8 February 2013

Liberia: No Arms

Barely days following allegation by Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai that ArcelorMittal has brought into the country armed private security personnel to protect its vessels, Justice Minister Christina Tah and Police Director Chris Massaquoi have denied allegation that the investment company was carrying arms on its vessel.

Minister Tah said security officers with a writ of search and seizure Wednesday searched two vessels of ArcelorMittal and no arm was found.

She said the company was not in any violation of the Liberian law.

The Justice Minister made the disclosure Thursday at the Information Ministry regular press briefing in Monrovia.

Though Minister Tah did not say that Minister Samukai lied, she however, said "certain information needs to be credible before it is brought to the public."

She explained that "normally when we received information of such nature, we have joint security meeting and deliberate on it, decide on the course of action...and determine to let the public know."

The Justice Minister said there is a Public Safety Department at the Justice Ministry responsible to deal with issues surrounding private security.

Minister Tah said as far as she is concerned, ArcelorMittal is not in any violation of the Liberian law.

Police Director Chris Massaquoi who also spoke at the briefing said during the search of the vessels, no security personnel was found among the crew members.

Supporting the Justice Minister's comments, Director Massaquoi said no arm was found, adding "there is no reason to believe that the company has violated the law of Liberia and the United Nations Arms Embargo."

It can be recalled that Minister Samukai recently accused ArcelorMittal of bringing into the country ex-military personnel who are armed to protect the company's shipping operations.

Minister Samukai said it is against the law of Liberia and the United Nations arms embargo.

The Defense Minister said while Liberians are desperately in need of jobs, it was wrong for the company to bring in foreigners to be paid huge salaries at the detriment of Liberians.

But ArcelorMittal sharply reacted to the allegation, terming it as false and misleading.

With the clarification by the Justice Minister following a search exercise, observers believed that the Defense Minister misled the public and needed to counter check his facts before coming to the public.

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