Liberia: Man Killed in Nimba for Snail Hunting

On of the disputing towns carrying a dead person believed to be killed from the shooting.  

The death of a 42-year-old man has been reported in Nimba County as a result of an argument that ensued over snail hunting. 

Solomon Gaye lost his life after a quarrel broke out when the people of Bah town went hunting for snails in the forest boundary between Bah and Buutuo. This led to an exchange of gunfire.  He and four others got hit by a bullet during the gun battle between the two villagers who were armed with a single barrel gun each.

However, the 42-year-old Gaye from Bah town was the only casualty but the rest are now in critical condition.  Gaye died Instantly from his bullet wound. Three of his fellow residents of Bah town were seriously wounded, while the opponents from Buutuo sustained one injury.  All those injured are reportedly under critical condition. 

The incident, which happened in Kparblee Administrative District, lower Nimba County, also led to hundreds of people from both towns being homeless for a few hours due to the sounds of gunfire, as well as the destruction of thousands of Liberian dollars worth of properties. 

It also led to people fleeing into the bushes and nearby communities with their personal belongings.

Although the people from Bah town managed to lay their hands on a bag of snails before the start of the fighting, the conflict between the two towns had long been in the making.  Both towns have, for a considerable period, been at loggerheads over land, for which either side appears unwilling to back down.

Before the recent conflict, the two towns were engaged in a heated standoff but amicably resolved the issue with no casualty, despite the violent nature of the standoff. 

The cause of the first conflict, according to one of the chiefs, was the influx of Burkinabés to carry on contract farming. The Burkinabés, whose presence in Grand Gedeh County is causing havoc, are contracted to brush and clear some huge tracts of farmland for the planting of cocoa and another cash crop. 

However, the Burkinabés usually do these works in exchange for shared land when the crops start to bear.  Because of the deal, most of the locals have been giving their farmlands to Burkinabés, who usually encroach upon other people's land. 

“Some of the locals sometimes give over 100 acres of land to be cultivated and it is causing serious confusion between those in favor of Burkinabe and those who are not,” disclosed a chief from Kparblee.

The chief said the particular area of the just-ended conflict is one of the areas where the Burkinabés are based and farming. Most of the citizens are giving out their land to the Burkinabés for farming, so I don’t think other communities will allow them to enter the bush for hunting or even cutting sticks,” the chief added. “Influx of Burkinabés in Kparblee has been unprecedented in recent times.”

Meanwhile, in 2014, an American-funded organization, known as PROSPER, carried on the survey and demarcated the land, erecting the cornerstones to know their boundaries.

But the process to have the deed to the land has been tense, for the fact that the people from Buotuo are predominantly Dan (Gio) and Bah, and are predominantly inhabited by the Krahn.

The disputed communities are located around the Ivorian border and are frequently used by motorists from Grand Gedeh County. Land disputes in Nimba County had always been bloody. In 2007, the towns of Dounpa and Zuatown clashed in a land dispute that also claimed a life, where rice kitchens or farms were set ablaze and several other cash crop farms destroyed.

And just this year,  two towns along the Saclapea, Yarsonnon, and Gbablin clashed over land and one lost his life. Meanwhile, the Liberia National Police  Nimba Detachment has arrested eight people from both towns in connection to the alleged murder of Solomon Gaye.

The eight suspects have been sent to Sanniquellie, the Capital City of Nimba County for questions. None of the suspects have claimed responsibility for the killing. Both parties are appropriating blames -- accusing each other of shooting first, according to the police.