21 May 2018

Liberia: Monrovia's 'Fish Market' Moving, but Where To?

Madam Seneah Yelekai, 61, is one of a handful of fishmongers at the famous 'Fish Market' on the edge of Congo Town, who could be severely disadvantaged when the market is demolished come the first week of June 2018.

She is one of the last individuals standing from her generation that sold fresh fish at the famous Fish Market. According to her, she has been selling at the fish market since she was a girl, helping her mother who was also a fishmonger during the early 1980s.

Despite lack of available record about the market, Yelekai recalled that the market has been serving the public since the 1970s. And the Fish Market of the '70s and '80s was so popular that the community around it -- from the location of the home of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf going west on Tubman Boulevard, toward Vamoma Junction -- begat the name, "Fish Market Community".

But last week, Yelekai stood in total shock when some marketers disclosed to her that they received a notice, asking them to leave the spot as early as possible.

"Throughout the time we've been here, no one has bothered us until recently, we were told that this place was sold and the owner of the place is ready to use it," said the dejected Yelekai. "We cannot fight them but we are asking people to help because we have nowhere to go. This is the place we sell to sponsor our children's education and manage our families."

Meanwhile, Liberian entrepreneur, Amin Modad, who is the landowner, told this newspaper in an interview that he does not expect contentions from people who he described as "squatters." However, he said that he is willing to assist fishmongers at Fish Market get relocated.

"We cannot keep [encouraging] the issue of squatters. Over the years, they were informed that the place is a private property. Not to be selfish, I allowed them to use the land; now I am about to use the land and I do not expect any contention. With the squatters that are in the back, we have warned them, they need to leave. The only people that I think there should be some level of consolation with are the fishmongers because they play an important role. If they have a land or the city corporation can provide them land, I am willing to construct a similar stall for them, which is not an obligation but I think that is a humane thing to do," Modad explained.

He added that he acquired the four acres two years ago and disclosed that he wants to build a hotel, a library, conference hall and an art gallery center on the property.

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