The chairman of the squatters occupying the 72nd Military Barracks, Charles Geh, says the community more than 15 years ago, used “Military Order #1 and #5 to secure the land and we are aware that the facility belongs to the Liberian government.”
He told the Daily Observer in an interview yesterday that Military General Order #1 and #5, say people should take charge of government properties and protect them and to be relieved of them only when the property is secured.
Chairman Geh, who said he was a former member of the elite Anti-Terrorist Unit of former President Charles Taylor, noted that for the last 19 years, the community has been maintaining the facility with their own limited resources.
He was speaking in response to the ultimatum of Defense Minister Brownie Samukai that the squatters have up to May 1, 2017 to vacate the area in order for renovation of the property to begin to resettle members of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Minister Samukai gave the ultimatum recently on the Truth FM Breakfast Show in Monrovia.
“We have warned these people to vacate military facilities, not only at 72nd, but anywhere in the country. He said the residents have continued to give too many excuses and this time around, “May 1 is our stopping line.”
He said the soldiers and their family members deserve to live decent lives in keeping with their constitutional mandate to protect the country’s territorial limits.
“We are giving them (squatters) a final warning to leave the facility as of May 1, 2017. Let me make it clear that there is no excuse about this. The people have to leave for our soldiers to take ownership of their legitimate homes.
“For every time we meet these people, they give us all of the excuses and beg for additional time. We are tired with this, and now is the time for them to leave,” Minister Samukai declared.
Mr. Geh, however, said “We are not challenging the government, but let Min. Samukai remember that we did not come here on our own; rather, we engaged the rightful authorities then.”
While Mr. Geh is buying time that defense officials say is no longer available, one resident, Madam Mamie Fahnbulleh, says she has nowhere to go as she recently lost her husband and her mother.
“I don’t have money to go anywhere with my four fatherless children who are attending this government school,” Ms. Fahnbulleh lamented.
She appealed to the government to help with the means to rent their own homes in order to leave the barracks.
Chairman Geh, now with limited options left, said his leadership recently had a meeting with Defense Minister Samukai at Capitol Building in the presence of House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, requesting for additional time to quit the facility.
In that meeting, Geh said the Speaker and the Vice President intervened by asking Minister Samukai to “allow us stay on for an unspecified amount of time. They also recommended that we give out some of the buildings so the Defense Ministry may start the renovation works.” He did not say how long ago that meeting was held but Minister Samukai said the squatters have to leave and May 1, 2017 is the deadline.
The 72nd Military Barracks sits on 270 acres of land that is legally owned by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Defense officials said, if renovated the barrack will accommodate at least 2,000 soldiers with an estimated total family size of 6,000.
Minister Samukai has promised to make available AFL trucks to transport the belongings of squatters who may not have the means to transport their properties to new locations far from the barracks.