Women, Children Stranded for 3 Days At Margibi-Grand Bassa Boundary As AFL Tightens Travel Restrictions


Cotton Tree, Margibi County – Scores of travellers are stranded at the boundary of Margibi and Grand Bassa Counties after soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia stopped vehicles from moving between the two counties as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Report By: Alpha Daffae Senkpeni | [email protected]

The stranded passengers are mostly woman and children who were travelling from Monrovia to Buchanan city or vice versa.

According to the stranded passengers, although the soldiers are claiming to be enforcing the travelling restrictions, they are allowing officials of Grand Bassa County to smuggle their relatives and friends across the blockade.

One woman, who claimed she has slept two nights at the checkpoint, alleged that lawmakers of the county are “carrying people who they know”.

“For us that going to look for money they say we are carrying virus while they are going up and down – so, who carrying the virus now? We are looking for our daily bread to feed our family,” exclaimed the woman, who said she is a local marketer living in Margibi County.

“Their family members are passing while we are here stranded.”

Some of the travellers said they are residents of Buchanan who had travelled to Monrovia to find food and other essential items for the upkeep of the families.  

Hundreds of the stranded passengers are women, who were travelling with their young children. Some claimed they have been at the blockade for more than three days | Photo by: Nicholas A. Dennis

Laurena Roberts, a resident of Buchanan, said she and her five-year-old daughter have been at the checkpoint since Friday, May 1.

“The people say we should not go Buchanan because we, who are coming from Monrovia, are carrying the virus to Buchanan – because they don’t want the other people in Buchanan to be infected so that’s why they stopped us,” said Laurena, adding that she’s now worried about sustaining her family amid the pandemic.

“This virus time, there’s nothing doing. So, at least when you get your five dollars to sustain you and your children you have to be doing business.”

Miatta Gbayoun, another stranded passenger, said she and her four children have slept at the checkpoint since Friday.

“I’m now worried that I have to stay here with my children and I don’t even have money on me,” she said.

On Saturday evening the stranded passengers angrily protested the movement of privileged vehicles, contending that they too should be allowed passage.

When contacted, the Police commander for lower Margibi County, Emma Taylor, said the blockade is being manned by officers of the AFL, who only take instructions from the Chief of Staff.

Janjay Baikpeh, Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, denied smuggling people through the checkpoint, but added that the county administration is holding talks with the AFL to allow perishable commodities through the boundary.  

“The caucus chair is already in conversation with the Chief of Staff to talk to them to see how best they can cross those with perishable goods and those essential goods that we need in our county can cross – and tell them that they would not be allowed to be moving here and there,” he told FrontPageAfrica Sunday via phone, adding that the mandate is from the Chief Executive and endorsed by the Legislature, which “makes it difficult for him to do anything”.

The government has imposed a State of Emergency to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has infected 158 persons and caused the death of 18 so far.

Amongst other things, the SOE includes a partial lockdown and restriction of travels from one county to another, according to a declaration by President Weah backed by the Legislature.

However, there have been concerns about the travel restrictions with some saying it impedes the movement of essential commodities between counties and puts constrains on local business people who commute across counties to trade.

The General Services Agency has issued vehicular passes to a number of registered businesses in the counties to move essential goods, but local marketers, who often buy and sell farm produce and other local made food products, are banned from moving between counties.

Nicholas A. Dennis of Voice of Firestone in Harbel, Margibi County contributed to this story