Statement from the People of Pleebo Sodoken District
Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of the Republic Of Liberia
March 31, 2011
April 10, 2011
Let us first welcome you to our district, thanking the Almighty for guarding and protecting you to safely be here today to interact with us. Let us seize this opportunity to commend you for the development initiatives that your government has undertaken and continues to undertake in our county [Maryland], especially the road project between Fish Town and Harper as well as between Pleebo and Barclayville [Grand Kru County]. The people of Pleebo/Sodoken District applaud you for this. It is our anticipation that your stay with us today will be rewarding to the effect that the growth and development of our community will be assured.
Besides, we also want to use this occasion to put before you the challenges and hurdles faced by our district and its people, which if not given the requisite attention could degenerate into chaos in this part of the country and leave our people to continue in the situation of abject poverty and underdevelopment.
In view thereof, we have two basic issues that we wish to present to you on this day with the hope that you will grant us the needed audience and attention in ensuring that lasting solutions will be provided to bring the situation to a close. The two issues have to do with the below:
1. The land dispute involving the People of Gbewien and Gbololu [Maryland County] and the People of Nemiah in Garraway District [Grand Kru County] as well as the land dispute between the Rock Town and Wetchoken people of Maryland County.
2. The issue of social development benefits for our district and its people from concessions operating in our community, which involve the provision of basic social services to our district and people as a way of elevating our livelihood.
FIRSTLY, regarding the land disputes, Madam President, we want to inform you that there has been land dispute between the people of Wetchoken on one side and the people of Rock Town on the other side. As you are aware, this conflict led to the cold-bloody murder of two Wetchoken men by the people of Rock Town. The aggressors did not stop there; they amputated the arm of one of the slain men. Regrettably, the Government has not taken any action that will lead to lasting peace between the peoples of Wetchoken and Rock Town.
Equally important, we wish to again bring to your attention the land dispute between the people of Pleebo/Sodoken District of Maryland and the Nemiah people of Grand Kru.
This cross-border land conflict started in 2007 and intensified by the Nemiah people in 2008 in gross violation of the findings and recommendations reached on February 23, 2007 by a Technical Committee of the two counties. It is important to note that Government has not shown any tangible concern, action or redress to the continuous lawlessness of the Nemiah People. Due to the inability of the Government to provide protection for our people as well as our action to be law-abiding citizens and not take the law into our own hands, the Nemiah People have become more outlawed and are still administering havoc and aggression against our people. As a result of the illegal and violent actions of the Nemiah People, the below have ensued:
• The Nemiah People challenged the recent investigation and have engaged in the felling of trees on the disputed land.
• The Nemiah People have continued to set road blocks and ambush which have hindered the free movement of our people to access their rubber farms in the area, thus strangulating them from sustaining their families.
• The Nemiah People have resulted to burning down our farm huts in the area and chasing our people from the area, which resulted to some of our people getting missing for days in the bushes. They also hijacked and placed on gun point some of our people with the intention of harming them, but they had to deny their parentage before they could be set free.
HENCE, we the Nyanbo People want to make it very clear here today to you that, given the recent trend the land dispute is taking, if your government does not take any immediate action to curtail the situation, we will have no other alternative but to resolve to actions aimed at defending ourselves, our parentage and our forefathers’ land. We do not want to resolve to this action, but if the situation persists and your government continues to remain unconcern, we will surely prove to them that we are men enough to defend our forefathers’ land, though we are aware that this will lead to massive chaos and the destruction of lives and properties.
SECONDLY, referencing the issue of social development benefit for Pleebo/Sodoken District and its people from concessions operating in our community, Madam President, let us take this opportunity to inform you that in November of last year, we presented a resolution to the SIFCA [the company operating Decoris Maryland Oil Palm Plantation and Cavalla Rubber Corporation], highlighting the concerns, and anticipations of our people in relations to the operations of the companies in our community. Since that time of the presentation of the resolution to SIFCA and the Government, we are still waiting for a considerable amount of implementation of our recommendations as contained in the resolution which was endorsed by the management of SIFCA.
We are not saying we do not want the MOPP and CRC to operate in our community we cannot say that because government has already awarded the land to them legally. And if we say we will fight the company to leave, then it means that we will be fighting our own government which has given them the go-ahead to operate; and this same government was the one we voted into office. But what is important to mention to you today is that, we want to implore you as the People’s President, to use your good offices to prevail on authorities of the companies to ensure that our recommendations, as contained in the resolution of November 2010, be implemented through a fast-track approach.
