As Liberia’s 24th president takes painstaking time to visit every nook and corner of Liberia, he is not only thanking the locals who overwhelmingly elected him in 2017; he is not only giving back to communities and various segments of the people; he is also listening and responding to an avalanche of complaints bordering not only bread-and-butter issues and infrastructure deficits, but he is also overwhelmed tribal conflicts and land disputes. Most of these disputes survived decades and political administrations, yet the people feel he has the ultimate answers. And the President is not shying away. He’s making the hard comments, and requesting of the people the right attitudes—mainly the need for peace, tranquility and unity over conflict and violence. As he entered Sinoe County last Friday, the first set of communities greeting him immediately flaunted issues of their age-old land dispute with neighboring River Cess, the President’s maternal province—something the President vows to resolve but with clarion calls for peace and understanding. The Analyst reports.
No conflict brought to the attention of President George Manneh during his months-long nationwide tours was more challenging than the one said to be between River Cess and Sinoe counties. This is so because, according to pundits who are familiar with the issue, matter is not only complicated legally and socially, but also because the President draws ancestral roots from both counties. His father hailed from the Kru-dominated Sinoe County while his mother hailed from River Cess.
But it seems as a skilled decision maker, the President has announced he would work with traditional leaders, legislators and stakeholders from both counties to unravel the matter and resolve it amicably.
The two southeastern counties have long been locked into land imbroglio particularly since the cessation of the civil conflict.
Sinoe County contends that its original boundary with Grand Bassa County from which River Cess County was conceived and enacted as a county was the Cesstos River.
Sinoe is the third original county of Liberia. Grand Bassa County is the second, next to Montserrado County. Before River Cess began a county in the 1980s, Sinoe had a common boundary with Grand Bassa and the border was the huge Cestos running from Nimba to the Atlantic Oceans.
While Sinoe argues that Cesstos is the boundary, River Cess counter-argues that the legislation which midwifed it into a county status claws out a couple of predominantly Bassa-speaking villages and towns beyond Cesstos, far beyond the famous ITI Camp and Kola Tree Town.
The cited legislation is questioned vehemently by Sinoe County claiming that the metes and bounds in the original Act creating River Cess County were tempered with citizens of River Cess in their own favor.
It was reported that a special committee was set up by the former Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration but the findings remain in obscurity to date owing to suspicion it was altered or manipulated.
Unconfirmed reports say Senator J. Milton Teahjay who was the superintendent of Sinoe County when the conflict intensified was threatened with ‘death by drowning’ if he insisted on claiming Sinoe land from River Cess.
It is also said that Sinoe County has taken the matter to the Supreme Court of Liberia where it has been dusting on the shelf.
The major highway leading to Sinoe County and by large the Southeastern Region passes through the tense forest of River Cess.
President Weah, who holds blood lines with both counties, is pleading for understanding and peace between his people.
“It is sad for me to arrive here and be greeted with land dispute between the people of River Cess and Sinoe counties,” the President said during a town meeting in the first major town of Sinoe County, Togbaville, Troh, Sanguin Statutory District.
“When I was in Rivercess, I didn’t hear about it, but I am hearing it for the first time coming here. I am not particularly happy because my mother is from Rivercess and my father is from Sinoe. How can there be confusion between my two people? We need to sit down and talk and resolve it.”
Some pundits say if the President did not hear a complaint about the dispute when he visited River Cess, it could be that River Cess is the aggressor or beneficiary of the dispute and had no reason to complain at the time.
However, President George Manneh Weah expressed dismay over the rising land related issues in the country, terming it as grave and shameful and called on citizens to work towards amicably resolving issues of such in the country.
The President stated his displeasure of how some of the cases have turned recently when he was responding to a request from the citizens of Sanguine District, Sinoe County for his intervention to resolve the lingering land dispute between Rivercess and Sinoe counties.
The Liberian leader who noted that peace is paramount in Liberia referenced the recent land dispute in Nimba County that resulted in violence. He said it does not make sense for the people to be in constant confusion over land.
He said: “I had a similar experience with my property on 9th street, Sinkor. I paid $6,000.00 for the land to some people claiming to be the rightful owners of the place but later another group came to make a claim also. But after going through everything, I paid another $75,000 to the new group who were the rightful owners of the place. So we ended all the confusion with negotiation and peaceful settlement. That is the essence of ending conflict in a peaceful way.”
Sinoe County lawmaker Representative Matthew J. Zarzar. Rep. Zarzar, who represents Constituency #3 of which Sanguine is a part, buttressed the citizens’ complaint and narrated that the land dispute has been a protracted one to the extent that a resolution between the two counties was reached in Buchannan, Grand Bassa County in 2007 but it has not been signed by the two parties.
