LIBERIA – The rights group, Human Rights to Save Humanity (HRSH), in Gola Konneh District, Grand Cape Mount County, has threatened to file a lawsuit against the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) for its failure to control wildlife in the area.
The group’s call follows years of complaints by residents of towns in the Gola Forest about their constant harassment and damage done to their farms and towns by marauding wildlife.
The latest complaint follows a hunger strike staged by hundreds of residents of the affected towns in the area to re-echo their calls for government intervention in curtailing wildlife invasions of their communities and farms.
During the strike staged last Friday mainly by women and children, the residents threatened to stage strikes constantly until the government intervenes in the wildlife invasion melee.
Speaking to the Liberia News Agency over the weekend in an upset tone, the Executive Director of HRSH, Elijah Gbanjah-Seh, said the government’s forest regulatory body has over the years failed to control the wildlife from encroaching on residential areas and farms in Gola Konneh District.
According to the rights activist, the FDA has a park in the District, but it is yet to put proper mechanisms in place to control the wildlife, something which, he said, has resulted to the constant invasion of their dwellings by the wildlife.
The HRSH Executive Director said due to the constant invasion by wildlife, residents have been deprived of free movement.
“Government said we should protect the life of the animals which is fine; but equally so, the people who are supposed to manage the forest and animals are not doing well to protect us also,” Executive Director Gbajah-Seh pointed out.
“FDA has a park here but they are not able to put mechanisms into place to control the elephants; as a result, our people and their farms have become vulnerable to wild animals because both bush cows and elephants are roaming all over the place. So we are already consulting our legal team so that we can file a lawsuit against the FDA for endangering the lives of our people and also causing them to starve,” HRSH boss added.
He said in the lawsuit, they will seek restitution from FDA for all the damages that have been caused by the wildlife over the years.
“I don’t think the animals are more important than we the human beings. When a single animal is killed, Forest Rangers will come immediately, but even though we continue to cry, no action has been taken,” he lamented.
At the same time, the HRSH official is calling on the government of Liberia to find an alternative source of livelihood for people living in the heart of the Gola Forest that it has turned into a park.
According to him, the ongoing invasion will continue for years, adding that FDA is demonstrating no sign of containing the animals which are now reproducing in the area.
Earlier this year, the Commissioner of Gola Konneh District, Arthur Konneh, expressed similar concerns about wildlife invasion in the district.
According to Commissioner Konneh, over the past five years, there have been no proper farming activities in the District due to the threat posed by both bush cows and elephants.
He said residents have time without number abandoned their farms as a result of invasion by the wildlife.
The Gola Konneh District Commissioner further stated that all the remedies suggested by conservationists cannot be achieved by the residents.
Konneh said conservationists have told them to constantly burn pepper in the forest and get honey bees in the towns to help drive the wildlife away.
However, Commissioner Konneh disclosed that given the huge size of the Gola Forest, they cannot afford the quantity of pepper to spread all over the forest.
He is, therefore, appealing to the government to intervene by bringing the situation in Gola Konneh District under control, as it is causing serious problems in the district.
The issue of wildlife invasion in Gola Konneh is not new, but their frequent appearances of late is somewhat alarming to the residents.
In recent years, farming activities in the District came to a standstill, causing serious concerns among dwellers of the communities. LINA