By: Abraham Kollie (Correspondent Margibi County)
Residents of Kpanyan Town and the Firestone-Liberia Company have finally resolved their long-standing dispute after weeks of negotiations.
This follows the intervention of Margibi County District #1 Representative Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh, Liberia’s Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf and Liberia Land Authority Chairman, Atty. Adam Manobah.
During a town hall meeting held in Kpanyan Town on September 19, 2020, following the inspection of the land in question, both parties agreed to set up boundaries to divide the disputed land into two portions.
As part of the agreement, the residents were allowed to use a land commencing from Brown Town to the Gion Creek to carry on their agriculture activities, while the Firestone Management will control the use of a land beginning from the Gion Creek to Carter Camp to replant their rubbers.
For a while now , the people of Kpanyan Town and other nearby villages and towns have been complaining and protesting on grounds that the company has been allegedly encroaching on their land and destroying their crops. This led to the intervention of their Lawmaker, Representative Tarponweh, calling on the Liberia Land Authority to conduct an impartial survey to amicably resolve the situation.
The Liberia Land Authority’s recent investigative survey revealed that the disputed land though was occupied by the town residents long before the existence of Firestone in Liberia, falls within the Company’s concession area, adding that the company is leasing the land from the Government of Liberia.
Speaking during the meeting, Minister Varney Sirleaf lauded parties for being peaceful and vowed to extend the residents’ request to President George M. Weah so that the towns and villages adjacent Firestone will benefit from the land rental fees paid to the Government by the Company.
“We have not come here as a court, but we are here to make peace between our people and the company. The happiness of our people enhances the existence of the company. I am excited that both parties are willing to adhere to the MOU that will be signed shortly. We have realized that Firestone is paying land rental fees to our Government. We can’t hold them for that. I am carrying your proposal to President Weah so that you can benefit from these rental fees too”, Minister Varney explained.
For his part, Representative Tarponweh disclosed that he has written communication to the Plenary of the House of Representatives to address the issue of the land rental fees.
The Margibi County District #1 Lawmaker assured the residents of his continuous supports but advised them to always act lawfully, which he concluded will make his job easier in representing them.
“There is no question that Liberia has intractable problems. We can not rest until our people are duly served. In the past, these things were not probably dealt with; that’s why we are still dealing with them.
With the privilege to serve, the friends of our people will be our friends; the enemies of our people will be our enemies. Firestone is not our enemy but a partner and we will ensure that companies respect the rights of our people.
We will support our partners when our partners are right but will oppose them when they are stepping on our people. Let’s continue to work within the law. We (public officials) should be the voice of the voiceless. I remain committed to the attainment of that goal,” Representative Tarponweh asserted.
Representing the Management of Firestone, Mr. Richard Fallah, Firestone’s Government Relations Manager, thanked the Lawmaker, the Minster and others for their intervention and reassure the company’s commitment to peacefully working with the residents.
Dr. Syrulwa Somah who represented the residents committed the town to peacefully coexist with the company.
The land in question is approximately one thousand (1,000) acres along the Du-River and borders with Divisions #44 and 45 in Firestone, Lower Margibi County.
The MOU is expected to be signed shortly between the parties, which will also recommend for Firestone to electrify the entrance and the street of the town.