Interview: Guinean Premier On The History of the Mano River Region
The relations between Liberia and Guinea are relations of compulsory complementarily because it is firstly; the Guinean territory encircles Liberia from the north-east to the South and more importantly because most of the ethnic groups in Liberia are found in Guinea.
On the Guinean side, you have the Kissis, even if they are not many; they represent 4% of our population. The Lormas are called here Tomas and they make 8 % of our population, you have the Kpelleh who are 22% of the Liberian population and are here in large number, then you have the Manos, the Gios and other assimilated populations, they are 36% of the population. 36% plus 22% gives 58% of the population, this has an immediate impact on the economy, the politic, and a great factor of compulsory complementarily and corporation of the two countries.
If you take Mount Nimba that culminates in Guinea at an altitude 1752 meters is extending into Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire that contains iron ores already exploited first by LAMCO and now Mittal Steel in Liberia, and BHP Biliton in Guinea will soon start exploiting the Guinean side. So Liberia and Guinea are linked by a powerful umbilical cord that is human and economical, this induces the culture because the Liberian mentality has always retired in its human dimension in Guinea on the four ethnic groups that I named.
This geographical situation of Guinea vis-à-vis Sierra Leone and Liberia induces Ivory Coast because you have in the Western part of Ivory Coast Gios, Manos and the Krahn in a very large number. This is the reason why we decided in 2001 that Ivory Coast becomes part of the Mano River Union.
This is the position of the compulsory political integration’s problem because the development of the Mano River Union’s states should lead to the formation of a political grouping that I wish to be part of because it will be reparatory of the arbitrary divisions operated by the colonization that renounces from the philosophy of 1870 that consisted in not separating the various ethnic groups but to leave them entirely in one of the territorial entities.
Obeying this philosophy conceded to the Republic of Liberia, through a treaty signed in December 1892, all the Kissians, the Konianke, the Mahous (Ivory Coast), the entire region of Man (Ivory Coast), up to the Sassandra River, it was immense. It is true that this territorial partition was hiding a calculation that was articulating on knowing the weakness of the Liberian elite that was making no effort to occupy this immense territory.
The future will tell that the calculation made by the French and the English people was exact because Liberia will allow those people to encroach on its territory until be reduced to what it is today, something that does not reach half of what it was because at that time the Lormas, the Kissis, the Kru (Ivory Coast), the konianke, the Webeh (Ivory Coast), the Konons, the Manos, the Gios, the Yacouba (Ivory Coast), were all part of Liberia.
It is some time the weakness of the heads of these states that do not see farther than the small borders of their small countries. Because if these various leaders could understand the real situation on the ground, they would have molded their reflection by taking in account what nature has created. I think these ethnic problems would have been self resolved by the vision of the leaders.
These problems are exacerbated or encouraged by self-centeredness of some leaders who are pleased with what they have to manage forgetting that they could manage better if they were to go beyond.
There is a debate right now that I think is stupid; BHP Biliton want to exploit the iron ores of Nimba. From the area they want to exploit the iron ores to Yekepa where there is a train track going to Buchanan, you have 15 kilometers.
The people here want by nationalism that I don’t understand well, that we abandon the construction of the 15 kilometer train track to build a track of one thousand kilometers to reach Conakry.
Why can’t we have the vision of African integration? People tell me well; tomorrow Liberia can strangulate us by refusing the evacuation of our iron ores, I say but, except Liberia is populated with only crazy people because they will be associated financially, we cannot use the train track Yekepa-Buchanan free, we will pay. I can’t see Liberia refusing 30 to 40 million dollars USD every year.
So if we are linked by the stomach that way, it is better than the ordinary states’ relations.