Liberia: Land Tension in Nimba County Ahead of Pres. Weah’s Visit

The disputed land in Ganta

Tension is said to be brewing ahead of President George Weah’s visit to Nimba over one of the long-standing land disputes in Nimba, precisely Ganta City.

The land dispute, which brought Ganta to a standstill in April 2021 following a Supreme Court ruling in favor of one Fred Suah as legitimate owner, escalated by the eviction of the occupants, including the Donzo, Kromah, and the Jabateh families.  The situation claimed the government's attention, with the president setting up a committee, headed by Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, to find an amicable solution to the problem, despite the court ruling.

Upon the eviction of the Jabateh, Dobson, and Kromah families last year, tension began brewing and it became worse when a warehouse on the disputed land mysteriously caught fire, leading to the destruction of goods worth millions of Liberian dollars.

But, since President Weah set up the ad-hoc land dispute committee to look into this particular conflict, the conflict is yet to be resolved, leaving both the claimant and respondents as well as the ordinary citizens in dilemma.

The committee had made visits to Ganta, where a new survey was conducted on the parcel of land in question, and also spoke of the disputed parties, but have yet to come up with their findings. In the wake of President Weah’s expected visit to Nimba this month, some members of the committee, including Senator Jeremiah Koung, the Land Commissioner and Assistant Internal Affairs Minister, paid a visit to Ganta and assured the disputed parties of a lasting solution.

Koung said, “We postponed the discussion, asking everybody to go home and discuss with their people before meeting at the round table on July 16, as family.”

Without providing any detail, Koung added that “this is a family issue so we want them to go share some options we have been providing with their family. Then, when we meet on July 16, everything will be okay.” For his part, the Chairman of Liberia Land Authority, Atty J. Adam Mulbah, describes the dispute as more complicated to the extent that it requires more time, more discussion, more consultation, and a plea to all parties to be sure that whatever solution they come up with, will be lasting.

“We explained that they were still in discussion, explaining that no party had shown them documents to indicate that they own the land,” said Mulbah. “There May have been several issues, several conclusions or assertions that either this party has the land or the other party has the land. But, as far as we are concerned, we have not reached any conclusion one party or the other owns the land."

Mulbah explained that the committee has not come up with any conclusion about who owns the land, adding. “We are still doing research.”

“We have not reached a conclusion yet, but we are not far from a conclusion,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fred Suah, an administrator of Paye Suah Estate, has said that as far as he is concerned, his family has won the case and the court has evicted the occupants from the land. Therefore, he is going to begin his construction on the land without any delay.

He accused the committee heads, including Minister Sirleaf,  Mulbah, and Assistant Minister Shannon of showing Muslim solidarity to their brothers, who the case went against.  According to him, the committee is undermining the Supreme Court decision, adding, that he thought that the committee would be more holistic in their finding but all their suggestions are against him.

“I presenting all his documents to the committee, as well as receipts paid for real estate tax from 1968 to date, and also referred the committee to the National Archives, but still the committee does not want to respect court ruling as the documents.”

“Since the President instituted this committee and come up with an amicable solution upon the eviction of those I won in the land case by the instruction of the Supreme Court, more than a one year ago, the committee is yet to make any report to the President and also tell us (the disputants) anything guaranteed,” he said.

He said the committee is trying to overturn the Supreme Court ruling by asking him to relinquish the land to those he won in the court for the sake of peace, something he objected to, arguing that if that is the case, “there won’t be peace.”