He pleaded with the President to intervene so that all parties will sign and respect the content of the resolution because, according to him, without peace, there can be no unity
Earlier, President Weah and entourage made a triumphant entry into Sinoe county as part of continuation of his Third Leg Nationwide County Tour beginning with Togbaville where he dedicated a high school constructed by Representative Crayton O. Duncan and also had a town hall meeting before moving on to Murrayville.
The Liberian Chief Executive, flanked by Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, Traditional Leaders including Zanzar Karwor and other top-notch government officials, are currently visiting the country’s third original county, one of the “trio powers” of Liberia’s Independence.
While in Murrayville, President Weah broke grounds for the construction of a Prison Referral Facility to be built one mile away from the main route leading to the Beach Side.
According to Superintendent Lee Nagbe Chea, the Prison Facility when constructed will be a major correctional facility within the Southeast, and will aid in mitigating crimes.
The Liberian Leader also broke grounds in Murrayville for the construction of a 100-bedroom Hospital Facility.
“The Facility will serve as a major boost for health related matters in the area and adjoining communities including Greenville”, Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francis Ketteh was quoted as saying following President Weah who expressed glee while meeting various health practitioners who graced the brief ceremony.
Meanwhile, President George Weah lauded CDC Stalwart and Senator Cllr. Augustine Chea as he dedicated a modern Vocational Center in the county. He encouraged other leaders to follow suit, and said the construction of the facility by Senator Chea is welcoming.
In Sanguine District that is considered the gateway to Sinoe, the City Mayor of Greenville, Otis K. Seeton, welcome President Weah to the City of Greenville and said, “Mr. President, I have done the work you told me to do; this is the gavel of authority I am handling you to preside over cases and resolve disputes but please do not take my gavel away oooooo”, the City mayor Seeton said jokingly.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, speaking later, told the audience that the main thrust of the President’s visit was to thank the people of Sinoe for the overwhelming support he got during the 2017 Presidential election as well as to hear from the people directly on the challenges facing them so as to find solutions to them through meaningful suggestions and plans of action.
The Superintendent of the County, Lee Nagbe Chea, also speaking at the welcome ceremony in Sanguine District, on behalf of the county, extended thanks and appreciation to the president for being thoughtful to visit the county to hear and see for himself what the people are going through.
He said road connectivity, electricity, poor health services as well as infrastructural deficit remain among the many challenges facing the people.
A spokesperson for the citizens of Sanguine District, both at home and abroad, presented a cow, goat, sheep and two white chickens to the President as a token of their appreciation for the president’s visit.
The mass choir of the district rendered a popular song, GOD HAS SENT ME TO THE HIGHEST SEAT, a song favorite of the President, which also moved him so much that he joined in the singing of the song while he remained in his seat.
In response, President Weah said he was happy to be in Sinoe to thank the people for the support he garnered in 2017 to get him to the Presidency at the voting percent of 89.7%.
He said his visit was overdue, blaming it on pressing national issues he met on the ground after his inauguration and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said Sinoe County, like other counties, remains dear to him and will make sure it benefits fully from the Pro Poor Agenda of his administration.
The President reported to the citizens: “We are doing roads and providing lights all over the country; we are offering tuition free opportunities to our young people to go to higher institutions to learn and work for this country. Everywhere we go, we leave with our people messages of hope and physical evidence of what we have done and will still do for them. Sinoe County and its people will benefit fully from all the same opportunities.”
He told the people to make use of the $16 million agriculture package for farmers and the $2 million dollars set aside for the empowerment of the rural women.
The President had earlier before heading to the city hall inspected the damage done to the city’s coastal line by the sea erosion and was visibly shocked to see it.
He promised that something must be done immediately to alleviate the problem associated with the encroachment.
The President’s convoy arrived in Sinoe on May, 7, 2021, in Greenville City to a thunderous welcome.
At the town hall meeting, the City Mayor thanked the president for the historic visit to the Sinoe and wished him well during his stay. He then presented the key to the city and handed the gavel of authority to the President.
Meanwhile, Saturday, May 8, 2021 the President and party visited Butaw where among other things he paid a visit to the Golden Veroleum Company, a major concession producing palm oil in that part of the county.
He also dedicated an Elementary school funded by Senator Milton Teahjay.
According to our Editor travelling with the President, the President on Saturday also visited Unification City in Tarjuowon Statutory District, where he dedicated a town hall constructed by Senator Milton Teahjay and held a town hall meeting with the people.
Also as part of his tour, the President visited Bilibokri, Juazon District, hometown of the late Senator Mobutu Vlah Nyepan, former Public Works Minister, who recently passed away to pay a condolence visit to the bereaved family.