By: Stephen G. Fellajuah
There seem to be some back and forth clashes between Senator Botoe Kanneh of Gbarpolu County and the Forestry Development Authority on the ongoing crackdown on meat sellers by FDA to enforce the protection of Liberia’s wildlife around the country.
According to our reporter who has been following the development, while Senator Kanneh, who was, up to her election last year, actively involved in the selling of dried meat, wants the FDA to rather rehabilitate and empower those in the trade than confiscating or destroying their markets, the FDA on the other hand has put up an uncompromising position to enforce compliance with the enabling laws which bar the sale of dried meat in Liberia.
The Gbarpolu Senator made her position in the matter known recently via a telephone interview after it was reported that she allegedly stalled the enforcement of law on the protection of wildlife which was been executed by the confiscation unit of the FDA at VOA Junction in Brewerville, when a fellow was booked with several bags of dried bush meat bound for sale in Monrovia.
Speaking on the incident which occurred at VOA Junction in Brewerville, the lawmaker quoted the young man whose meat was confiscated that FDA’s Rangers transported a portion of the confiscated dried bush meat in different locations, something she wondered about the intent of their actions. She called on the FDA and partners to do the needful to provide alternative livelihood for the people.
She noted that despite the law, selling dried bush meat has been the livelihood of many families in several parts of the country and wants the FDA to revisit the law to create provision for rehabilitation and empowerment of the people.
“I am interested in the wellbeing of my people. They sent me to represent them and I will do my best. To just stop them from doing what they know to make a living without providing alternatives is hurting them. Hunting and selling dried bush meat is not a career, rehabilitate and empower them, make them know who they are”, she said.
But Shelton Gonkerwon, the Head of Communications at the Forestry Development Authority said Madam Kanneh is supposed to be at the front to make laws that will protect wildlife and not to use her position to support the destruction of wildlife, adding that the FDA has a term of reference by law to protect the forest and its constituents.
“If you destroy all the wildlife, does that take you from poverty to prosperity, no. Madam Kanneh herself is not providing any means of improving the livelihood of hunters and meat sellers. Does she see the implications for future generation”, he wondered, adding “the law says do not hunt wildlife”.
Mr. Gonkerwon explained further that some people were recently taken to court in Gbarpolu County for said violation and were fined US$250 to pay in government’s revenue. According to him, many people in the county are in defiance and Senator Kanneh is now using her state power to evade the law.” The Senator is making our work difficult”, he pointed out.
He furthered that Madam Kanneh has been advocating for meat sellers before her election and now that she is Senator she is fulfilling one of her campaign promises. “We have arrested dry meat several times and one or two times she came to advocate and we burned the meat in her presence. We have two options, when we confiscate meat we burn or send it to the police to auction.”
It can be recalled that on October 5, 2016, an Act adopting the National Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law of Liberia was approved with a mandate to be enforced by Forest Rangers and other security sectors across the Republic of Liberia.