10 March 2017

Liberia: Boundary Dispute Obstructs VR Process

A long standing boundary dispute between Gbarpolu and Bong counties in central Liberia has prevented several eligible voters from carrying out their voter registration, the Daily Observer has reliably learnt.

According to the report, the situation, which denied some of those residing along the disputed border from being registered, was exacerbated over the weekend when those who dared to register in Weama, on the Bopolu side of the district in Gbarpolu County, were reportedly prevented from doing so.

Some of those being denied from the VR process are people mainly from Gbarpolu and other counties that are residing in the Jungle James' Camp and other mining villages around the county borderline with Bong.

Last weekend, when the locals decided to register at the Weama voter registration center, they were allegedly stopped by one of the contending parties from going to the town on grounds that the boundary dispute between Bong and Gbarpolu counties was not yet settled.

The situation became intense when, especially near the Jungle James' Camp and its surrounding villages, people did not allow anyone from the camp to go to Weama, on the Gbarpolu side of the land, to register.

As a result, the villagers who claimed to own property in the area in question have imposed a strong traditional measure, thereby calling on their kinsmen to assemble their traditional devils from the forest to guard and prevent anyone from traveling to the Weama voter registration center, which is the only center accessible to residents of the mining camp.

This reporter observed the residents being instructed by local authorities to cross into Konikaman Town on the Bong Count side to register, but not to go on the Gbarpolu side of the disputed boundary.

A traditional spokesman, Abulam Kanneh, told the Daily Observer that the measure to involve the country devils was necessary and would remain in place until the national government can resolve the dispute and establish ownership of the disputed territory.

Residents of Weama Town in Bopolu District have meanwhile threatened to assemble their traditional devils to counteract any action the people of Bong County, who claimed ownership of the disputed area, would institute through their devils.

The regional coordinator of the Ministry of Lands, Mine and Energy in the area, George Beah, who confirmed the incident, also described it as serious.

When a National Elections Commission (NEC) officer assigned in Gbarpolu County, Kollie Lamanadan, visited the area to verify the truth, he confirmed the situation.

Mr. Kollie said he has prepared a report that he would send to NEC headquarters in Monrovia.

Upon hearing the news, the County Superintendent dispatched a team of journalist to the area. On their way, the journalists met a traditional devil on the highway preventing people from traveling to Weama to register. Journalists were prohibited from photographing and recording.



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