Gov’t, Fendall Demolition Victims to Settle for US$8M?

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Rev. Festus Logan and John Kollie (front, center) between two other individuals in the front roll lead a campaign that the affected Fendall residents get what they justly deserve

Former residents of Fendall, whose properties were destroyed by the demolition exercise carried out by the Ministry of Public Works are to benefit an amount of US$8,000,000 should they agree with the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led administration in an effort to settle them through an amicable agreement.

Over the weekend, the Technical Mediation Team (TMT) headed by the executive director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Festus Logan, presented its findings and recommendations to the victims, and has promised to submit same to President George Weah for the necessary redress.

It can be recalled that in February 2019, President Weah instructed the LRRRC and the Liberia Media Democratic Initiative (LMDI) to conduct a three-month long intervention aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the Fendall land dispute, and and subsequently a redress each to the concerns of the victims.

President Weah’s instruction came about a month following a rare and unexpected apology to the victims.

The demolition was carried out on orders of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf so as to allow the University of Liberia (UL) claim ownership of the land for the expansion of its educational programs, but unfortunately for the university’s administration, the deed presented into evidence bore 2018 as the time of purchase and ownership, whereas the victims had in their possession deeds that dated as far back as the early 1900s..

In a letter dated February 13, 2016 to Mr. Logan, the Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill instructed him to liaise with LMDI to carry out an independent investigation into the demolition, and come out with concrete findings and recommendations.

It is against this back drop that the LRRRC and the LMDI recently held a consultative meeting with over 200 of the affected individuals at a grade school  near the Fendall Campus.

“The estimated cost of the damage done is US$16,610,783.96, but the Fendall Technical Mediation Committee would like to suggest that government pays half of the overall estimated cost of US$8,000,000 to meet the President’s ‘halfway policy’ statement,” Samuel Worzi, an executive of the LRRRC said in his presentation of the report to the victims.

Before the introduction of any negotiation by CDC-led government, the Fendall demolition victims sued the Liberian government at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court for a US$40,000,000 damage.

But as it went, President Weah sent a team of government lawyers to the ECOWAS Court in Nigeria with the mandate to appeal to the court in order for the case to return back home (Liberia) and be settled amicably.

There was a success as the legal team succeeded in working with the LMDI and the LRRRC on initiating a dialogue for the settlement of claims and counter claims.

The next recommendation from the mediation committee was that government carries out a traditional abolition and community cleansing through awareness, peace building, conflict resolution and community participation in the ten affected towns and villages, including the Fendall community.

As part of the report, the mediation team said it has observed that the affected residents of Fendall are prepared to be moderate in their legal claims of funds being requested for damage based on the good faith demonstrated by President Weah.

“The committee observed that of the 50,000 inhabitants said to have been affected by the demolition exercise, only 13,500 individuals were officially profiled,” the TMC said.

A cross-section of the affected persons in the Fendall demolition carried out in 2016

They added that during their mediation and estimated number of 2,107 family heads representing 11,471 dependents or in total, 13,578 individuals were affected by the demolition exercise.

The team said tradition sites, graves, and other protected areas were destroyed.

“From all indications, a good number of the victims, including men, women and children are finding it difficult in their cognitive development because they are still living with relatives,” the TMC report continued.

They noted further that that of the number of those affected by the demolition exercise, there were two real estate land owners while 480 are original land owners.

Others are 1,441 squatters, 22 land renters, 148 traditional land owners and 14 were underdeveloped land owners.

In reply to the TMC’s recommendation that government pays US$8,000,000 rather than US$16,610,783.96 or the original US$40,000,000 for the extreme damages caused by the demolition, James J. Lablah, who is one of the affected residents, said the mediation committee should have left the amount at US$40,000,000 or at US$16,610,783.96.

“As one of the affected individuals, I think government should pay us either the US$40,000,000 or agreeably, US$16,610,783.96. We have sustained so much wounds. Our loss is even irreparable,” Lablah said.

Meanwhile, the head of the committee representing the aggrieved Fendall residents, Mrs. Viola Lincoln, in support to LMDI’s head, John Kollie and the LRRRC leadership, appealed to her fellow affected friends to accept the US$8,000,000 due to the challenging economic crisis confronting the country.

