Reports from the Kparblee Administrative District suggest that large groups of foreign migrant workers, mainly from Burkina Faso have crossed over to the district in search of sharecropping opportunities being offered by locals in the area.
According to the Acting Statutory Superintendent of Tappita, Loubayer Barlea, the group of Burkinabés entered the country via the Republic of Ivory Coast to carry on cultivation of cash crops which they share with the owners of the land.
He said the entry of the people has brought division among the citizens, with some in support while others remain opposed to having them in the area and the attempt to integrate them into the society.
Mr. Barlea said those who brought in the Burkinabés told him that they hired the men to carry on the cultivation of their farmland so as to divide the cultivated farmland.
“For example”, he said, “if they cultivate 10 acres of land for cocoa, the owner of the farmland will take five acres, while the contractor or the worker carries the balance five. We are totally against the coming of the Burkinabés because they will come gradually and occupy our entire community,” Jasper Zuo, a citizen of Old Yourpea, said.
Those who are in favor of the Burkinabés said their coming will boost agricultural activities in the district and will also empower most of the landowners.
“These Burkinabés are very strong; they will plant your crops and maintain it to the harvesting level before it is divided,” said Sarty, a local resident.
However, many residents are expressing skepticism over the coming of these men because they claim the Burkinabés have taken over Ivory Coast with this “work and divide” method.
Some of the people in the district believe that the Liberian Constitution does not provide for a foreigner to own land, and therefore hiring foreigners to work and own cash crops on a portion of land is prohibited under the Liberian Constitution.
“Terrorism is a big problem in Burkina Faso, Mali, and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and so the coming of the Burkinabés poses a future threat to our unborn children,” said a caller on a local radio station.
The Commander of Liberia Immigration Service, Yei Dolopaye, has confirmed the information and said the Burkinabés and their hosts have been invited to Sanniquellie for further investigation.
She said the LIS officers assigned at the entry point have been instructed not to allow any more Burkinabés into the country.
The presence of these foreign nationals which drew the attention of local leaders headed by the superintendent, prompted them to visit the area to quiet down tension.
The border points between Liberia and the Ivory Coast are so porous that foreigners can enter the country easily. Many locals believe that if precaution is not taken now, the Burkinabés will continue to enter gradually and eventually outnumber the population in the area. It can be recalled that in 2019, there was a report of an influx of Ghanaians coming into the country in order to carry on gold mining.
Locals at the time blamed with the Government for not taking the situation seriously. Now it remains to be seen whether this latest development will be treated with the urgency it deserves.
With conflict over land issues growing by the day, and given current tensions their presence has generated in Nimba, future clashes between migrant agricultural workers and locals could be likely and cannot be ruled out altogether.