Hundreds of Mandingoes hailing from Ganta, Nimba County, under the banner “Ganta Citizens United for Peace and Reconstruction” is seeking the intervention of President George Weah in disputed land cases.
In a statement issued over the weekend, the group said Mandingoes from Ganta want to return home but cannot do so because, according to some of them, they were yet to repossess their properties that were “illegally seized by some Gio and Mano people.”
They said during the country’s 14-year war, particularly the one that erupted in 2003, many of the properties belonging to the Mandingo tribe, including land, were seized by some citizens in Ganta shortly after militia forces fighting for then President Charles Taylor pushed back Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels from Ganta.
The group’s spokesperson, Bangalee Trawally, reading the petition said those who “illegally” took their lands are refusing to turn them over, even though former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid some of them through assistance from the United Nations (UN).
The group said the Mandingoes are eager to return to Ganta, contrary to speculations that they do not want to go back home.
However, the group said they cannot return when their land that they want to develop are being occupied illegally by individuals who are refusing to let go of them.
“Unlike other cities or counties in Liberia, we are welcomed; it is only in Nimba that we had been ostracized, denied representation in local governance. Be that as it may, but denying us our properties through such flagrant manner is in all indication a recipe for disunity and chaos, leading to an ugly and wrong path. Hence, we want each and every one in here to take a deep breath and reflect, envision peace versus the unwanted. So please help us. Let’s celebrate what brings us together and reject what puts us apart. Let’s reject the notion that some people were more important than others. Therefore, our coming back now to develop our homes and cities is irreversible,” the group said.
The group in the statement said the situation in Nimba County regarding the seizure of their properties is a total denial of a tribe to resettle.
The Mandingoes in the statement pointed out that conflict is an ugly situation that no one wants to get into because his/ her fate is unknown; as such, the need to peacefully resolve the matter cannot be overemphasized.
The group emphasized that the Mandingoes are now ready to return to Nimba County, but need the intervention of President Weah to make it possible.
“Our people are languishing in towns neighboring our country. We are calling on this government led by President George Weah to speedily get involved and amicably resolve this long lasting land conflict in Nimba. We also call on the United Nations Special Representative to Liberia to help save our land,” the group appealed.
It recommended that for fairness and expedience sake, those who lived on a piece of property before 1990 be considered legitimate owners and given their properties without any condition.
The group also recommended that findings of the presidential committee appointed by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf be upheld as a way forward.
In response, Nimba County Senator Thomas S. Gurpee called for a national dialogue to address the land dispute.
He said the dialogue would enable citizens of the County to derive means relative to the peaceful resolution of the matter.
However, he pointed out that it is wrong for individuals to illegally possess people’s land.
Sen. Gurpee said the new Land Act clearly states how one can acquire land and not by any illegal means.
He stressed the need for Nimbaians to reconcile and work together for the good of the County.
In another development, Ganta Central Mosque, which was destroyed in 2003, has been re-dedicated.
Muslims came from different parts of Liberia and other countries, including the United States of America, Guinea, Ivory Coast, among others, to form part of the dedication ceremony of the Mosque.
In his sermon, the Grand Mufti of Liberia Sheikh Abubakar Sumawuro said Muslims, especially the ones in Nimba County, are excited to see their historic mosque restored to prewar status.
He urged Muslims to make good use of the mosque by serving Allah, who is the creator of all things.
Sheikh Sumawuro said the mosque is meant to get Muslims closer to Allah.
He said the mosque must be used to unite the people of Nimba County, irrespective of religious and tribal backgrounds.