Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has commended the Chairman and members of the Special Presidential Nimba Land Dispute Commission for the exemplary manner in which they executed their assignment, bringing to an end the land and property squabbles that developed there at the end of the country's civil war.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader, speaking at a certification program for members of the Commission, expressed appreciation for their work over the period. She particularly thanked Chairman Musa Bility for always responding to Government's call to take on difficult and strategic assignments.
"Because of that, sometimes he gets all kinds of criticisms and false accusations; but in each case, I can say to you that the confidence we have in his carrying out his responsibility with integrity and commitment is strong because we believe in him," she stressed, adding, "Mr. Bility, what you did by just chairing the Commission and giving encouragement to the other members is just exemplary of the things that you do for this Government and this country."
Sirleaf's praise of Bility has drawn mixed reactions in Monrovia with many questioning the timing of the commendation, coming on the heels of the recent indictment of Bility, who is also the suspended chair of the Liberia Airport Authority.
The Liberian government recently indicted several RIA executives including Bility, Ellen Corkrum, former Acting Managing Director, her fiancée, Melvin Johnson as well as the heads of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and the First International Bank. The indictment came a week after the watchdog group; Transparency International rated Liberia the most corrupt nation in the world. The TI released its 2010 world corruption barometer, ranking Liberia as the world's most corrupt country with a score of 89%, and listing its Judiciary, Legislature, Education, the Business Sector, public officials as the most corrupt institutions in the country.
At the program last week, Sirleaf said she envisages that a number of remedial cases would possibly come up, and has requested the Ministry of Internal Affairs and a small group of the Commission to remain to resolve them if they arise.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Nimba Land Dispute Commission, Mr. Bility, said the factors that held to his Commission achieving peace in Nimba County were the resolve of the Liberian leader that peace had to be achieved in the county; likewise, the resilience of the county's Legislative Caucus in making sure that this happened despite the challenges.
He praised the efforts of the Caucus's former members from the 52nd Legislature, but most especially, it former Chairman, Senator Prince Johnson, for all they did to make this possible. "On that very tense morning in Saclepea, he [Senator Johnson] was able to tell the people of Nimba County that we have no alternative but that we find peace, and those who have their properties must have their properties," Mr. Bility recalled, adding, "Senator Johnson, I want to tell you thank you and to let you know that your role in bringing peace to Nimba County in this process was difficult but you made it."
For his part, the Chairman of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus, Senator Thomas Grupee, thanked President Sirleaf for committing her administration to peace-building in Liberia and by showing that clear manifestation in Nimba County.
He appealed to the Liberian leader, as regards appointments to positions of trust, that the county's five ethnic groups be taken into consideration. "The only way our people will live side-by-side and peacefully co-exist is for them to enjoy the benefit of that county and the national government equally," he urged, adding that though the Gio and Mano tribes are dominant, they are not superior to the minority tribes of the county.
Senator Grupee reiterated that peace and reconciliation is a process and not an event. "As you have started this peace process, I, Thomas Grupee, being a Senator of Nimba County and Chairman of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus, have dedicated my life and leadership to making sure that we have continuous peace in Nimba and that we will bring our people together to live in a wholesome functioning society," he pledged.
Earlier, the Chairperson of all local peace committees, Mr. Prince Tozoe, commended the Liberian leader for spearheading the process leading to the successful conclusion of the land disputes in Nimba County, but admitted that for them, it was not an easy task. "The exercise was very tough and rocky," he recalled, adding, "We were abused, insulted and assaulted; but thank God we made it by staying in the midst of our own people and telling them the hard truth when, for instance, the land did not belong to them."
The program was held in the Foreign Ministry's C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium on Thursday, August 15.