Over 35000 inhabitants of the Monrovia Industrial Park, otherwise known as Free Zone, Monday staged a protest at the UNMIL Headquarters in Sinkor, urging UNMIL to urgently intervene in order to halt government’s reported plan to demolish over 1,500 homes in the park.
Enacted into law in 1964 under the regime of former President William V.S. Tubman, the Monrovia Industrial Part covers over 4,000 acres of land that springs from Stockton Creek to 72nd Community, Paynesville, but hundreds of internally displaced people fleeing the war from interior Liberia occupied the park, thus increasing the population of the disputed settlement.
The main industrial park, which is currently separated by fence, especially for industrial purposes, has also been reportedly occupied by over 35,000 illegal occupants, a situation which has angered the government.
Numerous attempts to remove the illegal inhabitants have all failed, and the situation has only witnessed repeated protests against those planned GOL demolitions.
Late President Samuel K. Doe also gave a temporary status to flood victims who fled the Township of West Point in the 80s and since then, they’ve resisted evacuation from the area.
“We are here today because we want UNMIL to intervene in this matter. We want UNMIL to prevail on the Government of President Sirleaf to halt its planned mass demolition exercise of our homes,” asserts Robert K. Williams, Youth Chairman of the LRPC-Parke Community.
“We’re saying this because last week, a demolition team from the Ministry of Public Works came and demolished two buildings in the area. Therefore, we see this action on the part of the Public Works Ministry as a clear signal that the Government is ready for its previously announced demolition of our homes,” Williams claimed further.
Public Works authorities could not be reached for official comments. “As long as we do not get redress on this matter, we’ll continue to be in the streets until the government addresses our plight.”
Williams also dismissed arguments about the industrial purpose for which the Park was established, saying, “If you look at the reason for which this park was established, it has clearly lost its essence. No government in the world will overlook the plight of over 50,000 of its citizens and dash it because you want to create an industrial park. We’re not trashing aside government’s own plan for development in the area, but where will the government carry all these people who have invested millions of dollars and properties in the area?”
Following hours of engagement with UNMIL authorities, Sandra U. Cooper, a female community representative from the Park’s Community, informed reporters at the Monrovia City Hall on the outcome of that meeting: “UNMIL assured us that they will meet the President tomorrow (today, October 20, 2015) to discuss our plight. They asked us to be calm as they will do everything to prevail on the President.
“This is how trouble starts. The Government must be careful because whatever happens to people in Chicken-Soup Factory and other areas in the Monrovia Industrial Zone, whether directly or indirectly, will definitely affect the rest of the country,” warned Prince Kreplah, National Chairman, National Budget for Human Rights Forum.
In spite of his caveat, reports have also emerged that some community leaders in the industrial zone have begun selling spaces in the park to other inhabitants of the area, something which angered Hon. Richmond Anderson, Representative of District#12; the constituency in which the Park falls under.
“I have gathered that people are selling the park and that those who are buying the area are illegally residing there. Based on the evidence that we have in our possession, I am recommending that those who are engaged in the selling of the park to be prosecuted and punish in accordance with the law” Representative Anderson angrily suggested
“I empathize with their situation, and we are trying to discuss this issue with the NIC authorities as well as the Ministry of Public Works” lawmaker Anderson informed a team of journalists at the Legislature Monday.
He said, “Since last year, I have been talking with the President and the NIC authorities on this matter. I managed to convince the President to halt the demolition of the homes of those who are residing in the Chicken Soup Factory area, outside of the fenced Park, and the President gave me the assurance that government will not remove them immediately” Representative Anderson disclosed to the press.
To enable the intervention work, he revealed that a process to repeal the existing act creating the Park has since gotten underway, and urged his people to be calm as he works out ways that will amicably resolve the matter.
Also in other protest news, over 200 residents from the Warwein Community in Sinkor staged a separate demonstration against a reported Supreme Court Order asking them to leave or be evicted.
The reported court order, according to the protesters, came from Mr. Jessie Payne, the man who’s claiming to be owner of 48 acres swathe of land which stretches from 5th Street Sinkor to the Slipway Community. Mr. Payne, the accused, could not be reached for comments.