Liberia: Bea Mountain Chaos

How Ministry of Labour fueled it

Tension continues to brew at the Bea Mountain Mining Company in Kinjor, Grand Capemount County days after three employees of the company were allegedly held hostage by members of the Matambo Community in the concession area.

The three employees, one Turkish expat, Sabahattin Urekli and two Liberians - Armah Boakai and Tokpah Mulbah were said to have been allegedly kidnapped while working on Jenna Brown Road and were believed to be taken into a nearby bush by their alleged kidnappers.

Kidnapped employees were working on road demanded by the community.

Kidnapped Turkish foreman says they tied his eyes made him lay down and put knife on his neck

The incident which occurred over the weekend led to the deployment of ERU (Emergency Response Unit) officers from the Liberian National Police.

There have been conflicting reports of gunfire and the use of teargas by the officers to bring the situation under control.

Police say, the protesters mainly local citizens from the region clashed with police and set ablaze one of the vehicles of the company. In addition, reports say the protesters also set ablaze some explosive magazines, destroyed the pavilion at the company's football field, among several other company's properties.

The protesters accused the management of Bea Mountain Mining Company of carrying on bad labor practices.

What was the cause of the protest?

Citizens of the county have been complaining of lack of employment opportunities at the company. They alleged that the company continues to bring in foreign nationals to do jobs that they are capable of during and thereby depriving them of employment opportunities.

The protesters are also demanding that citizenships 50years and above be put on a US$100 monthly allowance because they have been the custodians of the mineral which the company is now mining.

They are also demanding electrification of their homes as part of their benefits among other things.

Condemnations

Chief Zanzan who later went on the scene says what is happening is not tradition but criminals acting in disguise.

The Company tries to go back to work to create value for Liberia and pay wages to their employees but the minority is stopping this by inciting violence and threatening the employees

The Tradition leader also blamed those people, saying they are using tradition for their dirty games.

The company says its workers are willing to go back to work but they are threatening their families.

Who is to be blamed for the current crisis at Bea Mountain?

Experts say the Government of Liberia is to be blamed for the current crisis at the Bea Mountain. This is so because the Ministry of Labour has failed to ensure that it does not grant work permits to foreign nationals for jobs that Liberians are qualified to do.

The granting of permits to foreigners to provide security, and painting of the company compound and other jobs that do not require expat has fuelled the tension at the concession area.

The Government also stands accused here because it has failed to bring local citizens onboard during the discussion of possible Mineral Development Agreements where it would tell the citizens what the responsibility of the company is in the concession area.

In the Bea Mountain case, for instance, the demand for road networks and the electrification of private homes is the responsibility of the Liberia Government and not the company.

The government has refused to come clean to its citizens and has through the Ministry of Labour helped to fuel tensions at these concessions because it failed to enforce the Liberianization aspect of these MDAs.

According to most of these MDAs where Liberians are not qualified to take up certain managerial positions, the company from the start is given certain number of years to train Liberians to take over. The enforcement of this aspect of the MDA rests squarely with the government through the Ministry of Labour.

But the Labour Ministry continues to issue work permit to foreign individuals for jobs that Liberians can do.

Should the company be held liable for the failure of the Labour Ministry and the Government to enforce the MDA?

Absolutely not. The investor's interest is to make profit and the regulator should ensure that the right things are done instead of dumping the investor on the citizens and leaving them alone.

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