The concerns contained in the resolution that was presented to the SIFCA Representative in Liberia and endorsed by the SIFCA in November, 2010 and other current concerns are as follows, and we want to maintain that we will not waiver but stand by these points herein mentioned for the companies to implement them. Without any doubt, these points are geared toward the enhancement of our dignity, capacity and livelihood as a people.
These are what we want as a people and district. We believe that addressing them will undoubtedly make us part of the LIFT Liberia Initiative:
• That a Tribal and Reserved Land of 25 acres of land for each of the towns in CRC and MOPP Operational areas be assured. In this regard, it is our anticipation that there will be a detailed land demarcation of every sections of the district, so that our people can understand the issues of the land makeup and occupation.
• That SIFCA finance the complete construction of a District Commissioner Compound or Administration Building in Sedeken, the headquarters of Pleebo/Sodoken District.
• That the companies [CRC, MOPP] construct a befitting Town Hall for the district and its people. They should also rehabilitate existing schools and clinics as well as construct new ones in strategic locations across the district.
• That the company rehabilitates existing roads and bridges and construct new ones where necessary aimed at giving our people easy means of movement of their goods and services throughout the district, especially in the case of the road linking Gbololu and Gbolobo and the construction of a bridge over the Nedilloh [Decoris River].
• That students hailing from Pleebo/Sodoken District, who are enrolled at the Tubman University in Harper, be granted academic scholarships to pursue their education. We want to note that though all the concessions operating in Maryland County occupy our land, they do not educate our children. We consider this as deliberate efforts by the companies to keep us illiterate, backward and our district underdeveloped.
• That a Vocational Training College [Polytechnic] be constructed by the Government, its international partners and SIFCA in Pleebo/Sodoken District, the most populated district in Southeastern Liberia.
• That the Administrative Structure/Management and offices of MOPP be separated from that of CRC, meaning, the offices of MOPP should be relocated from the premises of CRC with a different management team. We consider one-management, one-office approach as a monopoly, and we wish to assure you that we will resist if no action is taken by SIFCA, the parent company in this regard. Besides, any assistance coming from the SIFCA companies [MOPP, CRC] should be tagged properly so that we can get a full understanding of how much and what each of the companies are contributing as two distinct entities to the growth and development of the district and its people.
• That the operational management stops the abuse of our wives and daughters who work for the companies to the extent that field managers insult and abuse the human dignity of our women with odd languages when addressing the women. Also, that respect be accorded our fathers and sons who work for the companies with an improvement in work conditions at the plantations. With this, we hope that the wages, amenities and benefits of our people who work on the plantations will be increased to a significant level that will reflect the true sense of dignity in labor.
Again, be informed that we were not a part of the demonstration that led to the seizure of the City Hall after the arrest of alleged ritualistic killers in the county. Let us use this occasion to distance ourselves from any and all forms of demonstrations that are not in line with the laws of this Republic. But at this juncture, we want to call for free, fair and speedy trial of all of our people in detention.
FINALLY, Madam President, it is historic today that we are given the opportunity to present to you our aspirations for the growth and development of our community. We applaud you for providing the platform for this participatory democracy. We also applaud you for listening to us with the hope and expectation that you will put our plight on the front burner of your government’s agenda. As a matter of fact, we expect immediate actions in this regard.
Thank you for coming to Pleebo/Sodoken District, we appreciate your coming and we hope that this marks a beginning of our continuous interactions in forms and manners of this nature.
God bless you, God bless Pleebo/Sodoken District, God bless Liberia.
Clan Chief, Klebo Clan Elder, Pleebo Gbolobo Clan
Clan Chief, Pleebo/Gbolobo Clan Elder, Klebo Clan
Clan Chief, Twansiabo Clan Elder, Twansiabo Clan
Clan Chief, Gedetarbo Clan Elder, Gedetarbo Clan
Clan Chief, Gborlorbo Clan Elder, Gborlorbo Clan
Hon. Edward Nyema Hon. Bodio Gedeh
Acting Paramount Chief Paramount Chief
Twansiabo Chiefdom Klebo Chiefdom
Twansiabo Chiefdom Klebo Chiefdom