Hundreds of residents of Fendell Community in Louisiana Township are dislocated following the demolition of their residencies after a two week eviction notice expired.
The ongoing demolition is being carried out by the Ministry of Public Works, through the authorization of the University of Liberia.
According to the eviction letter issued on April 12, 2016 the demolition is intended to clear various alleys, which include the demolition of residential structures. The residents were warned to leave the premises to avoid problems during the exercise.
Residents who spoke to this newspaper expressed frustration and disappointment in the UL authorities and the Liberian Government for overlooking a series of Memorandums of Understanding signed between UL/GOL and property owners. The land in question is said to be about 5,500 acres that property owners and the UL are disputing.
The chairperson of the Fendell Land Working Committee, Madam Viola Lincoln, displayed a letter from the office of the late President William R. Tolbert dated in the 70s appealing to the people of Fendell for a portion of the land of their forefathers to be used for agricultural purposes.
The letter requested for “relocation, compensation, empowerment opportunities for the people, and provision of safe drinking water, scholarship opportunities for the children,” among other benefits. But according to Madam Lincoln, the GOL “has not met up with those promises.”
She further noted that when negotiating with UL/GOL, property owners agreed to leave under conditions that centered on compensation and relocation. ‘‘The government should be sincere to us and must look at our interest. We want development but let it come the right way and must not come overnight,’’ she contended.
It may be recalled that in July 2015, the UL authorities through the Ministry of Public Works issued an eviction notice to residents that also claimed the attention of property owners in the area. As a result, property owners founded the Fendell Land Working Committee and took the issue to court.
Madam Lincoln further clarified that in October 2015, the committee sought legal advice and took a class action suit that is yet to be decided in court.
However, she said while the committee was finding the way forward, UL vice president for administration, Madam Weade Kobbah Wreh, called a town hall meeting and displayed documents from Civil Law Court ‘‘B’’ informing residents that the land is owned by the university and therefore as squatters, they should leave within fifteen days.
A resident and property owner told this newspaper that it was shocking and unfortunate to have received an eviction notice from the Ministry of Public Works, having understood from landowners that the case was in court.
Madam Kobbah Wreh has refuted claims that she is the driving force behind the demolition exercise. Professor Wreh said she has no authority to infringe on the rights of peaceful citizens. ‘‘It is important to know that the university is an institution that operates under the Liberian government and as such its mandate is directly from the government,” she said.
Giving a brief history of the UL property she said the university has over 5,800 acres of land, which she claimed the government has already paid the people for.
She noted that due to the UL’s delay in pursuing its property, some squatters have illegally sold about 2,200 acres “which is unacceptable and it is about time the government makes use of the property.”