The New Dawn (Monrovia)

Liberia: Urgent Need for Intervention Is Now, but

editorial

The issue of environmental desecration is currently at the core of the news in Monrovia. Prominently being featured in its role is the Liberia Cocoa-Cola Bottling Corporation or LCCBC, otherwise known in Liberia as Cocoa-Cola Factory, years back owned and managed by the United States Trading Company or USTC. Other than the bad labor practices and failure to honor its social responsibilities to the community in which it operates in the Paynesville suburb of Monrovia, the company is also accused of polluting the environment with its wastes.

As the direct result of the decision by the company to remain complacent over the concerns of residents and its workers, protest actions on Wednesday and Thursday by the community attracted the intervention of the Liberia National Police and Paynesville City Corporation to avert the possible violence that may have characterized the protests. Even though assurances for positive intervention have been given the citizens of the Cocoa-Cola Factory Community, the authorities have until next Tuesday to quickly resolve the situation.

"We want Cocoa Cola Factory relocated; they have out-lived their usefulness," said protesting citizens and residents, with claims that over the past years, the company failed to employ workers, but contracted daily hires, who earn LD$125 per day. Though some of them admitted not been in the employ of LCCBC, they, however, said their children and family members who work as casual laborers are compelled to wash 34 empty dirty crates of soft drinks which sometimes take up to four days to complete before being paid LD$125.00.

Worst of all, the Cocoa Cola residents claimed, when chemicals are used to wash dirty empty bottles and other materials, the company releases the polluted water through a gutter running from the LCCBC compound into the community-a situation that has caused serious health hazards for them over the past years, with children constantly diagnosed of chronic cold-a disease most often difficult to cured.

Reporters, who visited the community on December 4 and 5, 2013 during the protests, also verified the flow of wastes from the compound of the Liberia Cocoa-Cola Bottling Corporation, but failed to access further verifications from the company's management, which claimed to have been meeting all day long, through private security guard.

Unfortunately, local environmental advocacy groups seem not to be knowledgeable about such pollution before their very eyes in a Monrovia suburb, even in the wake of news of the two-protests by community citizens and residents against the pollution of the environment by a company. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has had no reports on the reported behavior of the company, the urgent need for workable intervention is now. This even goes to the Ministry of Labor, who intervention needs greater acceleration.

The Government of Liberia, through these institutions, must ensure proper and speedy investigation and timely results in the interest of all parties before such situation erupts into a violent conflict.

While we encourage the government's intervention as mentioned, citizens and residents of the Cocoa Cola Factory Community must also exercise the highest degree of patience and avoid actions that may confuse efforts to handle their claims. As we caution the protesters, the management of the Liberia Cocoa-Cola Bottling Corporation must show respect for the people of Liberia by adhering to the process to bring the situation to a peaceful resolution, unlike the ugly behavior it exhibited when reporters attempted to engage it on Wednesday, December 4, 2013.

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