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Miners’ Operations Halted over Problematic MoU

An elevated view of Huiren Mining Company Camp in Jackson Village, Bong County / The Daylight/ Charles Gbayor

Top: An elevated view of Huiren Mining Inc. plant in Jackson Village, Bong County. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

By Matenneh Keita

MONROVIA – The Ministry of Mines and Energy has halted a mining company’s operations in Bong County for violating its memorandum of understanding with local communities.

The ministry said it had invited Huiren Mining Inc. representatives and the Jorpolu Clan townspeople in Jorquelleh District, Bong County, to Monrovia to correct “serious errors” in the MoU.

“We notice that the company decided to close their eyes or play deaf ears to the MoU so, as an institution, the Ministry decided to move in,” said Arma George Fully, the Director of Mines.   

“If a company will work effectively, the community where that company works should be satisfied,” Fully said.

Villagers celebrated the move.

I feel fine for the government to come in for our citizens to benefit,” said Benedict Belekabolu, the youth chairman of Gbarmue, one of Huiren’s affected towns.

“The Ministry of Mines and Energy coming in to close Huerin Mining Inc. is [a step] in the right,” added Washington Bonnah, the former District Commission of Jorquelleh District.

Daniel Toe, Huiren’s project manager, did not respond to queries for comments on this story.

Huiren, a majority-Chinese-owned company, was granted a medium-scale license to mine gold in 2021. Afterward, it signed an MoU with Jorpolu to lease the clan’s land in exchange for periodic payments and social benefits.

But three years on, the company has failed to live up to the MoU, leaving villagers to struggle for drinking water and other things.

People in Jorpolu struggle to get drinking water as Huiren Mining activities have polluted creeks like this one in the clan. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

A recent survey by Civic and Service International (CSI), an NGO working in mining communities, found that affected communities do not have a copy of the document or are aware of it.  

“This is an assurance and an opportunity for voiceless people to be heard and a game-changer…,” said Otis Bundor, CSI’s country director.

Fully told The DayLight the Ministry would make sure the new MoU will respect the rights of locals.

“Things that the community will need, things that the community wants to benefit… will be placed in that MoU,” Fully said. “We will not sit and the company go and draft an MoU and just put things that will benefit them and not the community.”

Marvin Cole, the Representative of Bong County District Number Three, oversaw the creation of the current MoU between the parties.

Cole squashed a previous MoU for being “weak” and a “disservice” because he did not participate in its writing. However, the one he helped carve reduced the villagers’ benefits by US$400 and veiled their relationship with the miners in secrecy.

Like the one before it, the Cole-inspired MoU did not obligate Huiren to erect handpumps, pave roads and build a clinic or hospital.

A DayLight investigation found that affected towns and villages were unaware the company paid money into a bank account Cole helped open.

Fully said Cole and local government officials would participate in drafting the new MoU. Cole did not immediately return questions for comments on the matter.

The United States Embassy provided funding for this story. The DayLight maintained editorial independence over the story’s content.

Investigation Discovers Illegal Timber Trafficking Web at CARI


Top: A poster exposing an illegal timber trafficking company that operated at CARI, abandoning a lot of wood there. The DayLight/Rebazar D. Forte

By Rebazar D. Forte

SUAKOKO, Bong County – Planks and wood machines are everywhere: near a nursery and on the basketball court, by an abandoned vehicle and even along an indoor corridor. The grayish coloring of the planks suggests that they have been here for a while.

This is not your regular sawmill. It is the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko, Bong County, and the piles of timber are remnants of an illegal timber trafficking syndicate that operated here for several years.

Smugglers under the banner China Turkish Liberia Industries (CTL Industries) ran the secret sawmill for about three years, according to documents, members of the syndicate and people familiar with the illegal operation. Two Chinese men, Chaolong Zhong and Guoping Zhang; a Turkish man Mehmet Onder Erem; and a Liberian Terrence Collins, owned and ran the syndicate.

The syndicate kept timber everywhere at the China Aid building at CARI, including on this basketball court

“They got over there with a different plan,” said Dr. James Dolo, the Officer in Charge of CARI, in a phone interview. “They said they wanted land to set up some demo and start some production…  but those guys came and they started bringing logs in overnight.”

Mr. Chaolong has 35 percent of the company’s shares, Mr. Erem 20 percent, Mr. Collins 15 percent and Mr. Guoping 10 percent. The remaining 20 percent is outstanding, according to CTL Industries’ article of incorporation.

