Nimba ‘Mandingoes’ US$500M Trial at ECOWAS Court

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The Mandingoes in Ganta are claiming that their rights have been grossly violated by the government and have, therefore, sought justice at the ECOWAS Court.

-But Gov’t says case is inadmissible

The regional ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria is expected to shortly commence hearing into the lawsuit against the Government of Liberia by ethnic Mandingoes hailing from Ganta, Nimba County under the banner, ‘Ganta Support Group.’

The Mandingoes in Ganta are claiming that their rights have been grossly violated by the government and have, therefore, sought justice at the ECOWAS Court. They are asking the Liberian government to pay the sum of US$500 million as compensation for the violations of their human rights to life, dignity, housing, property, development, and peace.

On their behalf, the Ganta Support Group Incorporated and Sekou Sanoe have also called for an order of mandatory injunction, compelling the government to restore their ancient homes, lands and properties. The complainants have requested the Court to place a perpetual injunction restraining the government and her agents, privies, and servants from further attacking the Mandingoes in the county.

But the government in its brief, said it has nothing to do with the case, but only intervened to promote, protect and reconcile the dispute to avert future conflict in the City.

The government said the Applicants’ application is inadmissible and should be quashed because it has failed to state or demonstrate any act or conduct on the part of the government of the Republic of Liberia which is indicative of a characteristic violation of fundamental human rights of the Applicants.

“A declaration that the Applicants’ Application is inadmissible and should be quashed because it fails to state or demonstrate any act or conduct which is indicative of the Applicants capacity to sue, because only real parties of interest have the right to question the constitutionality of a statute or ordinance to waste the Court’s time,” the government said in its motion for preliminary objection.

The government’s briefs were signed by Attorney Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Minister for Litigation; Director of Civil Litigation, Cllr. Gartor Tate; Attorney Lafayette B. Gould, Sr., Special Assistant to the Solicitor-General and Solicitor General Cllr. J. Daku Mulbah on June 15, 2018.

The case was brought before the ECOWAS Court by the Ganta Support Group and Sekou A. Sanoe, who claimed to be suing on behalf of 823 displaced and victimized family heads of the Mandingo people. The suit emanated from a long-standing land dispute, which was offset by an alleged illegal occupation of the land and properties of residents of Ganta (mainly the Mandingo people), who fled the country during the war only to return, and to find their properties occupied.

According to the suit, “the Mandingo people have been the owners of the properties in Nimba County from time immemorial.”

In 2006, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf set up an ad-hoc committee headed by former Internal Affairs Minister, Ambulai B. Johnson to resolve the Nimba land disputes that had the potential to plunge Liberia into crisis. Another commission was constituted comprising only Nimbaians and presided over by Musa Hassan  Billity, himself a Mandingo from the county.

The two commissions established that to achieve peace and foster reconciliation, there was the need to compensate all the squatters to enable them to vacate the properties. “With particular reference to Ganta and its environs, 250 cases out of the 280 land dispute cases were resolved and the illegal occupants were fully compensated by the defendant,” the complaint stated.

The complainants, however, lamented that since the payments were done, the ‘illegal squatters’ are yet to turn over their properties of the Mandingo people.

The suit further alleged that over 75 heads of families of the Mandingo citizens of Ganta and its environs in Nimba were brutally beaten, tortured and jailed in 2016 by state security forces during a peaceful rally in demand of their ancestral land. According to the aggrieved party, the Government of Liberia allocated the unoccupied portion of the embattled land to former government officials, including former President Sirleaf.

Sekou Sanoe, a co-complainant, who claimed to be the administrator of his late grandfather, Nyama  Sanoe’s estate said, his late brother, Varfin Sanoe, was arrested, beaten, tortured and taken to Yekepa, and killed, because he challenged the illegal occupancy of his late grandfather’s property in Ganta.

According to Sekou, the property has been forcefully encroached on and developed by the illegal occupants who have received compensation for the property from the government but have refused to leave.

