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Friday, June 14, 2024

SDI APPRECIATES PRES. BOAKAI FOR ACKNOWLEDGING NEGLECT BY WESTERN CLUSTERS, URGES REVIEW OF CONCESSION AGREEMENTS

Date:

DUARZON, MARGIBI COUNTY, LIBERIA – The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) appreciates President Nyuma Boakai for recognizing the wanton neglect of Western Cluster Liberia Limited (WCLL) which has resulted in environmental harms, social economic impacts on rural community dwellers and the destruction of major roads in Western Liberia and the Freeport of Monrovia.

In a statement, the SDI commended the Liberian Leader saying his statement falls in line with the numerous advocacy campaigns being carried out by the SDI for these companies to do the right things or be punished for their actions.

“Over the years, SDI has raised a series of issues with companies over their wanton neglect in addressing issues affecting communities they operate. However, we are deeply happy that you have noticed the very issues we have campaigned against on many occasions and we think the time has come for them to be held accountable for their actions,” the statement said.

The statement further said “The President’s stance and position on Western Cluster operations should not be a cosmetic insinuation, but a genuine approach to change business as usual.”

SDI, an environmental rights based organization, believes that the recognition of the President is premised on the dangers that the use of hundreds of trucks and earth-moving equipment pose to rural settlements along the routes and to those using the road from Bomi to the Freeport of Monrovia. The action by the company usually creates traffic constraints, endangers pedestrians and commuters and damages the already breakable roads.

SDI believes that the inspection that led the Liberian chief executive to acknowledge the wanton neglect of the company should be done at all concession areas across the country.

Meanwhile, SDI wants to clearly state that those roads and bridges will not only be destroyed, but will also increase economic hardship including prices in basic commodities, spoilage of local agriculture produce and loss of lives and serious environmental harms.

“We want to inform you this is the same with most of the companies in the country ranging from palm oil, logging to mining among others. We want to inform you that the poor performance of concessions in Liberia is not only unique to Western Cluster, but it’s widespread at almost all the concessions, but they continue to be unattended to or unaddressed due to lack or poor monitoring and non-review of their agreements,” the statement added.

For instance, findings from a research done by SDI and international partner (Milieudefensie) in February 2023 showed social and environmental harms in Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (MOPP) in Liberia. This includes severe cases of criminalization of community members, intimidation and violence, land grabbing, pollution, and destruction of valuable nature among others.

The statement says “Up to date, some of these companies are refusing to even sit with affected communities in discussing issues affecting these communities, although they are destroying the livelihoods of these communities and causing environmental harms. This is one of the contributing factors to the numerous conflicts and complaints coming from these communities or concession areas. We are monitoring keenly to know whether your statement is not one of the many political statements intended to just appease the public and nothing is done afterwards.”

At the same time, SDI has made several recommendations to the Liberian Government through the office of the president.

In its recommendation, SDI called for a comprehensive review of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) the Liberian Government signed with Western Cluster Liberia and other companies and muster the political will by ensuring all details are in straight adherence to current day reality.

“Make sure the lives of people in affected communities, counties and all are well taken care of with a specific timeline and review them in accordance with international best practice.    Review all oil palm concessions across the country and incorporate the views of community members in those agreements and cancel those agreements that are not in the interest of our people,” SDI recommended.

The institution further recommended “Review all logging agreements in the country and cancel those that are taking advantage of the Liberian people. Ensure logging companies that owe communities millions of United States Dollars in land rental fees pay those monies or be prosecuted in accordance with the laws of Liberia.  Ensure political will by empowering those relevant regulatory ministries, agencies and commissions (MACs) through budgetary allocations and others to do robust monitoring and evaluation of those companies.”

“Name and shame all companies that are not living up to the agreements they signed with the government and let them fully pay for all the damages they have caused and be prosecuted if it’s required to do so.    Ensure the full and active participation of communities in all review and signing of new agreements.    Liaise with civil society organizations, and others to ensure they fully participate in these processes,” it added.

SDI has therefore reaffirmed its commitment to remaining robust in supporting national efforts by safeguarding social and environmental justice.

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