Liberia: Pres. Weah Orders FDA to Resolve Dispute Between WWG, RFG

Citizens of Compound #3 Grand Bassa County have expressed satisfaction, following President George M. Weah's intervention in a territorial dispute between the Renew Forestry Group (RFG), a Liberian-owned company, and the West Water Group (WWG), a foreign-owned establishment in District #3.

Few months ago, operational land disputes ensued between the two companies in Compound #3, thus halting all activities by both companies. WWG is a mineral water producer and has been operating in Compound #3 since 2017, while RFG manages sustainable logging activities with the inhabitants of neighboring communities, to manage forest areas in which the FDA has authorized its management to operate.

Weah's intervention on August 21, 2019, follows a series of calls by residents for the Liberian Government to settle the matter between the two companies.

George Nimely, senior elder of Compound #3, said in 2017, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the community forest owners and WWG in Grand Bassa County, giving exclusive forestry rights to their territories to allow the company to operate. Upon signing, the company started to sponsor several projects, including the opening of community roads and building of bridges.

"When the MOU was signed," Nimley said, "the RFG management decided to claim rights over the space in which WWG was operating in Compound #3."

Nimely said the locals believe in President Weah's development agenda; "we wholeheartedly embrace this decision." He told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview on September 4, 2019, that the President's decision was in the best interest of the citizens. He also thanked the county authorities and the legislature for working with the President to ensure that the county remains a peaceful environment for investment.

Presidential Press Secretary Isaac Solo Kelgbeh, in a telephone interview on Saturday, September 7, confirmed to the Daily Observer, that President Weah held a meeting with citizens, including the managements of RFG and WWG, as well as the FDA managing Director, mandating the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to resolve the impasse within 30 days.

Kelgbeh said the FDA is mandated to settle the dispute in a way that both parties will have to divide the area to operate separately instead of one party having more rights than the other. "This will give the equal operating rights to everyone," he said.

"The President's 30-day ultimatum is yet to elapse and the FDA will have to get back to him. Until this is done, no one company has overall rights, he noted. I spoke to the Superintendent of Grand Bassa County and he told me that the FDA has not taken a decision on the matter, but there are negotiations ongoing," said the Press Secretary.

According to Elder Nimley, the President's mandate is good for everyone. The residents, especially the people in Compound #3, are deeply worried about the FDA changing or delaying president's decision, "because there are people who do not believe in the development of the country, but you stand for development," he explained.

"As you are willing to help the people of Grand Bassa, there are also others on the contrary; but we say thank you to our government for the decision taken for our county," Elder Nimely said. He also lauded the County Superintendent and members of the county legislative caucus for the level of love they have shown to the people and the county.

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