It was unclear whether Mr. Chaolong worked with China Aid, which collaborate with CARI as part of an agriculture program between Liberia and China. A ringleader of the group, he, however, apparently used his Chinese connections to set up the sawmill sometime in 2021, according to former a member of the syndicate. The source and other sources The DayLight interviewed asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

China Aid building at the Central Agriculture Research Institute in Suakoko, Bong County

Mr. Erem operated and supervised CTL Industries’ machine works. “He used to operate the forklift most often,” said another former worker. The Turk’s involvement with the syndicate was cut short over a misunderstanding with Mr. Chaolong, the ex-worker said.  Mr. Erem left CARI to start another operation but remains a shareholder of CTL Industries.

Mr. Collins, aliased TC, conducted all the paperwork for the syndicate. He secured all the company’s documents, including the article of incorporation and business registration.

CTL Industries is not Mr. Collins’ first illegal activity. In February, a DayLight investigation found his company Quezp operated two mines in Montserrado County without licenses. The EPA later fined the company for mining without an environmental permit.    

Victor Sumo, the head of CARI at the time, was aware of the trafficking network and appeared to have benefited from it.  Dr. Sumo and Mr. Chaolong would have problems with money. At one point, he stopped the operation in demand of his share of the money, according to the manager, corroborated by other people.

“Victor Sumo put a steel gate immediately after the main road coming to the Chinese building. Some money was playing in hands and timber was coming in and something was not going somewhere,” the staff said. “Some high government officials along with staff at CARI came and settled the matter between Dr. Sumo and CTL Industries.”  Dr. Sumo did not return questions via WhatsApp for comments on this story and did not answer several phone calls this reporter placed to him.

Dolo claimed Dr. Sumo shuttered the entrance to China Aid to halt the operation, not for money. “So that’s how it stopped,” he said.

Three ex-workers refuted Dolo’s claims, saying the operations continued long after that episode. They said Sumo authorized Mr. Chaolong to reopen the operations and reclosed the gate in demand of US$10,000. They added that CTL Industries closed just before last year’s elections, promising to resume after the polls but deserted the operations.

‘Big trucks’

CTL  Industries had at least 33 staff, based on the company’s roosters obtained by the DayLight. Workers enrolled timber on log sheets, showing wood size, quantity, quality and species. 

Up: A rooster showing 33 staff of China Turkey Liberia Industries. Here: a log detailing China Turkey Liberia Industries’ timber purchases on December 17, 2021.

“When the woods came at the gate, we used to record the woods based on the type. If it is not in a good condition, we will record it as condemned, which means the buying price will not be the same,” said one ex-worker.   

“Yellow big trucks used to come at night with woods and they used to pass through the second (exit) gate. The woods were taken from Lofa County, Bong and even Nimba,” the ex-worker said. A resident of Zorzor who is familiar with the forestry industry, and also preferred anonymity, said the same thing. The gate in question is now closed for use.

Another person knowledgeable about the operation added that woods were transported even during the day, suggesting the illegal operation was an open secret. The company also bought wood from local vendors and chainsaw millers in Suakoko.

The traffickers exported the timber in several containers, pictures The DayLight obtained reveal. Several pictures show timber being loaded into containers for export. Others show men, including an unidentified Chinese man, sealing up the metal boxes.

The export of the wood cements the cabal’s criminal profile. Exporting planks is prohibited in forestry, while chainsaw milling activities are restricted to Liberians. CTL Industries is registered in LiberTrace, the legal system to export timber from Liberia. However, it has not used the system before, LiberTrace’s record of the company shows.

The pictures reveal other things, too. They show that CTL Industries operated at another location before moving to CARI.  One picture shows Mr. Chaolong and two unidentified Chinese nationals standing by a wood machine. Other pictures feature a house filled with timber in a yard. Tire impressions matching container trucks are seen on the driveway of the house.

One ex-worker said the house in the picture was where the company had operated on the Robertsfield Highway, adjacent to the Baptist Seminary. The company’s business registration certificate supports that location, which is Mr. Collins’ address, according to the company’s article of incorporation.

Up: A picture revealing CTL Industries’ previous sawmill before it moved to the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI). Here: An unidentified Chinese man appears to take a record of a fully loaded container.

‘Selling vegetables’

The CARI-China Aid collaboration was established in 2009  for Liberian and Chinese scientists to conduct research. It was meant to train Liberian farmers to produce rice, corn and vegetables initially and fisheries and husbandry later. “It is a capacity-building project or a ‘fishing project’ that teaches people how to fish,” Zhou Yuxiao, then Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, said at its handover in 2010. The US$6 million project was part of Beijing’s efforts to promote agricultural technology in Africa.

