By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie
Despite the assurance, as guaranteed in Article 11(a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, the Government, through a hired law firm headed by Cllr. Lavela Koboi Johnson has already filed an eviction lawsuit at the Gardnersville Magisterial Court against over 50,000 residents of the Chicken Soup Factory Community in the township of Gardnersville along the Somalia Drive Road.
Article 11(a) states that all persons are born equally free and independent and have certain natural inherent and inalienable rights, among which are the right of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of pursing and maintaining the security of the person and of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, to subject qualification as provided for in the constitution.
At a press briefing held during the weekend in Chicken Soup Factory Community, the General Chairman of the community, Mr. Henry K. Wokolo told newsmen that what is more disturbing to them is that the government whose responsibility is to provide shelter and other basic necessities for its citizens, has openly stated that it has no plan of relocating nor compensating residents who have occupied portion of the land for nearly four decades.
At this moment, the land in question has a large community which numerical strength exceeds 50,000 people with nearly 3,000 dwelling homes, 13 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, and 8 senior high schools. In addition, it has 3 clinics, 24 churches, 3 mosques, 3 markets and a number of entertainment centers by evidence of a recent census conducted by the leadership of the community.
It is known publicly that some of the residents occupied the land as a result of a relocation exercise instituted by the Government of Liberia in the 1980’s due to threats posed by sea erosion in the Borough of West Point, and the migration of peoples from the hinterland to the urban areas due to the 14 years civil unrest that destroyed homes and lives of citizens and foreigners alike.
The citizens through their Chairman Mr. Wokolo explained that if the eviction takes place, those who have built their lives over the years by evidence of the infrastructural and other developments carried out on the land will not only cost government millions of dollars in terms of compensation, but it may as well serve as a recipe to disturb the hard earned peace being enjoyed by all Liberians.
Mr. Wokolo recalled that the National Legislature four decades ago enacted into law 1,112 acres (450 hectares of land) for industrial purposes styled and named the Monrovia Industrial Park, situated from Stockton Creek Bridge to Red Light on the Somalia Drive, Gardnersville area, aimed at creating a trade and industry balanced economy intended to create jobs for the citizenry at the time without taking into thoughtfulness population growth, environmental consequences and advancement in technology among other factors.
Cognizant of the present economic, social, political, environmental and cultural realities, that have evolved over the past forty (40) years since the enactment of the 1965 law creating the Monrovia Industrial Park, and realizing the increase in population from 1.5 million in the 60s to 3.5 million up-to date, Mr. Wokolo said it makes the Monrovia Industrial Park a non reality issue.
Additionally, he said, another fact is the park in question has no industry (ies) on it currently, but rather it has been occupied by citizens reflecting geographical balance of all the tribes with the 15 political sub-divisions of the country.
When asked as to what they would do since a lawsuit has been filed against the community, Mr. Wokolo disclosed that they are preparing to petition the 53rd legislature to repeal (revoke) the 1965 Act and that they also continue to engage the Executive Branch in a friendly and diplomatic manner to remedy the situation.
Wokolo however used the occasion to remind President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of her response made to community dwellers in 2011 while on her campaign trails regarding community status when she stated; “When you do me, I will do you”, meaning when you vote for me, I will give you community status.
He also wants other organizations like the Inter-religious Council, diplomatic missions, Human Rights Groups, Civil Society as well as Political Party leaders among others to intervene in this critical matter.