The complainants requested the Court to place a perpetual injunction restraining the government and her agents, privies, and servants from further attacking the Mandingos in Nimba. They further asked the Court to declare the violent attack of the peaceful rally held in Nimba in November 2016 unlawful as it violates their human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

The government admitted to paying those squatting on the properties in settling the matter but maintained that those who received the money refused to relocate from the properties indicating that it is inconceivable to apportion such blame on the government which was intended to resolve the conflict.

The government further explained that every effort by the government to amicably resolve the land dispute was rejected, ignored or challenged by the very citizens the government intended to assist by overt expression.

“There is no evidence to demonstrate by way of a written instrument that the government has violated any rights of the applicants which is the Mandingo people of Ganta city.”

25 COMMENTS

  1. This is a very difficult case. You lived with the people of Ganta and you joined LURD Rebel under Sekou Damante Conneh to kill the very citizens of Ganta. The citizens fought back and you ran to Guinea. You ran from your own shadow. The best thing to do is to come and apologize for your behavior and break bread but if you think you are going to take the CDC led government to court for 500 million to settle you in Ganta, it sounds like a terrible mistake to me. You should be afraid to try to force your way into Ganta and reacquire properties that you do not even have documents. Do you evn have birth certificates to prove you are a citizen of Ganta? You will be luck if ECOWAS will compell this government to pay you a dime and force you on the same people you killed their daughters, sons wives husband and children.

  2. In regards to the land situations in Liberia, if the government do nothing to jail people who sold Land in fix pretend to steal from others, this will cause second war in the country.

  3. These are the opportune times any group of seasoned lawyers crave in order to prove their judicial prowess. But our patented incompetent lawyers at that bungling Justice Ministry will once again, go to this trial relying solely on the groundless hope, “A declaration that the Applicants’ Application is inadmissible and should be quashed because it fails to state or demonstrate any act or conduct which is indicative of the Applicants capacity to sue, because only real parties of interest have the right to question the constitutionality of a statute or ordinance to waste the Court’s time.” When this flimsy rebuttal is tossed out by the court and the case is called for trial, watch these so-called Liberian government lawyers ask the court for extension, because they are not ready for trial. This is the modus operandi of the MOJ year in, year out. They go to these trials with one strategy, the “plan B” is extension. Sometimes in cases initiated by the government! So so lousy drunks getting monthly salaries and other perks for doing nothing.

  4. For peace sake , let the mandingoes for get about that land business and continue else where because the people of nimba county don’t like mandingo tribe because of what happened doing the war. Is not force to live only in nimba county you are a trader, so can make it anywhere in liberia.

    • Warped logic or is it a feel good commentary, you don’t like the Mandingoes or which other tribe you want to blame for not liking the Mandingoes.

  5. Well look, the citizens of Liberia who were born in Nimba county are to be referred to as Nimbaians. When it boils down to ethnicity, the natives of Nimba can be classified as Gio Nimbaians, Manno Nimbaians and Mandingo Nimbaians. (By using the word native, I am not making any reference to the old ugly talk of Americo-Liberians or Congau Liberians). I do believe that Americo or Congau-Liberians are by birth native-born Liberians. Only by ethnicity should Americo or Congau-Liberians be referred to as such. Similarly, native Nimbaians of Mandingo ethnicity, are natives of Nimba.
    My second point is simple. A group of Mandingo-Nimbaians are suing the Liberian government because thier property in Nimba county has been claimed. One would think that the very Nimbaians (whether they’re Gios, Mannos or even ethnic Mandingos) who have forceably claimed the land that was once owned by some Mandingo-Nimbaians would have been sued. But the government of Liberia is being sued? Why go this route?

    On the flip side of this appalling issue, the few Nimba-Mandingos who are suing have a God-given right to sue if the land is legally theirs. But, suing the government of Liberia for $500 million dollars is kind of laughable. And to make matters worse, Ecowas is being asked to settle this land dispute. Does Ecowas have any moral fortitude to settle land issues in Liberia? Your case is serious. I empathize with you. Be careful. Make informed decisions. Don’t act on impulse.

    Suggestion:
    My fellow Mandingo-Liberians, please don’t go the Ecowas route. Try the Liberian courts once again. We all know how hurt you are. Try to settle your dispute with your fellow Nimbaians in a peaceful way. Let’s not get into name-calling, fights or other acts of indecency.
    From the bottom of my heart, I wish all Nimbaians well. Merry Christmas to y’all. Hope your land issue will be peacefully resolved.

