Families make peace after 3 yrs

A member one of the two families and an SDA youth who took part in the ceremony embrace during the ceremony

IN March 2019 sorcery-related accusations and fighting broke out between two families in Okapa district, Eastern Highlands, saw three lives lost and properties worth over K100, 000 burnt to ashes.
The tribal fight between Wanowi Igawa and Kagori Igawa families occurred right in the heart of Okapa Secondary School. The poor state of the road leading to the village gave the opportunity for the fight to get out of hand because law enforcing personnel could not swiftly respond to calm the situation. The conflict lasted for almost three years. Attempts by community and church leaders to mediate and stop the fighting failed as emotions on both sides overcame sensible thinking and reasoning.
We thank God for raising 17 strong village men of the ward who volunteered to take risks and negotiate peace and create understanding between the parties.
Sincere thanks to local MP Saki Soloma and Governor Peter Numu for the timely intervention in upgrading the road from Yasubi to Yagusa that enables access by trucks and cars. That opened the minds of the warring tribe to surrender arms and call for a ceasefire. Access to the area by law enforcing agencies is now possible.
Given this opportunity to restore peace, Dansen Wayando Igawa and Tom Yani William, as spokesmen of the warring tribes, moved courageously ahead use their own money to fund a volunteer peace committee for a ceasefire event that was successfully hosted at Okapa Secondary School. An estimated 10,000 people gathered to witness the ceasefire signing on Aug 31, 2021.
Igawa, who is a teacher, provided over K20,000 from his own pocket to resettle his family back home to focus on new way of life after the experiences of the past. The successful hosting of the ceasefire event would not have been possible without the intervention of Yagusa Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Haga Seventh-Day Adventist Church, other sister churches, Okapa police, Sgt Albert Atopare and his team, Okapa Secondary School administration, councillor and LLG president Kepi Anako and Ward 9 East Okapa LLG peace mediation team of 17 under chairman Kevin Maibana, Akson Auso, Ini Aya and others.
Igawa who was the main financier, advisor and coordinator of this event thanked everyone that supported and challenged the warring tribes including communities who are legitimate landowners of the district’s prestigious institution, the Okapa Secondary School, to put aside differences and compete in educational.
District peace mediation chairman and firebrand leader Yokina Joe Monave prepared all ceasefire instruments and officiated the programme with Yagusa SDA Church pastor John Puye. Both factions of the warring tribes were given opportunity to share their thoughts.

Parties making a commitment for peace during the cremony.

James Tabori represented the Kagori Igawa faction and Berry Wanowi represented the Wanowi Igawa faction. Both agreed wholeheartedly to the cease fire and committed openly to adhering to agreement signed by way of laying down arms symbolically in front of the stage witnessed by guests.
Several prominent Okapa people who were present gave speeches of encouragement and challenges to the warring tribes.
They included district education avisor Dick Penai, Okapa Secondary School principal Semion Kibeto, and others.
By way of acknowledging the good work of volunteer peace mediation team who are mostly village youths, advisor and coordinator Igawa assisted the youths with NID registrations and further helped them to register their association known as Yokeki that will empower them to continue such selfless activities in the ward, LLG and district.
Yokeki is acronym for the names of the six villages that make up about 10,000 people of Ward 9, Okapa East: Yagusa, Okasa, Kasokana, Evondi, Kinona and Ilafo.
Yokeki in Okapa Fore dialect also means “long road.” The peace mediation team took a long road of almost three years to negotiate a ceasefire and peace and are looking forward to doing the same all around the ward now through their registered association soon to be certificated and launched.
The official peace ceremony is earmarked for Dec 15, 2021 at Yagusa village.
The organisers and the community are appealing for assistance to their ward Councillor, the Okapa MP Saki Soloma, Governor Peter Mumu, ex-Okapa Secondary Students and other good Samaritans around the country to make the event a success.

  • Words and pictures courtesy of DANSEN IGAWA

Islanders demand road upgrade

Touyau David Morona, president of Lamaku Pit Landowners Association
GeoPacific Managing Director
Ron Heeks
Muyuwa LLG President Stalin Kitaega

THE Muyuwa Local Level Government in Milne Bay is demanding the developer of Woodlark Gold Mining project, GoePacific Resources Limited, to immediately maintain the road on the island.
LLG president, Stalin Kitaega, also sent a strongly worded reminder to back up the call.
“Failure by the company to maintain the road, they must remember that the LLG is also a signatory to the current initialed memorandum of agreement (MOA).”
He described the only island road linking Guasopa government station in the east and the mining area in the west, as very bad.
Kitaega says the road serves both the public and the mine to and from the government station where the airstrip is also located and the wharf at Boiboi, which the mine uses.
“The road must be upgrade and sealed at this early development stages of the mine,” he says.
“Current rains and continuous use of the road by heavy mining vehicles have left the road in a very poor state. This is especially the section between the Boiboi wharf and Mining camp site at Bumagai, where numerous huge potholes almost as deep as knee-high now exist.
“On the same stretch of the road which is over 10km, it has been turned into a waterway and is under flood waters every day, as seen in this mobile phone picture.
“The Milne Bay Provincial Government has allocated K150,000 to maintain the road. The company, under its community service programme, must be seen to deliver its commitments under the current memorandum of agreement (MOA). It must top up this fund to fix the road, Kitaega says.”
A response from GeoPacific Resources Ltd was sought and is expected.
But the company’s managing director, Ron Heeks, had told a recent Mines and Petroleum Conference in Port Moresby that the Woodlark gold project has provisioned the community service programmes aimed at improving the general welfare and life style of the people on the island.
Outside the conference, Heeks, told this reporter: “We have a MOA with the local community. I put up there where the money gets distributed on that and of course there’s a massive amount of employment opportunities.
“We are building schools, churches and will be putting up huge amount of money into building up the local area, to undertake the task required of us and to also leave a legacy for longer term, he says.”
Heeks says other tasks also include health, road, and maintaining the Boiboi wharf before the Mine’s thirteen year operation life ends.
Pit landowners seek recognition

A vehicle on the flooded road.- Pictures supplied.

In another development three clans claiming direct ownership of land where the Woodlark Gold project is located, are seeking recognition from parties to the MOA.
They have grouped together into Lamaku Pit Landowners Association. Lamaku is abbreviated name for Lakeidog, Malas and Kulutan clans. Each clan has two sub clans.
These six sub clans already have representatives in the umbrella sub clans, Dal Association on Woodlark Island, emerging from the initialed MOA arrangement. President of Lamaku, Touyau David Morona says however, his group seeks recognition of existence by parties to the MOA by way of adding Lamaku Pit Landowners Association’s name into the MOA. Morona says currently Lamaku sub clans have not been distinguished from other sub clans in Dal Association, as direct landowners of the mine pit area.
Together with some of the association executives, Morona had been to Port Moresby recently and had met with parties to the MOA in pursuit to this issue.
“To date the meetings were both meaningful and ongoing and we have received valuable advice from learned Woodlark islanders as well on our course.
“We have also registered our group’s business arm, LMK, with the Investment Promotion Authority,” he says.
Morona clarifies that Lamaku is not a breakaway group but complements efforts of the umbrella association by getting organised and ready in anticipation to catch spin off businesses and employment opportunities the mine would bring.
The umbrella association also formed the umbrella business arm called M-Dal to amongst many of its tasks, receive and administer benefits from the mine to member sub clans. Each sub clan has one share each.

  • The author is a former senior journalist at the National Broadcasting Corporation.