TMC is expected to submit its report to President Weah for final review and consideration any time soon.

4 COMMENTS

  1. So, someone works hard, saves their money, legally purchases a plot of land at Fendall (complete with land deeds that have been probated & attested by the relevant departments within the GOL) and they then build themselves a nice house on that plot of land.

    But then the poxy GOL comes along and illegally demolishes that said same house, following which the same GOL then drag the home owner through years of stress & financial crisis only to finally offer to pay the home owner less than ½ what the house actually cost to build, along with no additional recompense for the distress that the GOL have caused to the home owner.

    Precisely what sort of shit level of justice is this meant to be for the home owner?!

    “Sorry ma that we trashed your house, oh. Sorry ma that you’re homeless, oh. Here’s ½ what it cost you to build it, oh. And you’re lucky we’re even giving you that, oh”.

    I’d be of a mind to use some of that recompense money to employ a gang of thugs to go around to the house owned by the person that authorised those Fendall demolitions and burn theirs down to the ground for them and they’d be on notice that ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’; they’d never again sleep easy in their bed.

    • Your response to this issues clearly tells me you are not conversant with the issue at hand. That land was purchase long ago by the GOL led by former President Tolbert for the relocation of the U.L. in the 1970s, with the construction of Colleges of Agriculture and Science and Technology, which means it was the future home of the University of Liberia. In the late 1980s, former President Doe constructed the Engineer complex to be used by students studying engineering and the Academic building for students of Teachers, Social sciences and other programs taught at the University, so in short by early 1990, the U.L. had about 75% moved to Fendall.
      In mid 1990, the civil war entered in Monrovia and the U.L. had to close. If this initial purchase was done by the former President Tolbert from these groups of families, and was not properly done, why the nine(9) years of former president Doe, these people did not complained, but waited until the country was in crises and many essential official historical documents were looted and destroyed, therefore the University could not locate those document for the Fendall land purchase.
      During these intermittent wars, criminal minded Liberians started encroaching on the property(Land) of the University and claiming it was for their great grand parents, etc falsifying deeds to exert their claims and selling to innocent buyers, thus trying to deny the University its property.
      In Liberia, politics always prevailed over legality, so the present Government wants to appease those victimized by the land criminals, so be it.
      thanks.

  2. THE LAND ISSUE STARTED WITH TOLBERT. JUST BEFORE IT COULD BE SETTLED, THE DOE GOVERNMENT TOOK OVER. THE NEGOTIATIONS STARTED AGAIN DURING THE DOE ADMINISTRATION, THEN CAME THE CIVIL WAR. AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, TAYLOR’S STARTED IT AGAIN AND TAIWAN WANTED TO PAY, THEN THE SMALL, SMALL WARS STARTED. THAT IS WHY IT NEVER SETTLED UNTIL ELLEN TOOK OVER AND MADE MATTERS WORSE. TOLBERT ONLY MADE PART PAYMENT AT THE TIME TO ENCOURAGE THE PEOPLE TO GIVE OUT THE LAND.

  3. Thanks Mr. Wright. You seen to have a good knowledge of the issue by giving some historicity of the situation. It then suggested that the part-payment means that the GOL owed the people of Fendall a balance for whatever was agreed upon; but instead of they(people) engaging GOL for the balance of their money, they started selling the land to private buyers, knowing that what the GOL wanted to do there was in the interest of the public and their children who would gain through public education.
    In Law, there is a concept that is called “Eminent Domain” .it means the G.O.L.can take any private property to use it for the good of the public, but will pay the price for said seized property; why the land owners did not follow-up on Government, since Government cannot died for their balance money, and they have caused harm to these private people through deceits.
    I also remembered an official of Government in the Tolbert Administration was jailed and dismissed from his Job for this same Fendall land matter. I attended the U.L. in the mid-eighties and we always went on the Fendall campus to do our laboratory experiments on Saturdays, that whole area was bushy and was said that it belonged to the U.L. There were palm farm, teacher Quarter for some of the professors(Prof. Ward), a Liberian Chemist was murdered by the rebel then.
    This whole scenario can be blamed on the sellers of the Land to these private buyers.
    Thanks Mr. Wright for your insight!

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