    • Hney, I am of the opinion that the Court of Justice has jurisdiction over the land dispute since it’s linked with the human rights abuse that the Mandingoes are putting in front of the court.

      I hope that the court award the Mandindoes all or part of what they are asking from the Government of Liberia. That would wake up the government to start prosecuting squatters and resellers of land in the country.

      Just My Opinion!

  6. This is very simple. This govt has paid present occupants to create a degree of amicable resolution, they must move and the land return to our brothers. NOW!!! Gov’t stop half-stepping; do your job and move these squatters out to ensure peace. U cannot illegally occupy another person’s property.

    • Who do you call squatters? The occupants are citizens of Ganta, its the land of their ancestors. Those Guinean must find their way back home.

  7. The TRC made recommendations to address the land issues in Liberia as a result of the war, Nimba” Mandingoes” must join the clarion call for the government to fully implement the TRC report for peace, justice and genuine reconciliation in Liberia.

  8. You drove yourselves out of Ganta by thinking that we will run when you started burning homes and destroying properties when LURD attacked Ganta. ECOWAS will not force you on us and if you want to force yourselves on us, you will meet up with a massave resistence. Do you even have deeds for properties you are claiming? Who is a squatters more than you? We are not interested in war neither are we afraid of war so nobody should make an intimedating statement here. Nobody sold any land, they thought they were going to run the Manos and Gios from Ganta during the war and when they were defeated, they ran to Guinea but for us, we have nowhere to go but right here in Ganta.You burned the town, why you want to come back there to live?

    • You guys are originally from Guinea with towns and villages named after Manos and Gios. Dieke, Guinea is the original home of your ancestors. STOP this dam mockery and return the people land. It belongs to them. STOP.

  9. If those guys says that they are citizens of Nimba, do they have a single village in Nimba? If yes, give the name of the village and where your father, grand father and great grand father were born in Nimba.

  10. I think that they acquired the land through their business connection or transactions. I am sure some of them used their land as a collateral to credit money from them. Upon failure for them to pay back, the land became theirs. The Mandingo Traders are very good at that. This is how they can acquire properties. They are smart business people. Unfortunately, some of these payment arrangements or negotiations were done verbally. Perhaps before the civil war, there were eye witnesses. Unfortunately, due to the civil war, some them might be dead by now to testify. However, since they are all Liberians, there is a need to at least give back some of the land to them.

  11. This what happened when a nation is run by bunch of idiots. When did ecowas obtained jurisdiction over Liberia’s sovereignty? So the Krahns, Bassas, Gios, Grebos, Kpelleh etc can now take their disputes, marrital issues or any other matters to Ecowas court in Abuja to resolve them. When have Ghanaians, Guineans, Nigerians, Togoleses or Senegaleses ever taken their national disputes to ecowas. I have nothing against the Mandigoes and their stay in Liberia, but we are about to create the same problem that caused Ivoriens to be viewed as a second class citizen in their own country. The Burkinabe Allassane Ouwatara used the French version of the predominantly Mandigoes countries like Mali, Senegal, Burkinafaso, and Guinea to force Ouwatara on the people of Ivory coast. I think the people of Nimba and Grand Gedeh should put away their differences and force these stupid Mandigoes out of our country for good before it gets too late.

  12. Gentlemen and Ladies,
    Two things must be made clear:
    1. If anyone of Mandingo ethnicity was born in any part of Liberia, that person is a Liberian.

    2. If the land in Nimba on which ethnic Mandingos lived had been acquired and owned legally, it should be returned to them irrespective of what they did during the senseless uncivil war.

    Do I support the burning of towns during any conflict? Of course not! I cannot fathom a logical reason why a town of residents should be set ablaze for any reason. The best thing that anyone could have done during those ugly years of the war was to find a way to safety. That’s it!

    The argument that’s being put forth by the Gio and Manno ethnic tribes is this….”well, you burned the town down to ashes. It’s no longer yours”. I understand.

