The New Dawn (Monrovia)

7 January 2013

Liberia: Land Dispute Rocks Paynesville

Residents of ELWA Cooper's Beach community on Friday obstructed the implementation of a Supreme Court decision, which gives ownership of a stretch of land in the area to members of the Cooper Family.

In September 2012, Circuit Court Judge Yussuf D. Kaba, ruled that Monie Captan, Elise Cooper, Joe Kojo, Solomon Vambe and Marginria Cooper all of the city of Paynesville were the rightful owners of the property labeled as the Estate of the late Karmon Dassen and its administrators Janneh Dassen and Andrew Gray also of the City of Paynesville.

Judge Kaba ruled: "Commencing at a point made by a soap tree/stick and running North 65 degrees East 60 chains, thence running south 25 degrees east 20 chains, thence running south 65 degrees east 60 chains, thence, running North 25 degrees west 20 chains to the place of commencement and containing 120 acres of land and no more," be turned over to the Cooper Family.

The ruling continued: "Said appellees/plaintiffs in the above titled cause of action are entitled to the above mentioned/described property by virtue of a Supreme Court's Opinion/Mandate emanating from an Arbitration Report and Court's Final Ruling/Judgment dated September 6, 2010, under the signature of his honor Yussuf Kaba, Assigned Circuit Judge."

"You are further commanded to oust, evict and eject the Appellant/Defendant in the above named described property/premises and return this Writ of Possession to my office in this present term, September Term, AD 2012, endorsed on the back of the original copy of the Writ of Possession your official returns as to the manner and form of its service and placing Appelllee/Plaintiff in complete, full unrestricted possession of the premises/property described supra."

But despite the highest court's ruling, residents were in defiant mood Friday, vowing to maim anyone attempting to demolished their homes. Things got out of control, forcing the driver of a Yellow Tractor trailer truck to abandon his demolition exercise as residents rained insults and threatened to spill blood, if another home was demolished.

Dr. George Boley, a former rebel leader of the now defunct Liberia Peace Council was among those claiming ownership to a piece of the property.

"We are only enforcing a court's ruling," Dr. Boley told journalists. Asked which court had allowed him and members of the Cooper family to demolish properties in the area, he replied: "The Supreme Court."

The ex-rebel leader was deported from the United States last February over his role in the country's civil war in the 1990s. A US judge said evidence that the ex-Liberian Peace Council leader had been involved in killings and recruitment of child soldiers were grounds for his deportation.

Dr. Boley and members of the Cooper Family saw firsthand the reality of Liberia's looming land catastrophe. Many of the residents in the area have already constructed homes on the property, and lived there for years.

A 2010 peace-building survey recorded that land disputes were the highest reported by Liberians. More than 23% of respondents mentioned land dispute during or after the conflict.

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