CTL Industries’ activities overshadowed the work of China Aid, as the number of plant nurseries was dwarfed by the abandoned timber at CARI. Dolo said China Aid seemingly stopped operating either in 2013 or the following year.

One source said that the Chinese have turned the facility into a vegetable business, supplying Chinese restaurants, a claim Dolo appears to agree with.

“Right now the guys that are there if you visit the compound are only producing vegetables. I think they got this big program there. I think whatever they are doing with it I don’t know. Maybe they are selling it or supplying some,” Dolo said. The Chinese Embassy did not respond to The DayLight’s queries for comment on the China Aid program at CARI.

Dolo said his administration would investigate the CTL Industries’ activities. “I can’t attach a timeframe because it is a process…,” Dolo said, “but I can guarantee you that we are going to get on it by next month.

Efforts to interview Messrs. Chaolong and Collins did not materialize.

Mr. Chaolong did not respond to WhatsApp calls and messages. At one point, he answered a phone call and requested our reporter to text because he could not understand English. He did not respond to that message.

Mr. Collins referred The DayLight to speak with his lawyer Francis Tuan. Tuan did not return WhatsApp messages for his client.

The story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).

Lawmaker Hijacks Mining MoU, Undermining Villagers’ Benefits

An elevated view of Huiren Mining Company Camp in Jackson Village, Bong County / The Daylight/ Charles Gbayor

Top: An elevated view of  Huiren Mining Company Camp in Jackson Village, Bong County / The Daylight/ Charles Gbayor

By Matenneh Kieta and Charles Gbayor  

JACKSON VILLAGE, Bong County – For years, Melvin Teah drew water from a creek near his home. Teah and other villagers used the water to drink, cook and wash.

Then everything changed in 2020 when some Chinese miners arrived in Jackson Village, one of Bong County’s most famous mining towns.

The miners started digging for gold and created a waste plant close to the creek, poisoning the water. Now, villagers need to walk 10 minutes to the nearest presumably safe creek for water. There is only a single public handpump.

“[Jackson Village] is very large, and we have about 300 persons living here. The handpumps that are here are not even correct three,” Teah said. “We also take water from Gbarnga to drink.”

The situation in Jackson Village could have been better had Huiren Mining Inc. lived up to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) supervised by Bong County lawmaker Marvin Cole.

Jackson Village, Bong County, hosts Huiren Mining Company. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

Jackson Village and the other towns in the clan—Gbarmue, Matthew Village, Kpaah and Banama—have a huge potential for gold, according to the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

The region has been a hub for mainly artisanal mining activities over the years. It was infamous for tragic mining accidents, which helped convince locals to lease their land to the company.

Huiren acquired a class B or medium-scale license for gold in January 2021, which runs to January 2026. Before that, it spent six months there prospecting for the mineral between 2020 and 2021, official records show.   

It promised to construct several handpumps for Jackson Village and the other affected communities to lease their land, according to villagers. The DayLight could not verify this claim and others made by the villagers, as the MoU is silent on the company’s social responsibilities.  

The residents also accused Huiren of failing to fix roads and bridges in affected towns and villages.

The road from Gbarmue—, the largest of the affected towns and villages— to Jackson Village is rough and rocky with many ditches. Commuters must get down from motorbikes to walk 30 minutes to Jackson Village.

“If we don’t clean this road with our hands and do rehabilitation, cars and motorbikes will not come in,” said Othello Topeoh, a resident of Gbarmue.

Jackson Village, Bong County, hosts Huiren Mining Company. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

Huiren also failed to build a school, and a clinic or provide funding for scholarships, according to the villagers.

Washington Bonnah, the Commissioner of the Jorquelleh District Where Jorpolu falls, denies that assertion. Bonnah said Huiren gave Gbarmue at least US$7,000 to build a school in 2020 or 2021. Marcus Kennedy, a community leader in Jackson Village agreed with Bonnah.

But Larry Gbelekabolu, the Town Chief, denies that. His brother Benedict Gbelekabolu, the youth president of Jorpolu Clan, supported him.

“Before the company came to the community, the gold mining that the community was doing for itself the money generated was what we used to build the school in Gbarmue,” said Benedict Belekabolu. 

But Bonnah, the Gbelekabolus and other residents agreed on other things. They all accused Cole, the representative of District Number Three covering the Jorpolu Clan, of concealing the MoU and hijacking their agreement with Huiren.

