Sen. Stephen Zargo Dedicates Multipurpose Youth Center in Koyamah, Guinea

Senator Zargo cuts the ribbon on the Koyamah Multipurpose Youth Center

Koyamah, Guinea – It was a breathtaking moment  when thousands of Lormas residing in Koyamah, Macenta District, Republic of Guinea, and their fellow Lormas across the border in Liberia over the weekend gathered in the Guinean town of Koyamah to honored Lofa County Senator Stephen H.J. Zargo for his immense contributions toward the plight of his kinsmen. 

Full of merriments and colorful pageantries, a gleeful occasion that has not been witnessed between the two citizens in decades, the women, elders, youth and government representatives, buoyantly walked thru the principal streets of central Koyamah toward the town’s edge to welcome Senator Zargo and entourage, a man they considered one of their kind.

Dressed in their beautiful traditional hitters with Sassa and drumming echoing the guest and his following, Senator Zargo, who hails from the Lorma ethnic group in Liberia, amongst other things, was warmly greeted by eminent women, elders, the youth, and Representatives of the Guinean government as he ecstatically marched thru amidst singing and dancing by cheering crowds and onlookers who had gathered to get a glimpse of the day’s narratives. 

Despite the raining reason, the weather accompanying the program was perfect, and the timing of the event, as it appeared, had already been sanctioned by the traditional gods, signaling everything was going the planners’ way.

The Lofa County legislator has been an active participant in reconciling his ethic people over the last decade, including making financial, material, and moral contributions toward their development and so, it was now time that his flowers be given to him while he’s alive. 

Aside from the elaborate and colorful   traditional welcome, a modern and brand new multipurpose youth center was also named in his honor as the “Stephen Zargo Multipurpose Youth Center.”

Saturday’s traditional and cultural spectacle, one of few that has occurred in recent years between the two peoples, was organized by a cross-border Lorma ethnic group known as the Association of Guineans and Liberians Integrated for Development (AGUIDI). The group is currently comprised of 16 towns and villages from both Guinea and Liberia with nearly 5,000 members. 

Koyamah’s newly dedicated modern multipurpose youth center

AGUIDI is a non-for profit and non-governmental trans-border Lorma ethnic group working for the unity and advancement of Lorma chieftaincies in both countries. Its overall goal is to ensure that Lormas in Liberia and Guinea are united through historical tradition and cultural linkages that both parties have shared via inter-marriages and cultural integration for centuries. 

The building was erected by the people of Koyamah with support from Senator Stephen Zargo who gave an endless smile as he was being escorted thru by his host. 

“We are very happy to name this multipurpose youth center in your honor today,” AGUIDI’s chairperson and vision bearer Julius Howard, a citizen of Zegeda, Lofa County, blissfully expressed at the honoring and dedication ceremony in Koyamah. 

“On behalf of President Alpha Conde’ and the people of Koyamah, we want to whole-heartedly welcome you here today. Your coming here today is a big moment for us because we are aware of the rich tradition and culture that our peoples shared for  centuries, and we cannot forget this as a people,” Koyamah’s Commissioner Sekou Conde’ reminisced  as the echoed of traditional songs and dancing beclouded the program  hall.

“This is particularly important because, during the civil war, Lormas in Guinea went across the border and killed Lormas in Liberia. Similarly, Lormas in Liberia left from Liberia, crossed the border into Guinea, and killed Lormas in Guinea.  It is important for our unity and development, and we are glad that Senator Zargo and his Liberian delegation has come to make this happen,” Dr. Kuva Guilavogie, a prominent son of Koyamah, told the Liberian Network in a separate interview moments after the dedicatory and horning ceremony.   

Receiving the honor, Senator Zargo praised the effort, tenacity of his kinsmen for the completion of the building. “I am happy that the people of Koyamah did not wait for me to do this for them. I am happy that you took upon yourselves to do this, and I am proud that you have done it. I thank you for this,” Senator Zargo said. 

The Liberian lawmaker however cautioned his kinsmen to continue to hold together, noting that: “I urge you to be united because in unity, there’s always strength and cohesiveness. Lormas in Guinea and Liberia must unite and work together for the improvement or betterment of their lives,” advised. Adding: “For too long people have taken us for granted. It is time that we hold together so that nobody will come and underestimate you for little or nothing. Certainly, Lorma is the largest tribe in Lofa and one of the most important tribes in Guinea and should therefore be taken seriously at all times. However, the only way this goal will be achieved is for you to harness all of the positives in you and patch your differences because, when you hold together as a people, no one will easily divide us.” 

He underlined lack of respect for culture and tradition and neglect for the Lorma tradition and value as some of the major reasons while his kinsmen have been lagging behind in the advancement of their livelihoods and the society in general. “You must not take your tradition and culture lightly and promote others more than your own. You must be proud of your cultural heritage and have respect for it at all times,” Senator Zargo cautioned.  

Koyamah is a town and sub-prefecture in the Macenta Prefecture in the Nzérékoré Region of south-eastern Guinea. Koyamah currently boasts of 58,725 inhabitants, a sizeable number of which is the Lorma tribe. The town is predominantly Lorma and Kpelleh from both Guinea and Liberia. It has played crucial role in the settlement major of disputes as far back as the early 18th century, one elderly man informed this news outlet. 

The Loma people, sometimes called Loghoma, Looma, Lorma or Toma, are a West African ethnic group living primarily in the northern mountainous, sparsely populated regions of Guinea and Liberia. Their population was estimated at 330,000 in the two countries in 2010. They are closely related to the Mende people. The Loma speak a language in the Southwestern branch of the Mande languages, belonging to the Niger-Congo family of languages. The language is similar to the KpelleMendeGolaVai, and Gbandi languages.

The Loma refer to their language as Löömàgòòi. The Loma people, led by Wido Zobo and assisted by a Loma weaver named Moriba, developed a writing script for their language in the 1930s. This writing script contains at least 185 characters.

The MalinkeKonyaka, and Kissi refer to the Loma as Toma. Loma refer to themselves as Löömàgìtì or in Guinea). They have retained their Traditional Religion, and resisted the Islamic jihads. The Loma people called the religious conflict with Mandinka people as a historic ‘rolling war’.

The Loma people are notable for their large wooden masks that merge syncretic animal and human motifs. These masks have been a part of their Poro secret rites of passage. The largest masks are about six feet high, contain feather decorations and believed by Loma to have forest spirits.

The Loma people farm rice, but in shifting farms. They are exogamous people, with patrilineal social organization in matters related to inheritance, succession and lineage affiliations with one-marriage rule. Joint families, or virilocal communities are common, wherein families of brothers settle close to each other. 

It is the largest tribe in Liberia’s Lofa County and one of the most popular ethnic groups in Guinea. The tribe shared rich traditional and cultural history for centuries, coupled with blood lineage which has led to unending cross border intermarriages. 

However, relations between the trans-boundary tribe was strained due to civil wars on both sides of the frontier which led to killings, looting,   and destruction of properties. Since the end of the Liberian civil war in 2003, several efforts have been applied by governments, civil society and youth organizations, as well as prominent citizens and traditional leaders to try heel a previously fractured relations.  

“Our goal is make our youth understand that culture and tradition have binned our peoples together for centuries, and this is something that the current generation would not want to mess around. We need to follow the footsteps of our forefathers by learning how they used to live together in peace and harmony,” AGUIDI Chairperson Julius Howard concluded in an exclusive interview with the Liberian Network.