The Inquirer (Monrovia)

22 December 2012

Liberia: Sinoe Is Calm

Contrary to reports that Sinoe County was in trouble, an independent investigation conducted last Tuesday, December 18, 2012 shows that the area is one of the most peaceful places to be in Liberia. State and United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) security personnel assigned in the county have dispelled the report, stating that they are on 'on top of every situation there.

On Monday, December 17, 2012, the Activist newspaper published a front page lead articled captioned, "Sinoe in Trouble-several Arrested. The identical article was also published on the AllAfrica.com website on the same date, curtsey of Aloysius David-former Communications Director of Green Advocate.

However, in an exclusive interview with this paper on Tuesday, Sinoe Liberia National Police (LNP) Detachment Deputy Director Bill C. Payne maintained that there has not been any incident of standoff, demonstration, panic or trouble in any part of the county by any individual, less to mention a group of citizens.

When contacted, the head of UNMIL in Sinoe Aminue Shittu stated, his office is yet to receive any report or complaint of such either from his men, the police detachment or the citizens.

Shittu warned authors of the article "Sinoe in Trouble" to desist, as such could undermine the good works on UNMIL, adding that the people of Sinoe are far from any form of violence and anti-reconciliatory activities.

"We do not know about any trouble here, the only problem we had was the price of gasoline that increased to L$1,100.00 per gallon, but that is reducing gradually, at least a gallon of gas is being sold for L$850.00 now. Let the journalists at the Activist newspaper stop writing all kinds of lies that will scare people from coming in our county," Jonathan Koffa-a motorcyclist had told this paper on Wednesday, December 19, 2012.

For Ahmmadu Diallo, it was a surprise to hear that Sinoe was in trouble, "What? Sinoe in trouble with who? For what? Our businesses are going well, everybody is gearing up for the Christmas and new year celebration, I did not see or hear about any halahala here until I saw the Activist newspaper one man brought from Monrovia, let God punish all the press people who are writing these bad-bad things about Sinoe.

"Aah, no, Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) people did not cause any trouble here; the police only arrested us, but did not cause any trouble in Sinoe. What the four of us did during the meeting did not cause any trouble in this county," Kelvin Bloh told this paper in Butaw, Sinoe County on Wednesday, December 19, 2012.

The Activist and AllAfrica.com news sources reported on December 17, 2012 that Annie Tue, Kelvin Bloh and a fellow only identified as Diecko were on Friday, December 14, 2012 arrested by officers of the LNP Emergency Response Unit (ERU) for allegedly insulting GVL's managers and instigating Butaw citizens against the company's operation there.

But Bloh explained, "I was arrested by the police, charged for rioting and detained for one night after Mark Pattern, Benedict Manawah and Sunny Tue and I requested to remove our names from an attendance list during a workshop organized by GVL. Annie Tue and Diecko were charged with disorderly conduct and terroristic threat respectively."

According to Butaw District Commissioner N. Tokpa Bestman, Magistrate David Krajley and Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) Sinoe Commander T. Delano Paynnoh, Mark Pattern, Sunny Tue, Benedict Manawah and Kelvin Bloh were among 60 Butaw citizens who attended a GVL organized High Conservation Value (HCV)-Bio Diversity workshop.

In separate interviews with this paper, Bestman, Krajley and Paynnoh said during the workshop which was held at "Butaw Compound" on December 14, 2012, Pattern, Tue, Manawah and Bloh allegedly rise and requested the organizers to remove their names from the attendance sheet on grounds that "GVL could use their names and signatures in the future to claim that all Butaw people have agreed for the company to plant oil palm on their land."

Accusing the quadruple of being paid agents of Green Advocates, the three narrated, "After going half way into the workshop, the four boys stood up during a question and answer period stating that as Green Advocates agents in Sinoe, they realized that their presence should not be felt in such gatherings, and so they requested to remove their names from the attendance sheet.

The GVL people agreed for them to do so. Benedict and Kelvin cancelled their names, Mark pretended as if he was going to do the same, but he gripped all of the papers on the table and went outside the conference hall of Butaw Compound. By this time, everybody began to walk out of the hall, expressing disappointment in the four youth.

After all efforts by Butaw concern citizens chairman, Jacob Teah to calm them down failed, Commissioner Bestman contacted the County Attorney John A.A. Gabriel. The County Attorney informed the police and asked them to handle the situation. When Mark pattern and others were hinted that police were coming for them, they fled the scene. When the police got here, almost everybody had left including, Benedict and others, the chiefs and GVL people. While, in search for those boys, one of them Kelvin Bloh turned himself over.

Diecko who watched Kelvin willingly get on board the police vehicle, said this thing your doing will bring trouble here oh, and we are willing to fight. At this point, he was apprehended and place in the police vehicle. His mother, Annie Tue ran from her kitchen saying, your release my son or I will go wherever you people carry him and so that was how Annie, Dieko and Kelvin were taken to Greenville police station and detained last Friday until the next morning."

Sinoe Deputy Police Commander Payne confirmed the arrest and subsequent detention of the three individuals on charges of rioting, disorderly conduct and terroristic threat.

He said Kru 48 Session Chairman, Jacob Teah signed for their release following heaps of appeals by local government officials and family members in Sinoe.

Alluding to what the four local government officials had earlier narrated, Paramount Chiefs Harrison M. Slewion, David Pajibo, William R. Clay and Joseph Menjay of Quee , Seeklor, Karpeh and Chuchu chiefdoms respectively warned the four accused to desist from such attitude, as they will not relent to use their offices to deal with them in accordance with the Liberian law.

The paramount chiefs noted that they have tried to dialogue with Pattern, Manawah, Bloh and Tue, but the quadruple have refused to change, therefore it was time to take a ridicule stand, so as to "put a stop to the ugly and disgraceful attitude."

The chiefs apologized to GVL for the misconduct of the quadruple and reaffirmed Butaw citizens' unflinching support towards the company operations in the county.

They warned the publisher of the Activist newspaper against fabricating and publishing lies about Butaw citizens, noting that the photo used for the story "Sinoe in Trouble" was not a photograph from the disrupted workshop, but something from elsewhere.

GVL is an oil palm producing company with a concession agreement with the Government of Liberia.

Few months following the signing of the agreement with GOL, the company on December 3, 2010, commenced operations in Butaw.

Operating for just two years, GVL has employed close to 2,500 Liberians and has added dignity and value to the livelihood of the natives there.

The oil palm company is currently operating in Numopoh and Kpayan and Butaw districts, Sinoe County.

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