District #9, headquatered in Zekepa, Yarwein Mensonoh District, a vastly Mano speaking area.
In their petition to President Weah, whose mother hailed from the area during his historic visit as the first President to reach them, the citizens called on him to grant them a county status and make the Gbi the 17th official tribe of Liberia.
Excerpt of the petition: “… We the youth, women, chiefs, elders and the entire citizens of Gbi-Doru Administrative District at home and in the diaspora, do resolve to petition you, Your Excellency, President George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia to grant us only to things that are very, very important to us as a people. Please grant us independence, an independence in the form and fashion of a county status that would be named and stayled Gbi-Doru County with Dorgbor Town as its headquarters. Please grant the Gbi Tribe an official and statutory recognition so that Gbi will be the 17th official tribe of the Republic of Liberia.”
In their petition, the citizens stated that despite their 82 years of peaceful co-existence with Nimba, it is painful to note that over these years, assimilation has been very slow, the possibility to benefit from an equitable share of the county’s resources has been impossible, leading to the absence of roads, bridges, clinics, schools, magisterial court facilities, police and police depots, among others.
“Equally and very visibly absent is the opportunity for any of the Gbi-Doru citizens to participate in the local administration of Nimba County, not even at janitorial level,” the citizens claimed.
However, they pointed out that they do not believe that their backwardness and exclusion from opportunities in Nimba County is a willful and premeditated design of the leadership and people, rather to the differences in culture, tradition and language or most realistically, to the vastness of the county.
“Our area of situation is just too far from Sanniquellie, the County Seat, a reality that makes it very difficult for development to reach Gbi-Doru District.”
‘Rivercess Not an Option’
With the call for a county status, the citizens of Gbi-Doru have abandoned their previous quest for a breakaway from Nimba to join Rivercess County. Historical accounts state that the place was part of Rivercess, then a territory under Grand Bassa County.
To pay their hut tax, which was either collected in cash or materials such as rice, oil and other valuables, the people of Gbi-Doru had to trek for almost three weeks to Buchanan to make payment.
In the process, many died due to harsh weather, river-crossing and torture at the hands of the national militias, the Liberia Frontier Force who were enforcing the tax collections.
Owing to this “excruciating suffering”, President Edwin James Barclay in 1938, declared in an Executive Order, mandating residents of Gbi-Doru to pay their taxes to the District Commissioner in Tappita.
The new destination was a shorter distance which was a little more than nine hours of walk as compared to the three-week journey to Buchanan. When Nimba gained county status in 1964, Gbi-Doru was officially part of the county.
During the last decade, citizens of the area, through series of petitions submitted to the 52nd and 53rd Legislatures, expressed their desire to secede and join Rivercess. However, in their latest petition to President Weah, they said joining Rivercess is no longer an option.
According to them their former homeland is now a legally established political subdivision called Rivercess County and has its statutory and civil institutions well in place.
Any attempt to return as a group of people, they argued, will certainly derail many existing processes and destabilize already commissioned political arrangements functioning and progressing smoothly. “Consequently, a return is not a thinkable option and therefore inconceivable and not under consideration,” the citizens averred.
Citing several instances, the citizens called on President Weah to accord them the same rights given citizens of Rivercess, Bomi, Margibi, Grand Kru, River Gee and Gbarpolu Counties by previous Presidents by granting them a county status.
In response, President Weah said the Constitution gave the people of Gbi-Doru the right to such demand but it can be done through an act of Legislation, and as such they should exercise patient and engage relevant authorities including the Legislature to grant their request.
President Weah said for too long the people have complained and it was prudent to listen to them and grant them their desire as accorded under the law.
For his part, Rep. Johnson Gwaikolo, who represents Gbi-Doru at the House of Representatives stressed that there was a need to listen to the citizens and come up with a win-win situation.
President Weah, as part of his county tour, visited Gbi-Doru Administrative District, his maternal home, becoming the first President to ever meet with citizens of that part of Liberia.
During a town hall meeting, he promised to undertake several projects including the construction of school, health center and housing units.