“I Will Die If They Break Down My House”

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Ma Yualer Yielea Tuazama, a prominent woman in Bahn City, Zoe-Geh District, Nimba County, has threatened to end her life should the demolition exercise to open valleys and lay streets in the city touch her house.
Without holding back her feelings after her four-room house was marked for demolition because a street passes through it, she resolved to end her own life if the county authorities carry out the decision to knock down her home along with others in the path of the new streets.
“I lost all my four houses to the Liberian civil crisis. I struggled to rebuild at least this one and I am now too old to do anything for myself to get money, so if they break this house, I will not live in Bahn anymore, but rather take away my own life,” she vowed.
The ongoing opening of streets, preceded by the demolition exercise in Bahn as agreed to by the residents themselves, is now creating anxiety among them. Some of them, especially those whose properties stand in the way of streets and are already marked for demolition have threatened various remedies since there is no compensation thereafter for their lost houses.
Prior to the commencement of the exercise, the residents held a mass meeting during which they waived their rights to compensation since the opening of streets was in their interest to pave the way for other development projects in the city.
No sooner had the exercise commenced some of the residents began issuing statements of disagreement, while others have remained in support of the demolition exercise to make way for the streets.
For Lucy Kai, she sees the exercise as one that blocks the affected residents from the chance of being compensated by the World Bank.
She feels the World Bank will in the near future compensate people whose properties are located in the path of the streets, and not support the county’s decision to demolish them without any compensation, as the residents through their leadership have agreed to earlier.
Peter Karmein, Chair, Bahn Sehwon Development is in full support of the exercise, declaring, “We need development for which the residents have spoken. We must therefore abide by whatever the process entails.” He is among some of those that are loyal to the process, “because after the demolition, the streets would connect from one point to the other through which other development programs such as electricity and a running water system would follow.”
The chairman of the Association of Civil Society Organizations in the district, Joseph M. Menlor, said he is prepared to lead a legal battle with county authorities if the situation is not addressed.
The organization accused the county authorities of demolishing homes in the name of development without any benefit to the owners which it considers a human rights abuse.
He said while citizens are eager for development, it is important for those who own properties being demolished to be compensated, because they legally owned the properties and paid taxes on them.
This newspaper learnt that the exercise has already knocked down several homes it earlier marked for demolition. It is reported that over 600 houses of the estimated 3000 homes in Bahn would be affected.
Anthony Winpea, one of the prominent residents, pledged support for the process, but appealed to the County authorities to close-up or construct bridges over some of the valleys in the city.
For Bahn City Mayor Angie Dopoe, the demolition exercise has created socio-economic hardship to the extent that rent for a single room in the city previously for LD250 has increased by at least US$10.
On the other hand, the county administration has remained resolute to complete the street laying project in just 14 days, beginning Sunday, August 23. As a result, Nimba County Superintendent, Fong G. Zuagele, has relocated his office to Bahn to ensure that the process proceeds on time.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer, he said Nimba has five original districts with Bahn as a “face of Zoe-Geh District Development” deserving a good layout in order to give way to other projects.
“We want cities in Nimba to be like other cities around the world with clean environments, access to road networks, therefore it is better to (act) now than in the future,” he declared.
He perceived a “better Bahn” at the end of the exercise to continue onward to Tappita, Lower Nimba County. He said the streets are measured by 33 feet, but the city limit is about eight square miles. This means the surrounding towns including Gblai to the north, Mianplay to the northwest and Ziaglaye to the east would all form parts of the city limits.
On July 20 this year, Bahn City, the political capital of Zoe-Geh District, witnessed a survey which was conducted by the county Administration for the opening of alleys and streets. The survey marked out structures to be demolished, which has left many residents already homeless.

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