Liberia: Land Tension Sparks Again in Ganta



“As far as I am concerned, we have won the case and our land was turned over to us by the Supreme Court after the eviction of those in the case,” said Fred Suah, the administrator of the Suah family property. 

Another wave of land tension has sparked again in Ganta just days after President George Weah and his Cabinets ended their Nimba trip.

This comes after the President’s Land Dispute Committee failed to finalize the case between the Suah, Donzo, Kromah, and Jabateh families, as promised on July 16. Prior to the Cabinet Retreat, members of the committee, including Senator Jeremiah Koung of Nimba, Chairman of Land Commission J. Adam Mulbah, and Assistant Internal Affairs Minister for Technical Affairs, Lusine Shannon, visited Ganta, announcing July 16 as a date by which to emerge with a final decision on the disputed property.

Surprisingly, the meeting was canceled indefinitely by Koung, without giving any tangible reason. Upon the announcement, the Suah family decided to begin construction on the land, arguing that, as far as they were concerned, the law has spoken through the Supreme Court verdict and their land has been turned over to them.

“As far as I am concerned, we have won the case and our land was turned over to us by the Supreme Court after the eviction of those in the case,” said Fred Suah, the administrator of the Suah family property. "We are going to begin work on our land on July 18, because we have been waiting for a long, and all our materials bought for construction are getting damaged."

The land dispute brought Ganta to a standstill in April last year, following a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Fred Suah as a legitimate owner. The court ruling was followed by the eviction of the occupants, including the Donzo, Kromah, and the Jabateh, all of whom are of the Mandingo ethnic group.  The situation caught the government’s attention, leading the President to set up a committee headed by Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf to find an amicable solution to the problem, despite the court ruling.

The tension led to the burning down of a warehouse by unknown people. This warehouse was on the disputed land but survived the eviction and it was set ablaze, followed by other fire incidents across Ganta. So far, the ad hoc land dispute committee, which was charged with the responsibility to look into this particular conflict, is yet to come up with any solution, leaving both the respondent and claimants as well as their tenants in limbo, even though there was court ruling giving the claimant the legal right to the land.

“The sheriff from the court evicted the people and turned the land over to me, but of the President intervened, asking us to wait,” said Suah. “I decided to hold on, but it appears like the committee set by the President has failed, so we are going to start work on the land.

The committee has made visits to Ganta. During one of those visits, a new survey was conducted on the disputed parcel of land. The committee also spoke with the disputing parties, but coming up with their findings is an exercise that remains in limbo.

Koung, in his remarks on land dispute settlement prior to the coming of President Weah and his Cabinet, told the local reporters that, “we postponed the discussion, asking everybody to go home at that time and discuss with their people before a final round table discussion on July 16, as family.” 

Without providing any detail about how the family was going to be at the time, Senator Koung said, “this is a family issue, so we want them to go share some options we’ve been providing with their family than when we meet on July 16,  and everything will be okay.”

Now that the time shown for the settlement has been indefinitely postponed, both parties are expressing disenchantments over the indefinite suspension, with a youth group of the Mandingo ethnic group threatening to resist anyone from building on the land.

They told local radio stations that they wouldn’t accept any solution that will relocate them from the particular land in question and the Suah family is also threatening to start developing their land. It was highly expected that the President was going to personally speak to the disputed parties on his tour of Nimba last week, something that put resentment in the minds of the many, especially the disputants.

Meanwhile, Suah, an administrator of Paye Suah Estate, has said that as far as he is concerned, the court has spoken and our property has been turned over to him and will begin developing their work. He accused the committee heads, including Minister Sirleaf, Atty Mulbah, and Asst Minister Shannon of showing Muslim solidarity to their brothers, who the court ruled against.

He said 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. He explained that the presented, 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 doesn’t want to respect the court ruling as the documents.

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

He said the committee is trying to overturn the Supreme Court ruling by telling him(Fred) to relinquish the land to those he won in the court for the sake of peace, something according to him, he objected to, arguing that if that being the case there won’t be peace, adding, “peace without justice is dead.”

Prior to the eviction, a bulk of tenants were paying rent to either Fred Suah or the Donso, Jabateh, or Kromah families, on the other hand, so all those tenants are becoming impatient with the long delay in the settlement of the case.