9 July 2014

Liberia: Workers' Group Condemns Attack On Arcelormittal

The United Workers' Union of Liberia has strongly condemned the recent violent protest at the concession area of ArcelorMittal-Liberia in Nimba County.

Speaking at a news conference held at its offices in the Township of Gardnersville, outside Monrovia on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, UWUL through its Secretary General, Mr. David D. Sackoh, described the incident as uncivilized, baseless and selfish expression intended for looting and destruction purposes.

"While the People of Zoluwee or Nimba County in general may have a legitimate demand, the approach was very wrong. It will neither profit anybody nor resolve any matter if we should use violent confrontation to address grievances or make demands.

Violence is an old argument in Liberia and cannot be used to address new challenges. Dialogue or peaceful negotiations are the best ways forward to achieve good results," he said.

He pointed out that the government is liable for the inability of any company to perform to the expectation of the people, stating that it is imperative that community development plans are addressed in the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) not by the community residents as individuals, but by the government on their behalf through consultations.

"The recent assort on ArcelorMittal has folded the stable and friendly investment atmosphere to unbearable degree allowing threats and fear to take precedence over peace and stability which have the propensity to cause investors already here to flee the country with their capital and offload people into the unemployment market," he stated.

Mr. Sackoh noted that the incident has a trigger down effect on the ongoing union-management Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiation and turns to weaken the union's ability to press forward with demand for salary increment and other benefits from the management in favor of the workers.

Among other things, the workers' group called on government to bring both the organizers and perpetrators to justice to ensure that they face the full weight of the law.

In a related development, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) says the violent disruption of activities at Arcelor Mittal is unacceptable and reflects a dangerous trend in Liberia's march to peace.

The Press Union believes whatever claims community members have must be discussed in an atmosphere free of fear and mistrust, as to reach logically sound and mutually beneficial decisions.

"This sort of violence destroys valuable investment, creates insecurity and leads to economic and even political instability," PUL President Abdullai Kamara said in a statement.

The Liberian journalist union warned that if violence becomes the norm, Arcelor Mittal or any othe corporation will exercise caution in any future development in Liberia, and this will definitely not serve the better interest of our people.

"Liberia has come from a bitter past of violent conflict, and we cannot afford to preface the upcoming transition with violence that could be further exploited by unscrupulous persons," Kamara argued.

"At this point in our history, citizens need to subtract violence from their advocacy, and rather hold their leaders responsible for not taking relevant actions to ensure that concessions abide by agreements with local communities," Kamara added.

The PUL insists that the government, acting through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Bureau of Concessions, must continuously monitor/track agreements between concessions and local communities, to ensure that they are implemented in due course, to avoid simmering tensions that could lead to violence.

Meanwhile, the Press Union has committed to participating in any efforts aimed at providing public education about concession agreements so as to prevent misunderstanding and conflicts between concessionaires and communities.

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