10 January 2013

Liberia: Done Deal - E.L.W.A, Gov't End Land War

Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai yesterday (Jan 9) reported a major breakthrough and a 'done deal' in the long standing land crisis between the Liberian Government and the Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) on one hand and the Township of King Gray on the other, stating that the saga ended with a "win-win" solution.

Boakai, addressing a new conference along with representatives of all parties to the conflict, as well as the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC), disclosed that ELWA agreed to give the government 11.2 acres of land to instead construct an ambassadorial and not a ministerial complex as the government has earlier decided.

ELWA occupies at least 137 acres of land in the Paynesville area, a land given to it by the Liberian Government more than half century ago, but has not been able to fully utilize it until government two years back requested the church organization to give it about 14 acres to construct a ministerial complex.

The request of the government and its reported quest to seize the land at all cost angered ELWA and its local and international supporters and created heated debates for and against both sides.

ELWA which has immeasurably contributed to the development of Liberia, especially in the health sector, threatened it would pull out of the country should the government use force to grab its land to construct any ministerial complex under the sponsorship of the Chinese Government.

Meanwhile, the people of King Gray who had also inhabited the land were claiming ownership, demanding benefits from ELWA, if the land should be used for any development purposes.

Vowing not to take the land by force--although she could use eminent domain acceptable under Liberian laws--President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf then requested her vice to work with relevant authorities to cultivate an amicable solution to the crisis.

Win-Win Solution

"I refer to it as a win-win situation for all of us...we requested and we have been granted. ELWA has granted the land and we are all satisfied with the conclusion," soft-spoken Boakai noted in a one-page statement.

He said "Although some difficulties were experienced in the exercise, the two parties ELWA and government] their need to cooperate and finally decide to have an amicable solution." ELWA represented by the Church of Liberia (LCC), realizing government's need of this land willingly consented to give the Government of Liberia 11.2 acres of land, Boakai asserted.

Under the reached deal, the government will grant ELWA a Title Deed to the portion of the land, compensate ELWA for the two houses on the land that government will take over as asset value, and that government is under obligation to intervene in and resolve the "dispute" the King Gray community has with ELWA.

Thanking both the people of King Gray and the management of ELWA as well as the LCC for mediating the crisis, Boakai said the government has consented to the term of the agreement and will honor it to the letter, adding that a "very peaceful dialogue" had already been held with the people of King Gray. "We appreciate their understanding and kind cooperation on this matter," Boakai continued. "We...consider this show of partnership from all as a win-win situation for Liberia."

No More Ministerial Complex

The crisis on the land became rife when all was set for the Chinese Government to construct a complex to host Liberian ministries. China had asked her Liberian counterpart to find a suitable location where it could construct a ministerial complex, and the government saw the ELWA land as the most appropriate location.

Though ELWA has finally released the land, Boakai said it would no longer be used to build a ministerial complex. "No, no longer a ministerial complex; the land will be used to accommodate embassies," he disclosed.

Government, he added, will do a survey and countries wanting to build embassies here will be granted portion. "I think it will be a very good environment for embassies."

The head of ELWA said they have compromised to end the long running crisis and they were committed to working with the government to foster development in the country.

Mr. William Elphic noted: "Just as the Vice President has said, we have resolved the issue. We believe in the development of Liberia...and we are very satisfied."

King Gray Community's Acting Chief Elder Lewis Clinton said Boakai visited and asked them to resolve the difference with the ELWA people and "assured us some good things and I think that will be worthwhile, so all is well."

He said the Vice President assured them "some scholarship that will benefit the children, and that's what we were arguing for. We thought that there was some little mistake on the part of the ELWA where they promised to educate our children, and now that the VP or the Government is ready to educate our children, we don't have any problem with that."

Pastor Edwin T. Collins Jr., King Gray's Town Chief lauded Boakai for the peaceful settlement.

"The people are hopeful that the agreement will be met, he asserted.

He said the people of King Gray want to be relocated from the remaining chunk of the ELWA land to another suitable area within Montserrado County. "We hope he will work on our relocation and the scholarship for our children."

LCC President Bishop Jonathan B. B. Hart said the Council has been mediating between ELWA and the Government of Liberia and he was pleased that an amicable solution has been found.

"ELWA agreed to grant government 11.2 acres of land and everything involved has been done...I am please that this 'hala hala' (fracas) is finished."

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