8 July 2014

Liberia: 'The State Will Be Decisive in Its Response,' Says President Sirleaf On the Violent Protest at Acelor Mittal

Photo: Tami Hultman/allAfrica.com
A mountain-side site of Arcelor Mittal, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Yekepa.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has vowed that perpetrators of the violent protest at the Acelor Mittal facilities on July 3rd and 4th will have their day in court, and justice will be done.

“Because of the precedence this could set, because of the national security implications especially in the area where this occurred, and given our recent past, the State will be decisive in its response,” the Liberian leader emphasized, adding, “We will send a message to deter any such occurrence again, either in Nimba or anywhere else in the country.”

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the strong statement when she briefed Liberia’s development partners on the violent protest in Yekepa, Nimba County, the Ebola epidemic, and the continuing flooding in some parts of Monrovia and its environs during the heavy rains.

The meeting, which included the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), diplomatic missions accredited near Monrovia and International Non-Governmental Organizations, took place in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium on Monday, July 7, 2014.

The violence at the Acelor Mittal facilities in Yekepa, Nimba County left several police officers wounded, saw the holding of employees and contractors – national and expatriates – hostage for up to 20 hours, and millions of dollars worth of property looted and destroyed.

President Sirleaf, briefing the partners, said the incident was neither a protest nor simply an attack on a private company; rather it was an attack on Liberia’s economic future. She admitted that the scale of the damage to Acelor Mittal and their contractors’ equipment is substantial and government is waiting for the numbers.

“Beyond the physical destruction, the loss to the country will even be greater in terms of lost productivity,” the Liberian leader admitted, pointing out that in view of the recent budget shortfalls, this ugly incident will have serious negative consequences for the country’s revenue.

The Liberian leader called on the partners to support the government as the Ministry of Justice begins to take appropriate actions against the perpetrators of the violent protest. “We expect you to support us in this. It was in partnership with you that we could successfully celebrate ten years of peace last year. This is a threat to what we have achieved. It is an attack on the future of that peace and the future of our country,” President Sirleaf said to the partners.

Providing an update on the Ebola situation, she praised the collaboration of the international community and other anti-Ebola campaigners in the fight and admonished them to continue their partnership.
On behalf of the Government and people of Liberia, President Sirleaf expressed heartfelt condolences to the family of the Uganda medical doctor, Dr. Samuel Muhumuza Mutoro, Liberian nurses and other health practitioners, who died from the virus while performing their duty. She also expressed condolences to all Liberians who had succumbed to the outbreak.

As regards the flooding in various areas of Monrovia and its environs, the Liberian leader informed partners that the flooding, which has seriously impeded free movement of people, is attributed to construction in waterways thereby blocking surface water from draining to where they have been destined.

President Sirleaf said Government through the Ministry of Public Works has begun identifying those blockades for subsequent demolition shortly.

Before the briefing with partners, the Liberian leader chaired a Special Cabinet Meeting in which she expressed satisfaction at the manner in which the Liberia National Police (LNP) brought the violent protest at the Acelor Mittal facilities under control.

She thanked the LNP for resisting all of the temptations and for restoring calm without human casualty from the agitators; though they fired at the police leaving several of them wounded.

Police Director Chris Massaquoi, who briefed the Cabinet, announced that at least 47 suspects have been arrested and are now being processed to proceed to court.

Director Massaquoi made a number of recommendations, which he said, if implemented will deal with similar situations anywhere in the country. He named an increase in the security presence in the Yekepa area; that those using the media, especially broadcast medium (radio), to incite the public against government in the name of freedom of speech be arrested and prosecuted; and an investigation be conducted on the Poro Society (bush school) as to their role in the violent disturbance. The bush school, according to Director Massaquoi, is serving as a hindrance to retrieving looted properties as they are serving as hideouts for the perpetrators and their looted goods.

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