Monrovia, October 2, 2020:Voinjama, Lofa County – LLA championed Peaceful Boundary Harmonization in Lofa County
Lofa County witnessed triumph in the boundary dispute spanning 84 years between the Selega and Sarmodu people of Voijama and Quadu-Dboni Districts. With support from the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the Liberia Peacebuilding Office (PBO) in collaboration with the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) and Lofa County authorities, held a four-day participatory and reconciliation dialogue from September 21-24, 2020 to find a lasting solution to the 84 years boundary dispute in the district.
The dialogue was climaxed on the 24th of September with the signing of a joint resolution by both parties agreeing on a common boundary, where cornerstones was planted on both sides of the boundary. The dialogue brought together 41 participants, 36 males and 5 females as well as LLA staff, county authorities, PBO staff, local stakeholders, representatives from the towns and the Media in Voinjama City, Lofa County.
In his overview remark, the Senior Program Manager of the Peacebuilding office Mr. Christopher Fayah said the first meeting was held in July of 2019 and a resolution was signed which considered seven major counts. As a result of those counts, the PBO decided to contact the UNDP for additional support to finalize the land dispute that has lasted for about 84 years now. Mr. Fayah read the signed resolution between both Selega and Sarmodu.
Following the overview, there were Responses from representatives and participants of both Selega and Sarmodu. Speaking on behalf of Sarmodu, Mr. Janga Balloh pointed out that the resolutionagreed upon by the two parties and the peace building team was broken by the people of Selaga. He mentioned that there are activities happening on the disputed land which must be stopped until proper demarcation is made. He cited that citizens from Sarmodu are constantly attacked by citizens of Selega town, however, Mr. Balloh appreciated the efforts of the Superintendent of the County for his swift move in putting the situation under control.
Mr. James Z. Karbbah responding on behalf of Selega, acknowledged that since the resolution was signed there has been peace in the area. He further stated that although there were some initial problems, they were later resolved through the intervention of the Superintendent Hon. William T. Kamba. He thanked the parties involved in resolving the dispute and added that the only way forward is to have peace among the citizens as they have been yearning for over the years. He prayed that the dispute be resolved amicably for a peaceful coexistence between the parties.
The chairman of the Liberian Land Authority (LLA) Hon. J. Adams Manobah informed the participants in attendance of the LLA’s willingness to help in resolving land crisis in Liberia. He further stated that the LLA is currently requesting from the Legislature an allotment of $50, 000.00 USD to be included in the national budget for each county for the purpose of resolving land crisis in the country. Hon. Manobah said that the LLA as the sole authority with the mandate of handling land matters in Liberia is prepared to sign all deeds upon reaching final agreement in any land conflict. He encouraged parties in the conflict to see the need for resolution after eighty-four years of conflict as a means of fostering peaceful coexistence. He reminded the parties involved of the traditional family values that will be restored as the two parties are traditionally known as uncles and nephews in the county.
According to Hon. Manobah, land dispute has become a problem not only in Lofa County, but in Liberia at large. He said the LLA as an autonomous agency of government with operational independence, is charged with multiplicity of functions among which are to hold and manage all unallocated Public Lands on behalf of the Liberian people and compile and maintain an up-to-date inventory of all lands within the Republic. The Authority administers the deed registry system in implementing the relevant laws by registering all land transactions and successions as required by law to be registered.
Additionally, the Authority administers public land survey and mapping services, and use the national cadaster to promote and regulate the proper development of the private practice of the surveying profession in Liberia; which states that under no condition shall a surveyor or other staff of the Authority engage in the survey of private land or in the survey of communal land in a private capacity.
The superintendent of Lofa County, Hon. William T. Kamba said it is important that land dispute be resolved amicably instead of creating division amongst ourselves. He identified four pending land issues that require urgent attention. He named these four places as Jonis Bonli and Lochme, Vahum and Gbapolu, Boyehma and Balleh, Wahara and Vahum. Hon. Kamba urged the Liberia Land Authority to do everything in its capacity to ensure a resolution of these different crises in Lofa County. He also called on citizens to cooperate in the process as everyone seek to find a solution to this 84-year crisis in Lafa County
The Chair of the County Peace Committee (CPC) Mr. William Howard called on both towns to see reason to resolve this land dispute that has lasted for 84 years now. He said this issue should not be further exacerbated, especially since the both towns are traditionally known as uncles and nephews and the land belongs to our ancestors. After the remarks were concluded , all parties proceeded to the boundary site of the land dispute (Darzazie Creek) for the delineation. This was done on the 22nd of September 2020. At Darzazie Creek, a team of technicians and cartographers as well as the LLA chairman and the PBO proceeded to the forest for the proper identification of the different points of demarcation. The team came back after a day’s work to proceeded north on the 23rd of September. Upon arriving at the Darzazie Creek on the 23rd to proceed with the demarcation, the people of Sarmodu raised some concerns. According to them the actual points agreed upon were not considered and if these points were not given credence, they would not agree to sign the resolution. This argument intensified and lasted two hours at the Darzazie creek. The dispute was finally settled and the team headed to the north side of the river to continue the delineation of the boundary.
