Land Dispute Halts VR Process In Nimba

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A land dispute which reportedly erupted in Sokopa Town, Nimba County, yesterday near the boundary with Bong County, disrupted the ongoing voter registration (VR) process.

The situation, according to reports, became so intense that the entire community was deserted as residents fled in all directions when they heard the loud sounds of gunfire.

Up to press time last night, no one has claimed responsibility for the sporadic shooting, which engulfed the surrounding villages.

There are reports that the sound of guns was heard coming from the direction of the disputed area, which resulted in the wounding of one person and another missing.

A teacher assigned in the area told Daily Observer via mobile phone on condition of anonymity that some surveyors, backed by a handful of officers from the Police Support Unit (PSU), tried to enforce a survey order, but were allegedly resisted by some of the residents, who laid claim to the disputed parcel of land.

One of the citizens, who called from his hideout, told the Daily Observer that the Soko family (a Mandingo family) brought in a survey order from the court (not named) to survey some portion of land between Ganwee and Sokopa towns, but residents of Ganwee resisted the survey order.

According to one eyewitness, residents there resisted a first survey order, “but returned yesterday when the situation intensified, thereby disrupting the VR process.”

According to information reaching the Daily Observer, the present trouble started on Monday, February 6, when a group of Mandingo residents reportedly brought a survey order from Monrovia to survey some portions of the farmland surrounding the community.

When the survey was about to commence, some of the residents, predominately Manos, reportedly stopped the survey.

Shortly before they stopped the survey, an eyewitness said, the opposing faction requested the claimants to the land to present their tribal certificates before a survey is conducted.

In the ensuing confusion, there was a reported flareup of acrimony in the entire Sokopa Township and its environs, which forced NEC registration workers to abandon the registration process and escape from the community.

When contacted, Nimba County Acting Superintendent Dorr Cooper confirmed the report.

Mr. Cooper then expressed regret over the situaiton, but said the survey order was done without the consent of the county authority.

He said authorities have therefore with immediate effect halted the survey and have called on the disputing parties to exercise restraint.

Meanwhile, there are conflicting reports as to which court the order came from, with some saying the high court in Monrovia, while others say it came from the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquellie. A clerk at the Circuit Court has denied ordering any survey in recent time.

Police has meanwhile brought the situation under control while an investigation is pending.

Sokopa is the first town in Nimba from the Bong County side of the bridge crossing over the St. John River. It is predominately occupied by Mano, Kpelle and Mandingo people.

According to history, the town was named after a Mandingo man, who settled near the river bank.

Meanwhile, this recent argument started when Mandingos claimed to own about 1000 hectares of land in the area, for which other citizens demanded tribal certificates, something the party claiming ownership of the land is yet to produce.

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