Nimba Tribal Politics Deepens

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A group of Nimba citizens who were rebuked for advocating for the division of their county after the 2011 election will now see reason to continue their activism as Senator Thomas S. Grupee leads the charge against “Mano dominance” in the county government.

Speaking during a talk show on Radio Kergheamahn in Ganta recently, Senator Grupee expressed reservation that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was putting Nimbaians at loggerheads by appointing three men of the Mano tribe to the highest positions in the county.

Among the President’s recent appointments, she named Ganta City Mayor Dorr Cooper as Assistant Superintendent for Development following the dismissal of Teko Yorlay upon a recommendation fostered by the Nimba Legislative Caucus.

Senator Grupee who is of the Gio tribe as Teko Yorlay is, played a cardinal role in the removal of Mr. Yorlay.  Grupee is still insisting that the President not give Yorlay a new position as Assistant Minister for Youth Development at the Ministry of Youth & Sports.

Senator Grupee further stated during the radio interview that he expected President Sirleaf to remove the current Superintendent, Fong Zuagele, and replace him with Dorr Cooper while the Assistant Superintendent position would go to a member of one of the minority tribes of Nimba, the Gbee, Krahn or Mandingo.  

He said that as a result of appointing Mr. Dorr Cooper as Assistant Superintendent  and Reginald Mehn, County Inspector, both of whom are Mano, one tribe dominates the county leadership while others are marginalized.

It is yet unclear which part of the Liberian Constitution Senator Grupee’s argument is based.

Article 54 © of the Liberian Constitution gives power to the President to nominate and, with consent of the Senate, appoint and commission cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls.

Also Article 18 of the Constitution states, “All Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation, and shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work.”

Reacting to the tribal politics that is taking center stage in Nimba as the Senatorial election kicks off, District #8 Representative Larry Younquoi on the other hand, argued that through the influence of incumbent Senator Prince Y. Johnson in 2011, Senator Grupee and four other Representatives of the Gio tribe were elected, thus giving one tribe dominance on the legislative caucus.

Said Rep. Younquoi, “When did Grupee know that dominance of one tribe was bad when Prince Johnson held his hand and people of the Gio tribe and some Manos voted for him in this county, and how can he compare the number of Gio people on the legislative caucus considering that we have two Gio Senators and four Representatives?

“Did Grupee not know that there were minority tribes in Nimba at the time when Prince Johnson was taking him around to be voted for?”

Text messages received on the community radio news program lashed out at Senator Grupee and cautioned him to be careful not to divide the Gios and Manos who have common identities in languages and culture.

According to the text messages read live on the radio, Senator Grupee is allegedly an American citizen as far as his documents indicate.

They recalled that Grupee was taken to court by Edith Gongloe-Weh when she lost the election in 2011 and Nimbaians condemned Madam Gongloe-Weh’s action while Cllr. Yamein Quiqui Gbeisay, to the detriment of his kinswoman, was Grupee’s lawyer.  The listeners emphasized in their text messages that the ordinary people earning their living by farming and other unrecognized occupations are not thinking about tribal differences, but only those wanting to perpetuate themselves in government and the “so-called educated” ones are bringing the confusion.

Meanwhile, Senator Grupee’s recent tendency toward tribal division contradicts his previous vow to reconcile the people of Nimba during his tenure.

In early 2012 when he visited a Baptist Church in Ganta after winning the election, Grupee, during an interview with the Daily Observer promised to visit the villages in Nimba to reconcile people who were alienated by the civil war.

Having spent nearly three years in the Legislature, there has not been a proven record of the Senator’s visit to any village in Nimba for reconciliation talks.

It may be recalled that Senator Prince Johnson, though voted into power by both Manos and Gios for being their ‘godfather’, was the first to speak against giving a majority of county government positions to the Mano ethnic group.

Senator Johnson is also on record for urging Gio youths to go to school or the Manos would always rule them in the county.

A group of Mano men and women including former Representative Nohn R. Kidau, after the 2011 election, called for the division of Nimba having observed that most Nimba legislators were of the Gio tribe.

The Manos have always boasted of their education as a benefit of the establishment of schools by Christian missionaries who settled in their area, while the Gios on the other hand boast of their strength in warfare and for being “emancipators” of Nimba.

As this tribal divide escalates (rises), only the government can intervene to find a solution to this emerging social problem under the constitutional provision in Article 5© that states: “The Republic shall take steps by appropriate legislation and executive orders, to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism, and such abuses of power and the misuse of government resources, nepotism and all other form of corrupt practices.”

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