After three turbulent days in Voinjama City discussing the disputed land area for the demarcation of a boundary between Selega and Sarmuldu, a final resolution should have been signed on the 23rd of September but was challenged by both towns. This challenge led to an extra dialogue on September 23, 2020, at the Voinjama City Hall. The dialogue which lasted for a whole day was facilitated by the chairman of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), the superintendent of Lofa County, the head of the Peacebuilding Office (PBO) and the Office of the National Peace Ambassador (ONPA). During the dialogue, Commissioner Kula Jackson of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) appealed to the both towns to see the need for mutual understanding and move forward. Commissioner Jackson said he was very confident that the both towns will come to a logical conclusion after signing the final resolution. He urged both towns to see the need for a peaceful settlement of the land dispute.
After claims and counterclaims were made by both parties, a power point presentation was made by technicians from the LLA, which graphically displayed the boundary points between the two towns. At the end of the day, both towns agreed to a win-win situation. The both towns agreed to sign the resolution based on the nine counts listed below upon which the boundary land in question was demarcated.
These are the agreed counts:
• That the two cornerstones erected on the Darzazie Creek bridge: one in the northern position with UTM coordinate 424323mE/926214mN and the other in the southern position with UTM coordinate 424274mE/926063mN serve as the official beginning points; • That from these two cornerstones, the boundary line runs southwardly along the Darzazie Creek to the first bend with UTM coordinates 424274mE/926063mN being harmonization point 1 then running on the straight line to harmonization point 2 with UTM coordinates 4236650mE/925582mN then running in straight line to a point at the bank of the Woma River with a UTM Coordinate 423650mE /924000mN serving at the boundary line in the Southern direction between Selega and Sarmodu towns as shown on 1-50,000 topographic map of Liberia; • That from these two cornerstones, the boundary line runs northwardly along the Darzazie creek serving as boundary in the northern direction to harmonization point 3 with UTM Coordinates 424418mE/926681mN and serving as a boundary between Selega and Sarmodu Towns as shown on the 1-50,000 topographic map of Liberia; • That the two towns agreed and planted four corner stones, two in the south and two in the north and two sign boards; one on each side of the bridge bearing the words “Peace and Unity, Welcome to Sarmodu and Welcome to Selega”; • That a verification of claims made by the both parties as a result of the agreed boundary lines will be undertaken and results documented for appropriate actions including surveying and deeding with funding provided by the Claimants. There will be no additional property (ies) developed on either side without consultations and harmonious agreement reached between the claimants and host town. The verification process will be led by the Office of the Superintendent of Lofa County and LISGIS, supported by the Technical Team headed by the Liberia Land Authority and PBO; • That no court action should be pursued by either party in relation to this land boundary disputes, as by doing so would have the propensity to undermine peace and reconciliation involving the citizens of these towns. In the event of any dispute the two Districts Commissioner Offices along with the LLA should be the first point of contact, and then the Office of the Superintendent in collaboration with the LLA as provided for by the Land Rights Act; • That the parties herein resolve to work with the Offices of the Superintendent, LLA, PBO, LISGIS and their two Commissioners to continue the formalization process up to obtaining statutory deed for their Customary Lands; • That in the event where any of these community’s desire to demarcate their customary land, the current boundary point, subject of this resolution, shall serve as a final boundary line between the two communities.
The Liberia Land Authority (LLA), the Peacebuilding Office (PBO), the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and all collaborating partners periodically make quick interventions into land conflicts of such nature to keep the situation from exacerbating . We would like to thank our international partner the United Nations Development Planning (UNDP) for their support
Reported By: Kweshie Tetteh - Public Relations Officer