30 November 2012

Liberia: China Union Under Fire - Citizens Vent Anger Over Social Agreement

Citizens of Gbeinmuh Town, Bong Mines, Lower Bong County have vowed to protest the operation of China Union Investment Liberia in the area until outstanding issues bordering the company’s pre-operation promises are resolved.

Speaking at a mass meeting in Monrovia yesterday, the citizens accused China Union of forcibly taking away their ancestral, sacred and farmlands without any just benefit.

“The people came and asked me how many rubber trees I have on the land and I said there were 1,500 rubber trees; but they refused to enter the bush to count the trees. All they told me in response was that they will pay for only 500 rubber trees. Today, as I speak to you, there are less than 200 rubber trees left and all I got was US$150.00 as the cost for my crops and land.”

Those are the words Ma Esther Kollie, a resident who claimed that China Union is not living up to its promise of treating citizens well.

The people vowed to resist China Union until it can respect their rights and dignify their lives by giving them a just resettlement package. “We will resist to our lives,” one of them said.

“We will not go anywhere. Let them bring their bulldozers and begin destroying our dwelling places, because they have already destroyed almost all of our crops we survived on in time past. We will remain here until they kill all of us or do what is right,” Sam Gbollie, 49, averred amidst huge applause from his kinsmen.

The people accused officials of the Ministry of Lands of compelling them to sign or place their thumb print on a document for a check of US$100.00 each as resettlement package.

Expressing disappointment over the attitude of government officials towards them, the citizens called upon President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the County Legislative Caucus to speedily intervene, adding that their lives were at stake.

All efforts to contact the requisite authorities at China Union and the Ministry proved futile, as their cellular phones rang endlessly without any response. Their respective office staffs told this paper that their bosses were too busy to speak to journalists.

A few years ago, China Union and the Government of Liberia penned a long term concession agreement for the possible takeover of the former Bong Mines concession area.

The company has since been accused of violating human rights, desecrating sacred places, forcibly taking away the lands of people who have been residing there for over 60 years.

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