The aggrieved former residents of Fendall, near the University of Liberia’s campus on the Monrovia-Kakata highway yesterday declared the land deed submitted by the government as evidence is “fake” and an attempt to claim ownership of their Fendall land because it is dated January 10, 2018.
Viola Lincoln, the group’s spokesperson, led over one hundred of her friends to unleash their anger and frustration with the delay of the court’s ruling on the case with the Government of Liberia over the legitimate ownership of the land on which homes and business centers, worth hundreds of thousands of United States dollars, were demolished.
The residents blocked the main highway to the extent that hundreds of vehicles commuting from Monrovia as well as those coming from Kakata came to an abrupt stop at the junction of Fendall campus for nearly three hours.
According to Mrs. Lincoln, the 13th Judicial Circuit Court’s judge Mardea Tarr has delayed to hand down ruling into the case since 2016 because its magnitude is “beyond her jurisdiction.”
The court, which is situated in Kakata, Margibi County, took over the case from the Temple of Justice when an agreement could not be reached for government to produce the deed showing its ownership.
“On April 19, 2016, our properties were demolished and this led us to take the matter to court. We presented our deeds and all other relevant documents granting us due ownership of our properties, but until this year in which they presented a deed dated January 3, 2018, the government could not produce any paper,” she said.
She said they will continue to protest for justice, “because the demolition of our properties’ time is even far older than the land deed the government produced into evidence against us.
“The judge in Kakata has told us repeatedly that she is not prepared to hand down ruling now, and to this, we take a very serious exception. We are not foreigners or animals to be treated like this,” Ms. Lincoln said.
The treasurer of the former residents, Rufus Dean said the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the government through the University of Liberia (UL) and the then residents of Fendall land was abused and neglected by the government.
“The MOU we signed clearly says that UL has no legitimate ownership of this land, but the government through UL agreed to pay us back our expenses for the land and the structures we built hence the intent of getting the land from us is for the expansion of the university where our children and thousands of others come to acquire higher education,” Dean said.
“In less than one and half years the Liberian government, headed by former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, started marking homes and subsequently embarked on breaking down people’s properties. The government told us that they owned the land, but when we went through the legal proceedings at the Supreme Court, the judge said our claim of ownership to the land was an eminent domain and therefore the case was transferred to Margibi County. Yusuf Kabba asked the landowners from Fendall to bring their mother deeds and these people’s deeds dated in 1933-38, but when the government was asked to present hers, there was nothing to show,” Dean narrated.
He said after receiving the Sixth Circuit Court’s certificate from the clerk, they served the UL authorities an invitation to go before the judge to submit into evidence all documents expressing ownership, but UL submitted lately a deed said to be “fake” and of very recent date (January 3, 2018).
“We want to see justice, let justice prevail, let us be served what we deserve and we must be compensated for the damage of our properties. UL authorities must buy the land from us because they don’t own the land,” he noted.
A UL-Fendall campus student leader, Hellove W. Mark, said the decision taken by the UL authorities was “premature.” “We are interested in development, but it is so funny to all of us that as of the time these people properties were destroyed, nothing has been built here to indicate a good reason for the action. People died from heart attack and frustration when the demolition went on. This is sad,” Mark said.
While he condemned the action of the aggrieved persons who staged yesterday’s protest, he also held UL authorities responsible for being unprepared to justify why there was any reason evicting the people and subsequently demolishing their homes and business centers.
“Some of our comrades who came from the leeward counties and resided here ended dropping from this university because they could not afford to pay rent in Monrovia and pay transportation fare at the same time to classes. This is one of the reasons next to tuition payment problems that have led to the depopulation of this university,” Mark noted.
Meanwhile, the protest came to an end when a group of police officers, led by few depot commanders in Paynesville as well as some executives of government, pleaded with the aggrieved persons to seek redress at the Justice Ministry.