— Urges leaders from all sides to intervene and stop further Violence
The chairperson of the Opposition Liberty Party prominent son of Nimba, Musa Hassan Bility, has called on citizens of Nimba county to eschew violence and embrace constructive dialogue to rule in the recent land dispute that led to an arson attack on a warehouse in Ganta on Tuesday morning.
On April 19, 2021, the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquellie evicted illegal occupants of a portion of land belonging to the Paye Suah Family, which brought to an end the 10 years of land dispute between the Jabateh and Donzoe on the one hand, and the Paye Suah family on the other hand.
After the eviction on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, citizens woke up to a wave of violence with a warehouse near the Dunbar Field allegedly set ablaze by unknown disgruntled individuals, a situation that brought activities in the city to a standstill.
In a press statement released after the arson attack on the warehouse, Mr. Bility, who is also a member of the Mandingo tribe, said, “I am calling on my fellow citizens of Nimba County, especially Ganta City, to remain calm during this time and reject violence in favor of constructive dialogue. I acknowledge the raw emotions and empathize with the frustrations surrounding the land disputes in Nimba in general, and specifically pertaining to the recent Circuit Court ruling which awarded a parcel of land in Ganta under dispute between Fred Suah and the Donzo, Sanoe, Koroma, and Jabateh families to Mr. Suah”.
According to him, though the land dispute has gone on for far too long and needed to be resolved immediately; however, citizens should desist from issuing threats of violence and to not forget a time not so long ago, when violence left Nimba and Liberia in total chaos for over fourteen (14) years.
Since the eviction, Mike Jabateh of the Mandingo ethnic group has been making threatening comments that he would kill Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and will sacrifice his life to go into any violent activities in Nimba if any Mandingo man is touched.
Mr. Bility is also calling on the traditional, social and political leaders to step in urgently to find a way to resolve the issues and move forward. “In times like these, it is imperative that those of us whom people look up to as leaders in Nimba come together to show leadership and find a resolution to this matter of land rights which has plagued Nimba for many years,” said Bility.
He said by not doing so, “We vitiate our responsibility to guide and protect our citizens and leave them with no alternative but to turn on each other. I have reached out to many of my fellow leaders from both sides, and they have been receptive to finding a joint resolution. We need to meet, all leaders from all sides, to resolve this matter once and for all and offer guidance on how Nimba can come together and heal in the aftermath. We must act swiftly.”
The tension led to the quick intervention of the Liberia National Police (LNP) under the direct supervision of its Inspector General, Patrick Sudue. The intervention quickly restored calm in Ganta as the police launched an investigation to establish the cause of the arson attack on the warehouse in that commercial city.
Mr. Bility also called on the Government of Liberia to intervene in order to restore peace and calm in Ganta and Nimba in general. “Our nation is under tremendous stress and this kind of incident flaring up in Nimba has the propensity to spill over to other counties currently experiencing similar land dispute issues. We have come out of a long period of crisis and I call on the Government to ensure that that history is never repeated.”
The Gio-Mano on the one hand and the Mandingo on the other hand have lived together mutually from the onset until in 1985, when members of the Gio and Mano began developing animosities against the Mandingoes when they (Mandingoes) began to allegedly mock at members of the two tribes while undergoing turbulent time following the Quiwonkpa led invasion. Before then, the Mandingoes and members of the two tribes had lived in harmony and in some instances intermarried. It was during this time of coexistence prominent men of the Mandingo tribe, including Musa Bility, Hassan Bility, former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh and others were born in the county.
During the civil strife that began in late 1989, the Mandingoes and the Gio and Mano people became bitter enemies with both groups killing one another. After reclaiming Ganta on June 30, 2003, from LURD forces that were dominated by members of the Mandingo tribe, members of the Gio and Mano reclaimed some areas once occupied by the Mandingoes before the war. Although some have challenged the matter in court and won their cases, some land disputes in Ganta persist, thus making the peace of the county fragile.