Gibi District Paramount Chief Threatens ‘Traditional’ Warfare Over Border Dispute

GIBI, Margibi – The paramount chief of Gibi Chiefdom in Margibi’s fifth electoral district, Peter Barnyou, has warned of a looming land dispute between citizens of Gibi district and citizens of Grand Bassa’s second electoral district.

According to Barnyou, residents of the bordering Grand Bassa district often encroach on land belonging to the people of Gibi district, with no respect for the traditional chiefs and elders of the district. He said this situation is increasing tension among people in the two districts.

Remarking at a program organized by the Gibi District Development Association, Barnyou said his Grand Bassa counterparts needed to respect the Farmington River as the traditional boundary between the two counties.

Barnyou said the people of Grand Bassa have wrongly regarded a small river known as Gowen River as the boundary line, far beyond the Farmington River and into Gibi district.

He added that if nothing is done to halt the encroachment on his people’s land, they would use traditional means to reclaim their heritage, suggesting he could unleash traditional masked dancers to wreak havoc on the area.

“If the government does not intervene to stop the people from building their villages on our land, we will use traditional power to fight for our right,” Barnyou noted through an interpreter.

The crisis started in 2017 when local authorities of Margibi realized that other chiefs from Grand Bassa were claiming sovereignty over the region. The particular area is thought to hold significant natural resources, including gold, diamond, and timber.

According to Barnyou, a daylong dialogue with the locals was held in early 2017, which brought together the former superintendents of Margibi and Grand Bassa, John Buway and Levi Demah, respectively. Former House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay and Representative Mary Karwor were also brought in to resolve the conflict. At the time, officials from both counties recognized the Farmington River as the statutory boundary between the two counties.

They further called on all parties to halt all activities on the disputed land until a national boundary harmonization was completed. However, on the Grand Bassa side, it appears the treaty is being violated, as community leaders have entered an agreement with a local logging company to work on the disputed land.

Meanwhile, the deputy internal affairs minister for administration, Momolu Johnson, has assured the people of Gibi district of the immediate intervention of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to resolve the boundary dispute between the two counties.

“It is an issue that we will not take lightly as we are in the dry season. We will hold a consultation on the issue that has been brought to our attention,” Johnson noted.

Grand Bassa and Margibi both host Bassa-speaking communities. In Margibi, towns such as Weazohn, Sawhzohn, Warka Town, and Sawdenewein are inhabited by Bassa Margibians.

Featured photo by Emmanuel Degleh

Emmanuel Degleh

Emmanuel has over a decade of experience working as a community radio broadcaster. He is the Margibi correspondent for the Liberia Broadcasting System and the Manager for Classic FM 93.9 MHz, one of Liberia’s leading community radio stations. Emmanuel is also a member of the Press Union of Liberia and a 2016 Internews Health Journalism Fellow.

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