15 January 2013

Liberia: Stubborn Squatters Must Avoid Plight of 'Battlefield' Community

As painful as the demolition of 'Batterfield' community in the Borough of West Point, which this week rendered approximately 10,000 persons homeless, is, it serves as clear signal to squatters that they cannot perceptually evade national zoning laws.

Once national zoning authorities have marked structures as being in the 'right of way' and asked residents of those areas to relocate, their alternative is to heed even if they feel no definite time has been given for demolition of such areas. They need to believe that demolition is inevitable to cope with population growth in Monrovia that demands the expansion of social amenities to serve its residents.

While we appreciate the plight of thousands of residents of 'Battlefield' community rendered homeless by the demolition meant to clear the 'right of way', we alert thousands more stubbornly occupying areas marked as 'right of way' to read the handwriting on the wall and anticipate a similar plight, regardless of how long it takes.

Meanwhile, as remembrance is the twin sister of forgetfulness in the human psyche, we urge the national zoning authorities to frequently remind communities where structures are demarcated for demolition as 'right of way' for the construction of national assets including roads and streets, utilities and facilities for leisure. If the occupiers are reluctant to immediately relocate, they must be warned against considering those areas as their permanent places of settlement.

This sensitization must be periodic since squatters have the stubborn tendency to doubt government's inevitable drive to carry out developments in areas marked for such purposes.

A landmark case is the persistent disgusting encroachment on the 'right of way' along the Somali Drive despite several previous demolitions of marked structures and illegal garages following feasibility studies and surveys for construction of that road.

Squatters return whenever the road project doesn't get off the ground after they've been removed. But they expect sympathy for their crocodile tears whenever D-Day comes for them. Hence, it is but timely for them to anticipate what happened at 'Battlefield' community after failure to heed advice of the city zoning authorities. Many road projects currently underway in and around Monrovia must be sufficient warning to them.

Orderly relocation is in deed better than thinking relocation when a bulldozer is mowing your belongings.

There is also need to take cue from the plight of squatters who encroached on the 'right of way' of Bong Mines railways, but had to be warned to relocate or be evicted.

Last year, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sounded a major warning against acquisition of land surrounding Roberts International Airport and the Robertsfield highway where government has earmarked major expansions that could affect the seekers of so-called 'front view'.

Though old, our country is slowly developing. And when development fully comes, we must anticipate the momentary pains that come with it.

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