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Feature: Nimba Land Dispute Gets Worrisome

The Liberian civil war ended completely 7 years ago, but the repercussions of the more than a decade of the fratricide war, the brutal and violent war, the bestial war, are still felt in several part of the country, especially in Nimba County where an endless land dispute between Mandingoes on one hand and Gios and Manos on the other hand has become very worrisome for both sides.

An elder of the Mandingo community and member of the presidential commission, Mohamed Soko Shirleaf, very worried, told the New Dawn in Sanniquellie that “the land dispute is the only problem that has ever existed between the Mandingoes and the rest of the tribes with whom we have had intermarriage.”

John Gbartu is a traditional chief of the Mano and Gio ethnic groups in Nimba County. For him, Mandingoes and the other two tribes were living in total harmony before the war: “Madingos started coming from Guinea in the 40’s to look for cola in Liberia. We welcome them, and even offered them place to stay. As our tradition wants it, we gave them the center of the town and we went at the back. But at that time there was no document business.”

According to John Gbartu the problem between Mandingoes and other tribes in Nimba is one of the regrettable consequences of the civil war. “The problem began in the 80’s when the late president Samuel Doe considered Gios and Manos as enemy of his regime. Mandingos supported the regime of Doe, consequently they became enemies of Gios and Manos. This is how Mandingos’ houses were burnt down by the NPFL and Manos and Gios homes were burnt down by the LURD. The war is over. We are talking to our children but it is a very sensitive matter that only government can resolve.”

Two years ago, President Ellen Sirleaf constituted a Special Commission to mediate in the persistent land disputes in Nimba. The commission has already submitted its report to the president, but said report has not yet been implanted, and that worries people of Nimba. “If enforcement fails, then there will be problem which will dissatisfied one side and haunt one side. Enforcement of the decision by government is compulsory because it is a decision bound by law.” Mohamed Soko said.

Soko Shirleaf however was straight to point out that people who are opposed to the commission’s findings are bent on crafting out their own decision to suit them. “In the wake of development evolving in Nimba, we who are the aggrieved would want to have asset to our land to invest on it as soon as possible.”

Moses Dahn Zarpoe, a local chief and commissioner of Zoe-Gbao administrative district of Zoe-Geh, statutory district in Sanniquellie, is also in agreement with his colleague Mohamed Soko that all Nimbanians are one people with this umbilical cord of intermarriages.

For him, since the establishment of the Special Presidential committee there has been lots of progress in the Nimba peace process. “The progress is that there have been so many understandings so far. There will be no satisfaction of human beings when it comes to conflict. If these problems were not on the right path of being resolves you wouldn’t have seen so much of people celebrating for the 26.”

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In her speech on Independence Day in Nimba, the President said that the issues that devide the people of Nimba “are the same that divide us as a nation based on ethnic, social and land disputes, religious schisms that are sometimes tensions related. I believe it is these tensions which have prevented us from finding sustainable solutions to permanent political, economic and social problems.”

President Sirleaf said that the land that forms the market area is the biggest source of tensions and remains unaddressed by the commission’s report. “We will therefore exercise the right of eminent domain so that the area becomes public property, with public facilities, so that it will be available for use by all citizens.”

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