No one, except an elderly man, had a copy of the document, not even Bonnah or Benedict Gbelekabolu who signed it. A recent survey by CSI or Civics and Service International, a nongovernment organization,  found that 94 percent of the Jorpolu Clan have not heard of the MoU. The survey also found 95 percent of the people were unaware of it. 

“The MoU shouldn’t be in [hiding],” said Otis Bundor, CSI’s country director. “If the MoU is available to the public, it will be easier to get the full level of accountability.”

Marvin Cole Representative District Number Three  At His Capitol Building Office. Facebook/Hon J Marvin Cole

In an interview with The DayLight at the Capitol Building in Monrovia, Cole said he had misplaced the document and would look for it.

Cole helped draft the MoU, canceling a previous MoU because of “lots of weaknesses,” and that it was a “disservice” he had not participated in drafting it.

“They needed to specify when they do the [semi-industrial] mining what would come to the community,” Cole said. “Those were the issues I raised, and I think it was based on my level of intelligence and understanding. I was on the [House’s] Committee on Mines and Energy at the time.”  

The result of Cole’s arrangement does not justify the lawmaker’s actions. Turns out, the current MoU is weaker than the previous one and is ambiguous like its predecessor.

In the initial document, the community was entitled to US$2,500 quarterly, which amounted to US$10,000 annually.

Interestingly, locals are entitled to US$9,600 yearly in the Cole MoU. That is US$400 less than the annual financial benefits in the discarded document.  

That aside, the unavailability of the MoU has wrapped the community’s relationship with Huiren in secrecy. Townspeople do not know whether the miners have paid them any money or not.

Bonnah, who is one of the signatories to the community account, said he was unaware of any transactions.  Bonnah added he had not heard from the two other signatories of the account, including a staff in Cole’s office named Solemane Sesay.  

Washington Bonnah, the Commissioner of Jorquelleh District, Bong County. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

Cole said he was unaware Sesay was a signatory to the account but told reporters Sesay had traveled to the United States.

“We were authorized to open the account. [I don’t know the signatories], except I look on the bank statement to know who are those signatories to the account,” said Cole.

Efforts to contact Sesay were unsuccessful. Emory Saylee, a staffer in Cole’s office promised to share Sesay’s contact but did not. Bonnah and other locals did not have it either.

But Cole’s comments are not backed by fact. It was the lawmaker who oversaw the establishment of the bank account, according to a May 10, 2022 letter.  Before then, Huiren hand-delivered the money in town hall meetings.

Representative Marvin Cole’s letter to Huiren Mining Inc.

“I present compliments and wish to inform the management of Huiren Mining Inc. that all payments to the following account details,” Cole wrote Huiren. It was an account at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), entitled “Washington Bomah.”

Bonnah said Cole did not inform him before opening the account. That appears to explain why his name was misspelled as the account title.

Daniel Toe, Huiren’s project manager, said the company has been making periodic payments into the account, and could not be blamed for the stalemate.

“If they say they are not receiving it, they have to be asking their leadership concerning this money,” Toe said in a phone interview.

The DayLight obtained a receipt of a US$4,000 payment from the company made in May last year.  Toe said the company would not make future payments until the account issue was resolved.

Toe conceded that the company failed to construct Jorpolu’s roads but blamed the locals for the failure of the other projects.

“They have not come up with any definite project yet for us to get involved,” Toe said.

At a recent community meeting, Fanseh Mulbah, the Deputy Minister for Planning, at the Ministry of Mines, praised the Jorpolu Clan for being peaceful

Mulbah said the Ministry of Mines would investigate the matter.  

The United States Embassy provided funding for this story. The DayLight maintained editorial independence over the story’s content.

Researchers Warn Tribal Certificates Could ‘Corrode’ Customary Land  


Top: A cleared farmland in Jacksonville, Sinoe County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By Emmanuel Sherman

MONROVIA- Researchers have called for an open process to transform tribal certificates into title deeds, warning it could “corrode” customary land in Liberia.

“Tribal certificates are semi-recognized documents used by individuals, families and community to privatize customary or public land,” say Ali Kaba, Baba Sillah and Dr. Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei in a recent report.

“There is no standard template or chain of custody for tribal certificates, the number in circulation is unknown but believed to be extremely high,” they add.

A tribal certificate is a legal document issued by local authorities mainly under the Public Land Law of 1956 to show interest in the land, not to own it. It was introduced by former President William V. S. Tubman to exert and expand the state’s influence in the hinterlands. Powerful chiefs and elders often awarded the documents without consulting the rest of their community.  

