Grand Gedeh County

Christopher Beh Baile
Gbarzon District
Konobo District
Tchien District
Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas

Grand Gedeh County is subdivided into two (2) Statutory Districts, (8) eight Administrative Districts, (16) sixteen chiefdoms, (32) thirty-two clans, (3) three cities and (236) towns. Grand Gedeh County is located in the Southeastern region of Liberia, bounded on the Northwest through the North by Nimba County, the Northwest through the East by the Cavalla River forming the boundary with La Cote d’Ivoire, on the South by the River Gee County and on the Southwest by Sinoe County. Grand Gedeh is one of the few leeward counties created in the 60s. It was founded in 1964. Grand Gedeh has timber, gold, diamonds and some iron ore deposits.

The total land area is 10,276 kilometers, which is about 9.22% of the total land area of the Republic of Liberia. The county flag has four colors: blue, white, green and orange. The green represents the rich forest and highlands, while the white and the blue depicts peace and unity. The sun in the background painted orange represents the new era of development. As of the 2008 census, Grand Gedeh County had a population of 126,146, making it the ninth most populous county in Liberia.

Its capital is Zwedru named after an anteater creek. Zwedru is located in Tchien District near the Cavalla River in the county’s Southeastern region near the border with La Cote d’Ivoire. Grand Gedeh’s Superintendent is Christopher Beh Bailey. Zwedru is the stronghold of the Krahn Tribe. Before the civil war in Liberia, Zwedru was known for its timber production and its wood products industry.


One famous Stone Age discovery in Liberia was Gboosebli in Grand Gedeh County, about (10) ten miles from Zwedru. A stone village probably the handiwork of Stone Age craftsmen that is composed of huts and carved stones showing masked dancers.


From the late Old man Tumou Gbagba (one of the founding fathers of Zwedru), Late Dr. Samuel K. Doe (21st  President of the Republic of Liberia), Hon. Gbai Gbala a prominent scholar and seasoned politician, Hon. Cyrus Cooper, Hon. John Parhyee Beh, Professor Charles Gaye Breeze, Hon. Sam A. Massaquoi, the late Old man Gwlayohn Nebo, (founder of the Tchien-Zonnie Clan), Hon. Yancy Peter Flahn, Dr. Harry Nayou, Dr. Joe Gbagba Sr., J. Wilson Weeks Sr., Hon. Albert T. White Sr., Hon. Toe Towah, Ambassador Harold Tarr Sr. to name a few, were/are all great sons that helped in shaping the history of this famous and rich county known as Grand Gedeh.


There are actually (2) versions of the Krahn dialect; Eastern and Western versions. Eastern Krahn dialect includes, Gorbo, Kanneh, Konobo, and Tchien. Western Krahn dialects include Gbo, Gbaeson, Plo, Biai, Gbargbo, Gorbo and Kpeaplay. Western Krahn can also be found in La Cote d’Ivoire. The Sarpos are actually Krahns who nevertheless considers themselves a separate tribe mainly because they are not from Grand Gedeh County. There is no such thing as a single Krahn language.


If ethnicity were defined only by reference to language, then Krahn, Grebo and Sarpo could all be related ethnic groups. Examining the notion of Krahn-ness in such detail enable us to make a lot of points which are important for understanding what ethnicity means in modern Liberia, at least in the political field.


Grand Gedeans like almost every Liberian eats rice as its staple diet. This highly carbohydrate diet is eaten at every occasion, including yams, eddoes, cassava, plantain, bush meat, cold water or pond fish etc. Leftovers are a way of having breakfast in Grand Gedeh. Grand Gedeans do a lot with okra a daily meal called ‘Kplay’ and Goohndaillay along with dried pounded cassava call ‘Bweh’ or ‘deepah’. Sometimes a coal-like substance is ground to powder and placed in palm butter, a buttery sauce made from palm nuts in order to get a dark color or absorb its sodium content, a superstition still held today in modern Grand Gedeh. In fact, it is due to this that Liberians believe that Grand Gedehians do consume ‘fire-coal.’


As for Grand Gedean theatre, as in many cultures it began with storytelling by the ‘Gwayee-pohyon’ from upper Grand Gedeh County, a Krahn word for village storyteller. The tales of the “Gweeyee-pohyon were morally instructive but comic. It is center around animals and objects that related to everyday life. The tales would have stock characters such as spider, the leopard or the king of the jungle (lion). The storyteller would go on for into the night and resume the narration the next evening.


Working with the Gwayee-pohyon was the “Gba-geahyee (drummer) who would create suitable rhythms for each song-story. When moved by the music, audience members would often stand up and dance.


Another traditional event was called “kwi.” In this, initiated society members would hear one version and everyone else another less serious version. In “Kwi”, voices are used; voices believed to be of spirits which are invoked from the great beyond. Like “gweh-ya ooh! This event takes place only at night and on very special occasions. The location must be dark, in fact so dark, that one cannot see one’s own hand. Masks were used in these events as a liaison between the living and the spirits of the dead. In this sense, the masks served a dual capacity: to give enjoyment as well as spiritual guidance to the people. A few of those revered masks dancers that plays the “kwi” sometimes are known as ‘Kantoohn Gleh, ‘Zeon Gleh to name a few.


While each clan of the Krahn tribe normally considers itself to be a separate group, some clans consider themselves linked by particular ties to other groups in relationship called ‘Doedi’. Such allies are expected to show special regards for one another. They are forbidden to shed each other’s blood.