19 December 2012

Liberia: Foreign Investors Accused of Ordering Eviction

Photo: Dan Klotz/Rights and Resources Initiative
Oil palm plantation in Sinoe County.

Citizens of several towns and villages in Butaw District, Sinoe County, have alleged that Golden Veroleum has threatened to evict them from their ancestral homeland to grow oil palm, but the company has rejected the claim.

Golden Veroleum is an agricultural company currently cultivating oil palm in Sinoe County amidst disagreement from residents.

Citizens of Butaw District told The NEWS last week that the oil palm company has issued them verbal notice to leave their ancestral villages and towns.

According to them, Golden Veroleum has requested citizens of Pluoh and Failey Towns to vacate to enable the company carry out its operations.

An elder of the district, Smart Williams said they considered the eviction threats very seriously because "the company has already bulldozed some villages and gravesites near Pluoh."

He said residents of Pluoh are living in fear as a result of the eviction notice, adding "we have resolved not to leave."

Elder Williams further argued that "we know nowhere to resettle; we were born here and do everything here. Where do they want us to go?"

However, Golden Veroleum Senior Controller for Development, Jeffrey Benzin denied the citizens' claims, but stressed that the affected towns and villages are situated in the company's concession areas.

We are not going to evict any town; it is only government that can do that," Mr. Benzin told this paper.

He also denied allegations that the company has bulldozed some towns, villages and gravesite and said "we never destroyed people's homes; we never destroyed people's crops, unless the place given to us by their owners which we paid for."

Butaw District citizens have protested the 'illegal clearing of their farmland and destruction of their cash crops by Golden Veroleum.

The citizens recently complained the company to the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Malaysia following series of complaints to relevant government agencies.

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