ECOWAS Community Court to Hear ‘Nimba Land Case’ on May 2

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The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has set May 2, 2019, as the hearing date into the case between the Government of Liberia (GoL) and the Mandingo people of Ganta, Nimba County, a release has said. The Mandingos are under the banner, “the Ganta Support Group.”

According to the release, the lawsuit emanates from a long-standing land dispute, which was sparked by the alleged illegal occupation of land and properties of residents of Ganta (mainly the Mandingo people), who fled the country during the war, only to return and find their properties occupied.

According to the law suit, “the Mandingo people have been the owners of properties in Ganta from time immemorial.”

“All of land in question were developed that had our homes, business houses, farms and plantations. Also there were no court case/s anywhere claiming these Centuries old owned properties of Mande’Nkoh people,” the release said.

However, it can be recalled that in 2006, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf constituted an ad-hoc committee headed by former Internal Affairs Minister, Ambulai B. Johnson to resolve the Nimba land disputes.

A subsequent commission was constituted, presided over by Musa Hassan Billity.

The two commissions were established to primarily achieve peace and foster reconciliation; they recommended the need to compensate all the claimants to vacate any of those disputed lands or properties.

“With particular reference to Ganta and its environs, 250 cases out of the 280 land dispute cases were resolved; and the GoL compensated all illegal occupants,” the statement said.

But the Mandingos said they that since the payments were done, the “illegal claimants” are yet to turn over the properties to their legitimate owners.

The suit further alleged that over 75 family heads (Mandingo residents) were beaten, tortured and jailed in 2016 by state security, during a peaceful rally in demand of their ancestral land.

According to the aggrieved party, the government allocated the unoccupied portion of the embattled land to former and current government officials, including the Ganta City Mayor.

In this regard, the Mandingos claimed their rights, as enshrined in Article 5 and 11 of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, have been abused and denied in all courts in Nimba County, “therefore, we see the need to go to the regional court to seek for protection, dignity, civil liberty, right to property, right to life. That is why we sued GoL to be compelled to restore our constitutional rights. We pray the court to declare the violent attack of the peaceful rally held in Ganta, in November 2016, unlawful as it violated our human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”

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