In 2018, Liberia passed the Land Rights Act, a landmark legislation that recognizes customary land ownership. The new law mandates the government to work with communities and turn all tribal certificates into title deeds by 2020.  

But more than five years after the new land law, tribal certificates are yet to be transformed into deeds, except for a few, which were issued illegally.

The researchers cite the lack of information, competing claims, social and material differences, and expertise as factors in the delay in transforming these documents into proper deeds. 

“So, a community has 1,000 acres of customary land, and in that same community you have 1,000 acres of private land,” Kaba tells The DayLight in an interview.  

“Those two things cannot exist in the same place. So, it becomes a corrosive instrument to undo customary land,” Kaba says.

To avoid that problem, the researchers are calling for a fair, transparent, and inclusive process and a grievance mechanism for converting tribal certificates into title deeds. 

A 2015 survey conducted by the Land Commission now the Liberia Land Authority revealed there are over 1,500 tribal certificates in Bong County, averaging 250 acres per claim. The figure represents 15 percent of the total land area of the central county, which is just over 877,000 hectares.

“Validating tribal certificates at the community level must include diverse viewpoints and interest prioritizes the perspective of vulnerable groups such as women and youths,” Kaba says.

An elevated view of Quikon Clan in Kokoyah District, Bong County. The DayLight/Derick Snyder

“This mechanism must be easily accessible to civil society and community members, who must clearly understand the procedures involved and the rights and entitlements of vulnerable groups.” 

The researchers urge the Land Authority to create a tribal certificate guideline or regulation that would scale up the definition of “developed” land in the Land Rights Act.

Under the Land Rights Act, holders of tribal certificates are entitled to all of the developed portions of the land the documents represent.  Kaba and co recommend that the developed portion should not be limited to fencing, surveying, and conservation but must include basic use and claims rights.

Stanley Toe, executive director of the Land Authority agrees with researchers about the risk the delay in transforming tribal certificates poses.

Toe, however, discloses the Land Authority is at 90 percent completion of the work. He says the regulation would address the definition and the vetting process of tribal certificates.

“So hopefully in the next two to three months we should be done with this particular process,” Toe says.   

“A committee inclusive of civil society, community members and vulnerable groups will be set up to validate [tribal certificates] and the developed portion.”

The Guardians of Liberia’s ‘Largest’ Waterfall


Top: Elijah Kolleh (left) and Yarkpawolo Kollie are guardians of the Whorn Waterfall in Kokoyah District, Bong County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By James Harding Giahyue

SEEGAR TOWN, Bong County – The two elderly men take my colleague Derick Snyder and me on a tour of an enormous yet largely unknown waterfall.  

Yarkpawolo Kollie and Elijah Kolleh are not just some random tour guides. They are guardians of Whorn Waterfall on the St. John River in the Kokoyah District Bong County.

Kollie and Kolleh spend a good portion of their time regulating access to the fall. Skilled basket weavers and fishermen, the men protect it and a Sande shrine nearby from unauthorized access and desecration.  

“That area is a traditional area, the [largest] waterfall in the Republic of Liberia,” Morris Dukuly, a former chief of Seegar Town. The DayLight could not independently verify Dukuly’s claim but drone pictures show it is larger than the Kpatawee Waterfall. Whorn is about a 20-minute walk from Seegar Town through farms and a swathe of rocky, hilly forest.

“We can’t just permit anybody to just enter,” adds Dukuly, a descendant of the family that founded Seegar Town.    

It was Dukuly and the rest of the town’s leadership who appointed Kollie and Kolleh. It is part of a tradition that has lasted since the early 1900s, Dukuly tells us.

The elderly men are not the fall’s only guardians. Other townsmen play that role, too. They belong to a legion of villagers who spend a lifetime protecting their land and custom.

The Whorn Waterfall is the largest in Liberia, according to local people. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Last month, Quikon Clan, where the waterfall is located, asked an NGO to assist it to get a customary deed. The clan wants to preserve that and benefit from their resources, following years of government neglect.

Under the Land Rights Act, Quikon owns the land, water and forest in Seegar and 23 other towns, covering more than 2,000 hectares. However, it must meet certain legal requirements to get a deed from the government.

Gbarnga-based NGO Parley Liberia is now guiding Quikon in its quest. The clan is one of 37 communities across eight counties benefiting from a US$3.54 million project, funded by the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility of Sweden.  

