The over 2,000 residents of Upper Johnsonville, Kpekpeh Town, near the Kissi Camp Community, outside Monrovia, are say they are suffering from the offensive smell of corpses recently dumped in the nearby Kpanwein River.
In response, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Morris Dukuly, whose agency has now been tasked with the disposal of bodies, told this paper via mobile phone that there is no corpse exposed to create health hazard or environmental concerns for the residents.
“We bought the parcel of land in question through my Deputy for Administration, and so, nobody tells anybody that the bodies will be removed since its being underground for over a week,” said Minister Dukuly.
MIA Deputy for Administration, Rennie B. Jackson, who spoke through his Director for Communications, D. Emmanuel Wheinyue, failed to disclose the name of the person that reportedly sold that parcel of land to the MIA for burial of the dead Ebola victims as they claimed, and or the amount of money that allegedly changed hands.
“The issues of who sold the land and the removal of the bodies from that area because of the environmental concerns are not relevant for now,” said Mr. Wheinyue, who failed to answer questions regarding whether residents can bury their deceased relative/s anywhere anytime once they have bought and deeded a parcel of land.
Over a week ago, guarded by a heavily armed platoon of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as well as Police Support Unit (PSU) officers, two mini trucks conveyed corpses believed to be victims of Ebola at different locations across the country. The bodies were dumped on the west bank of the Kpanwein River. They were intended to be buried in mass graves dug by a hired yellow machine, but the machine unfortunately got stuck in the mud, where the property meets the mangrove.
The Kpanwein River connects the Kpeh-Kpeh Town Community to Whein Town in the east and Chicken Soup Factory on Somalia Drive in the west, as well as Upper and Lower Johnsonville and many other communities.
Since the first truckload of corpses arrived Saturday, August 2, residents of the nearby communities have vehemently rejected the use of their land for the disposal of the bodies.
An aggrieved Kpeh-Kpeh Town resident, Carey Daniel, told the Daily Observer that the exact plot of land where the graves are dug is a wetland on the bank of the river that is the source of water for many surrounding communities. They fear that their wells – from which they get water for drinking and domestic use – might be contaminated, exposing them to other diseases.
Two school teachers, who are also residents of the area, Emmanuel G. Wonleh, and William S. Zuogbay, are among other inhabitants that have expressed fear of contracting diseases apart from Ebola as a result of the offensive odor that saturates the air over Johnsonville.
They are concerned as to when the government, through the authorities of the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare and Internal Affairs, will come to remove the bodies and take them to the crematorium in Marshall or at an appropriate cemetery for ‘proper burial.’
The order to dump the corpses on the land came against the backdrop of the government’s recent announcement that it would “consider cremating” (burning) the corpses of those who have died from the deadly Ebola virus.
In the wake of the pronouncement, the burial team from the MOH/SW and Internal Affairs on Saturday, August 2, dumped at least 45 bodies in Kissi Camp, near the Kpeh-kpeh Town Community, Upper Johnsonville, just northwest of the City of Paynesville.
A resident, Carey Daniel, was among those allegedly brutalized by soldiers accompanying the burial team.
Nursing his bruised left eye over the weekend, Daniel wondered as to who selected the land on which the bodies were dumped since the land designated for the disposal of the corpses in Johnsonville is privately owned, with cornerstones conspicuously (clearly) planted and marked.
One of the landowners, a businessman, T. Emmanuel Cole, said he was never contacted regarding the use of the piece of land he had purchased with a probated deed for his son, Joseph F. Dolo (cornerstone marked: JFD).
“I’m not asking them to pay me [money] for my land. I’m going to take the authorities to task for illegally using my land to bury dead bodies,” he said.
Enraged that they had not been informed prior to the dumping that their community would play host to such a burial site and the implications involved, youth from Kpeh-kpeh Town and nearby communities started felling trees across the road, denying passage to the vehicles en route to bury the dead.
For his part, Johnsonville Township Commissioner, Melvin Bettie, told the Daily Observer that he was indirectly connected to the dumping of the bodies, because, when approached by the MOH/SW authority, he could not immediately provide a burial site for corpses.
According to him, he was not the one who ordered the execution of the burial exercise, but “because of my job, I assigned the Land Commissioner to supervise the process.”