The issue of land dispute continues to hinder the development of Bong County as the current one centers a boundary harmonization between the residents of Manquelleh and Kpatawee Clans in Bong County.
Manquelleh clan falls under electoral Ditrict #4 while Kpatawee clan is under District #5 which is represented by Hon. Edward WormanKarfiah.Our Bong County Correspondent has gathered that the current land dispute in the region started approximately twenty nine years ago when some of the residents of Kpatawee clan crossed the Walla river to Menquelleh clan to make farm in that part of the County.
Further investigation prevails that the residents of Menquelleh clan including Peter-ta were unable to prevent the Kpatawee clan citizens from making farm in their area as a result of the 1990 war which made lots of citizens to fly from their homeland to save their lives.
Our Correspondent who towered the area on Monday says during their cross border farming, the citizens of Kpatawee especially Gbarnai were able to have planted several acres of land with coco and other local crops.
The more than twenty six years ago land dispute again raised tension in the area after PARLEY an organization responsible to border clans went there to harmonize the boundary between Menquelleh and Kpatawee Clans.While Parley was carrying on its job, the residents of Gbarni in Menquelleh Clan mandated the organization to cross the Walla river with the creek demding that Walla is not the boundry because their coco farm is across the river.
Their mandate to the organization was greeted with serious tension from the people of Peter-ta in Menquelleh clan who claim that the boundary between the two clans is the Walla river.
Deacon Harris Flomo an Elder of the town said the land that is currently being used by Gbarnai people belongs to the people of menquelleh clan.
“We are not harming their properties neither are we telling them to stay away from the land, all we need from the people of Gbarnai in Kpatawee clan is for them to agree to the fact that the boundary between our clan and theirs is the Walla river” he adds.
He said failure on the part of the citizens of Kpatawee to agree that the boundary is the Wallah river, they will not allow any citizen from anywhere to clam the ownership of any crops on the land.
“I feel this is broad day wickedness especially for someone to allow you to make farm on their land then at the end of the day you want to lie just to claim ownership of such land. For me I can tell you that we will not take it from anyone and I think there will be no boundary harmonization between any of us” he declares.
Also speaking, David B. Sumo said on several occasions, they had informed the Bong County Authority to settle the matter between the two clans but to no avail.
“We started informing the County’s authority during the administration of former County Superintendent Rennie B. Jackson right after his appointment by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf but we did not see this matter being solve” Mr. Sumo said.According to him, they also engaged former Superintendent Selena PoilsonMappy but there was no solution.
“We are not telling our brothers to leave the land all we want is that they should agree that the land is ours and that the boundary is the Walla river” he stresses.When contacted, the Representative of the Kpatawee clan in the current land dispute said it was not an appropriate time for them to make an official statement on the issue.But a citizen of the town Peter Nuwoe said the boundry is not the Walla River as the People of Menquelleh claimed adding that if the boundary was the river, the people of Gbarnai in Kpatawee clan wouldn’t have made such large coco farm across the river.
As Mr. Nuwoe takes his stand on the land issue, his Father Moses Nuwoe age 97 (born in 1922) has told our Correspondent that the land belongs to the people of Menquellehclan and the boundry is Walla River.“Even though I am a citizen of Kpatawee, but that particular area they are talking about belongs to the people of Menquelleh clan” old man Moses maintains.
“I can remember during the war when the soldiers attacked Gbatala in Yellequelleh District, we who were from this Kpatawee clan crossed the Walla River to seek refuge in Menquelleh clan and there some of our people started to make farm in those people land” he adds.Our Bong County Correspondent says the situation may worsen if government does not quickly intervene to resolve this prolonged dispute.
Parley which works closely with Liberia Land Authority and non-governmental organizations to support communities navigating complex internal governance issues and boundary harmonization and negotiation processes is said to be heavily challenged to settle the issue due to misunderstanding between the two parties as many of the citizens from the two clans are allegedly threatening to harm each other over the ownership of the land.
In September of 2018, Liberia passed the long-awaited Land Rights bill into law. Its passage is a triumph for the courageous, determined community members, civil society activists, and lawmakers who spent years advocating for more equitable, fair land rights for the citizens of Liberia.
Nearly 70 percent of Liberia’s 3.3 million citizens live in rural areas and own their lands collectively according to customary laws. Despite strong customary claims, for the past 62 years the Liberian government claimed all lands as owned by the state and allocated roughly 17 percent of the country to foreign investment without consulting community members.
Liberia’s Land Rights Act remedies this injustice by ensuring Liberia’s economic growth will not disenfranchise its rural landowning communities but rather include them as key actors in the nation’s development.But on the other hand, many people are yet to believe whiter local citizens will able to handle their own land matter as the land dispute continues to divide them.