It is becoming glaring that internal trouble is mounting in Nimba, the county whose people suffered the initial impact of the 14-year Liberian civil war.
Ordinary Gio and Mano people suffered at the hands of President Samuel K. Doe for a failed coup initiated by some of their kinsmen, something that drove most Nimbaians into the arms of war crimes convict and jailed former Liberian President Charles Taylor and cronies.
Since the war ended and Liberia began its post-war democratic governance, there has tended to be vociferous clamoring among Nimbaians as to who leads at the levels of the Legislative Caucus and the county authorities (mainly Superintendent and the Assistant).
In 2006, Nimbaians elected two former rebel fighters; Prince Johnson and Adolphus Saye Taryor Dolo to the Senate during the sitting of the 52nd National Legislature.
At that time, Senator Prince Johnson rejected calls from many of his kinsmen to form a part of the Nimba Legislative Caucus because he was not elected Chairman of that caucus.
The controversy continued until he was given the chairmanship in 2007 before he attended the Nimba development meeting in Sanniquellie that year. During President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s first term, there was internal wrangling between protagonists of the two largest tribes, Gio and Mano over who became Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent.
The Constitution of Liberia mandates the President of Liberia to appoint county officials to be confirmed by the Senate where applicable and such officials serve at the will and pleasure of the President.
Appointments in Nimba brought contentions that President Sirleaf was giving preference to the Manos in the administrative structure of the county, thereby creating feelings of marginalization on the part of Gios.
In 2011 presidential and legislative elections were held wherein two Senators, all Gio, were elected with five Representatives of the same Gio tribe. Investigation shows that many Gios endorsed the result of the legislative election because a lot of the lawmakers and Senators were of their tribe.
The Gio tribe of Nimba constitutes about 60% of the population of that county, and on the basis of their population, electing members of their tribe to the legislature is almost always guaranteed.
The Manos, on the other hand, became furious over two Senators of the same tribe representing the county, and right after the 2011 election some of them raised contentions and called for the separation of the two tribes by dividing the county into two.
Interestingly, Senator Prince Johnson, whose overbearing influence led to the election of those lawmakers, fell out with them because they did not give him the caucus chairmanship.
And the bickering and fussing continued until Senator Thomas Grupee turned the position over to him to ease the tension. The Nimba Legislative Caucus is yet to elect its chairman and co-chairman of the 54th Legislature.
As preparations are underway for the caucus’ election, information filtering in indicates that Senator Prince Johnson, easily the most influential political heavy weight in Nimba, has vowed to politically fight anyone who will take the chairmanship from him.
Currently, the contention over caucus chairmanship is between Senator Johnson and District #8 Representative Larry P. Younquoi, who also contends that the chairmanship position is not a hegemony or birthright for anyone to possess.
The plea by District #7 lawmaker Roger Domah for a united Nimba is a good idea and has been a hallmark consolidating Gio-Mano coexistence, but poor and selfish leadership in the county is seriously undermining the unity of the people.
Nimba should be the most fortunate and prosperous county in the post-war era of Liberia as over US$12 million has gone to this county in the form of social development funds.
ArcelorMittal, during the first and second terms of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave US$1.5 million annually to Nimba, but the county and its people are yet to boast of anything tangible except for pieces of road building equipment that are now of scrap value.
An investigation has shown that most of the county officials including lawmakers are building costly hotels, estates as well as opening large farms. The question now is: How much do they earn in salaries that affords them the opportunity to undertake those projects?
What is their source of funding? Although individuals calling for a split of the county into two are fully aware that it is nothing more than the fight for jobs and positions of power and privilege, yet they persist.
It is, indeed, greedy politicians who are manipulating ethnic cleavages and latent tribal conflicts that now threaten to undermine the unity of the people of Nimba who have for centuries coexisted peacefully.
How many people would get public positions from splitting the county, and what will become of the vast majority that may not have jobs? We hope the ordinary Gio and Mano people, who suffered together during the 14-year civil war, will get to understand the tactics devised by those politicians and not allow themselves to be fooled into creating a poisonous and socially hazardous environment that will benefit nobody.