“Once we have a deed, we get the power to say anything to any investor that will come… to use that waterfall,” says Junior Tarr, the Paramount Chief of Kokoyah.

Kollie and Kolleh are aware of the new quest but are focused on their jobs.

They spend the rainy season at the waterfall, fishing and smoldering their catch. We are not allowed to go to where they fish—because of the shrine—but we can see a few rattan baskets.   

One basket hangs not far from the doorway of a hut a few feet from the rocky riverbanks next to the fall. Two others are outside the hut and two more are in different locations.

“When the dry season comes, we go back in the town,” explains Kolleh 60-something, the younger of the two men. A lot of people come to see the fall at that time, he adds.

The waterfall makes a forest spectacle. Its brownish water pours down a rocky, steep hill, making a loud noise. Droplets form a cloud and reduce the green shading of the forest on both sides of the river. Big rocks line up the riverbanks, creating a stage for us to stand and behold nature at its best.

After nearly two hours here, it is time for us to go. Kollie and Kolleh gave us some worm fish from a drier to eat. We say goodbye and start our journey back to Gbarnga.

Waterfall Clan Seeks Customary Land Deed

created by dji camera

Top: The Whorn Waterfall is arguably Quikon’s most famous natural resource. The DayLight/Derick Snyder

By Esau J. Farr

KOKOYAH DISTRICT, Bong County – A clan with a waterfall larger than Kpatawee has consented to a project seeking to assist it get an ancestral land deed.

Located on the boundary between Grand Bassa and Bong County, Quikon Clan hosts the Whorn Waterfall on the St. John River.

For decades, villagers in the clan have protected the fall, the forest around it and the land. They know that acquiring a deed to their clan would formalize their ownership of the land—and everything on it.

With Liberia having passed the Land Rights Act in 2018, the villagers cannot wait to end generations of longing.  

“We’ve been bringing people to see [the waterfall] but we don’t have the deed for the land,” said Junior Tarr, the Paramount Chief for Kokoyah District in which Quikon is located. “Once we have a deed, we get the power to say anything to any investor that will come in the district to use that waterfall.”  

The Land Rights Act guarantees rural communities ownership of their land, based on customs, norms and oral tradition, for at least five decades. However, communities must go through a legal procedure to get deeds for their land, the technical knowledge they lack.

And that is where civil society organizations come in.  

At an event in Rock Crusher, Quikon’s busiest town, the clan officially asked a civil society organization to help it.

“We the citizens and residents of Quikon Clan…  hereby declare our free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for customary community land formalization addressed to Parley Liberia,” locals said in a declaration recently.

A view of Rock Crusher in the Quikon Clan of Kokoyah District, Bong County. The DayLight/Derick Snyder

That FPIC request to Parley Liberia, a Bong-based organization, recognizes the rights of the clan as an indigenous community, said Josephus Blim, Parley Liberia’s program officer. FPIC aligns with Liberia’s land law and other laws, Blim added. It is a United Nations-backed principle whose roots can be traced to the universal right to self-determination.

Parley Liberia—with other organizations—is assisting 39 communities in eight counties to get their customary deeds. The International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, a Sweden-based charity, provided US$3.54 million for the project over a three-year period.    

“The success of this work depends on the community, yourselves, the partnership with government, including the District Commissioner, Paramount Chief, Clan Chief and the Liberia Land Authority,” said Gregory Kitt, executive director of Parley Liberia.

Bendu Cheeks, a women’s rights leader in Quikon Clan, signs a consent declaration for assistance to get its customary land deed. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Isaac Freeman, the Acting Superintendent of Kokoyah Statutory District, said the deed would end illegal sales of land there. He said local authorities regularly resolve land disputes.

“We will work with you people so that this thing can be realized,” Freeman told an event marking the signing of the consent declaration. “We have been wishing for someone to come and help our people.”

Isaac Davies, another resident, said people were trading huge plots of land for less valuable materials. Home to some 6,000 people, Quikon is a farming community, covering an estimated 25,000 hectares.

“As a result, we the citizens and youths are beginning to suffer because we are vulnerable,” Davies said. Other townspeople we interviewed echoed his comments.

What Next for Quikon

Quikon must declare itself as a landowning community, communally map the land it claims and cut the boundaries with its neighbors and develop bylaws.

Thereafter, the Land Rights Act requires it to establish a governance body, known as the community land development and management committee (CLDMC).

Then the Land Authority will conduct a survey and give it a customary deed, according to the law.