Liberia: Sanniquellie Airstrip Turns Market Ground

The airstrip in Sanniquellie City, Nimba County has become a market ground, creating the concern among the citizens of the county.

When the Daily Observer visited the airstrip, it was very hard to recognize the area, due to the numerous market tables already built on the airstrip.

Recently, an ArcelorMittal helicopter attempted landing on the strip, but found it difficult because of the market structures.

The airstrip was very busy during the presence of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), from 2003 until the mission came to an end in 2017.

Sanniquellie has one of the longest airstrips in rural Liberia, but which has been encroached on since the outbreak of the country's 14-year civil war, leaving the entire airstrip encroached on with houses and now the market having taken the remaining portion.

Prior to her departure from office, former City Mayor, Mary Gonlepa, planned to resurvey the airstrip and ensure those who encroached on the land be asked to leave.

Many critics are blaming the government for lack of vision in the aviation sector across the country, leaving most of the local airstrips, being overrun by wild vegetation or occupied by squatters.

Many citizens remember with great hope the visit of the Ivory Coast President Allasane Ouattara in Liberia at the climax of the Chiefs and Elders Conference in Zwedru, because he and his delegation of over 20 members flew in from Abidjan and landed in Zwedru in a mini-jet.

Those who attended the meeting were very impressed with the coming of the two leaders, especially at their arrival at the local airstrip.

Earlier this year, the Daily Observer also reported that the airstrip in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, was being badly encroached upon by squatters who had begun to construct houses that encroached on the airstrip property.

In Saclepea, the airstrip, once used by missionaries, as well as investors of the defunct "Nimba County Rural Development Project", has been turned into residences and farms, with the local authorities showing little or no concern.

Efforts to get opinions from the local authorities, including Superintendent D. Dorr Cooper, did not materialize. Supt. Cooper's phone rang continuously without answer.

Earlier, the County Inspector referred this reporter to either the Assistant Superintendent for Development or the superintendent, but effort to get them couldn't materialize.

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