    But, please, let’s not go like that.
    This issue is very complicated. I don’t want to be construed as siding with one particular ethnic group. I side with the ethnic Mandingos, Gios and Mannos. I am a peacemaker. I take the middle ground. That’s because we’re all brothers and sisters. But I also know it hurts!

    Dont do….
    * Don’t bring Ecowas in this conflict. Liberians should be able to settle their own internal squabbles. Second, this issue is not war-related.

    * Don’t sue the government of Liberia for any amount of money. A 500-million suit is outrageous it not laughable. The government can make your lives miserable, believe it or not! They shouldn’t though, but you never know. Right?

    What you must do…….
    * Calm yourselves down and let out your steam.
    * Plan a dialogue with your Nimba ethnics, the Gios and Mannos …..the chiefs, the Representatives, Senators, etc

    * Let them know that you blundered by burning down the town in which you once lived. All human beings make blunders.

    A Puzzle……”if”
    If you weren’t born there in Nimba or, let’s say in Liberia, try your utmost best to legalize yourselves….naturalize! Without being born there, you cannot legally claim any land and win easily. Problem is, you’re seen as foreign occupiers who showed no mercy during the bloody war. But if you were born there, you must deal with the case sensibly. You will be okay.

    Peace.

  13. Come on, Tarr,
    Mandingos are our brothers and sisters. Some of them were born in Liberia. In fact, when Liberia was known as the Grain Coast, the Mandingos were some of the original people who traded with the Portuguese and other European imperialists.

    The main issue:
    If the Mandingos were born in Nimba or any where in Liberia, they’re bonafide Liberians. Okay Leo?

    Burning down a village or town during the event of any emergency is nonsensical. It’s something they’ll regret. But, let’s resolve this issue without discriminating against them based on national origin.

  14. Come on Tarr, Mandingos are not space aliens. Please my dear brother, let’s not repatriate them to wherever they came from. Maybe some of them were born in Liberia.

    Lots of ifs from my perspective…………..
    If the Mandingos who are trying to reclaim the land they once owned in Nimba have the documents to prove ownership, they have a right to go to court.

    If the Mandingos who are trying to reclaim the land they once lived on in Nimba do not have the right legal papers to prove ownership, their case will be difficult to win.

    If the Mandingos who are trying to reclaim the land on which they lived in Nimba were born in Nimba, they have a right to pursue their case because they’re citizens of Liberia.

    If the Mandingos who are fighting (not physically) to reclaim the land they called their home were not born in Liberia or did not have any legal papers to reside in Liberia before and during the uncivil war, their case will be hard to win.

    If the Mandingos who are trying to reclaim the land in Nimba actually lived in Nimba and burned their town down to ashes during the uncivil war, they must apologize for a great error they committed.
    Note: During the event of any extreme emergency, one needs to find a safe haven, not burn a town down to ashes.

    What should not be done……..
    * Do not lobby the Ecowas community to settle land disputes.
    * Do not sue the Liberian government for $500 million dollars or for any amount of money. Why? That is not a logical move. Such a move could boomerang in your backyard big time.

    What could be done…….
    * Always and always, cooler heads prevail. And so your best course of action should be to admit that you blundered by burning the town you once called your home down to ashes.
    * Seek a better non-argumetative dialogue with the Nimba elders. I am sure they and you will reach an accomodation.

    A point to understand…..
    Mandingos who were born in Liberia, are right to claim Liberian citizenship. If they weren’t born there, they do not have the right to use force or any means of intimidation to re-claim land and citizenship.
    Long ago before Liberia declared independence, the 43,000 sq. mile land we call our country today, was known as the Grain Coast. The original inhabitants before and during the Grain Coast years were Mandingos, the Gios and Mannos, the Kpelle, the Bassans and a host of so many ethnics.
    Lastly, Liberians of Mandingo background who were born in Liberia are our brothers and sisters. They are Liberians. However, Mandingos who were not “born in Liberia” and didn’t bother to legalize themselves should apply for Liberian citizenship.

  15. As the New Year ushers in, let’s take it easy.
    Let’s be open-hearted. Let’s come to grips with the fact that Mandingos who (were) or (are) born in Liberia are citizens of Liberia. The issue of place of origin or anyone’s religious background should not cause us to be hateful.
    Peace

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