The Liberian question, “When will government get ready?” caught up with squatters on land belonging to the University of Liberia Fendell campus yesterday when a bulldozer indiscriminately broke down several concrete structures on the university’s property.
The demolition exercise that began during the morning hours was characterized by violent protests by evicted residents who claimed that they have title deeds to the land.
They set road blocks and burnt tires on the road, stopping vehicles from moving.
Eyewitnesses told the Daily Observer that the angry encroachers threw petrol bombs at the university’s power generator room. Fortunately, the petrol bombs did not cause any harm to the University facilities.
“The angry victims were throwing stones at police and the demolition team this morning and burning tires on the road; but police reinforcement came and they all dispersed,” an eyewitness told this paper.
Some officers of the Liberia National Police told reporters that they encountered a tough time with the aggrieved demolition victims.
Some unarmed police officers said they were stoned while others took cutlasses and single barrel rifles to shoot at them; but that they called for reinforcement and the presence of heavy manpower drove the rioters away.
The officers said in separate statements that the aggrieved parties are planning arson attacks on buildings on the university’s campus. This plan, coupled with students’ planned demonstration against increase in tuition fees, has increased heavy police presence on the campus.
The second phase of demolition on the western side of the Fendell campus came following demolition of the eastern side that left hundreds of illegal residents homeless.
A ranking official of the Ministry of Public Works at the demolition site refrained from speaking to the Daily Observer on grounds that the UL authority did not authorize him to comment to the press.
However, another Public Works official was heard telling police officers and others that the encroachers were given a long time and were informed about the demolition on May 9, but they refused to relocate.
“These people were given a long time to prepare and leave this place, but they perpetually refused to do; and with all legal backings, this property belongs to the University of Liberia,” the MPW official said.
Up to the time a bulldozer was demolishing structures, encroachers were seen getting their belongings from the houses and taking them on pick-up trucks to other locations.
A resident of the area also said in a conversation that a day to the demolition, an encroacher attempted selling a parcel of land to an individual that was seeking to buy land.
“I am telling you, someone was here yesterday to buy land, and one of the victims dwelling on this property attempted selling land to him,” the resident said.
Another evicted resident who sells food on the Fendell campus said, “I had my structure at the first place they broke down two weeks ago; and I am now in my own area near the bridge towards Careysburg. We were told long time ago that they will break this place down, and we all know. I am only telling my customers where I am currently, but what people are saying around here is nothing to go by.”
Meanwhile, houses demolished at Fendell were marked by Ministry of Public Works years back, and notices served indicated that the land belongs to the University of Liberia.
Despite the warnings and time given to prepare for relocation, the encroachers remained complacent up to the time of demolition.