The leader of the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia and head of Green Advocates International, Attorney Alfred Lahai Brownell, has been barred by dozens of Civil Society Organizations as well as communities across Liberia, the Inquirer has learnt.
“We have unanimously agreed not to continue doing business with Alfred Brownell. I think he does not have the character to continue advocacy in this country, because he is not sincere about the things he does. He is self-centered and wants to have the final say in everything that the team is doing. Therefore, as head for more than 20 Civil Society Organizations and other pressure groups in Grand Cape Mount County, we have agreed to disengage doing business with this character,” Alex Balo, Chairman of Civil Society Organizations in Grand Cape Mount County said.
Brownell’s Green Advocates has come under fire over the past weeks for acts his accusers describe as inimical to that of an activist, thus, questioning the true intent of his advocacy over land and environmental rights across the country.
Communities and Civil Society Leaders in Sinoe, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties have warned the environmental lobbyist to stay clear-off their respective areas with what they described as ‘blind advocacy.’ The community leaders think Brownell’s form of advocacy is further undermining their livelihood as well as putting the future of generations unborn on the edge.
Mike Nyplain, leader of over 20 civil society organizations in Sinoe County said he led a team of civil society actors to the seat of the National Legislature last year because the lives and future of his people in the county were threatened.
Nyplain said, his petition to the legislative caucus of Sinoe County was to inform them as direct representatives of the people about the double standard of Attorney Brownell under the guise of advocacy, in the aftermath of a complaint to the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) against Golden Veroleum, a Singapore conglomerate.
”The future of Sinoe was at stake. Brownell was brain-washing the people against GVL just as he had done to other companies and succeeded. Because GVL is the only company in our county and providing jobs for our people we had to act.” Mike Nyplein said in a mobile phone conversation.
Nyplain said as civil society actor, he would never support anything against the interest of the poor people who always suffer the brunt of societal inequalities and injustices. Thus, his advocacy should be practical, and not further endangering the lives of the people he claims to be advocating for.
According to him Attorney Brownell’s style of advocacy is selfish and devilish. He argues that there was nothing wrong with flagging an issue with respect to the communities’ livelihood, but other civil society actors will get concerned when a single activist will be making calls for damages caused by a company to be paid to his institution.
“Brownell had asked the people of Butaw to sign a petition giving his Green Advocates the right to collect US$1 million dollars for damages incurred to their livelihood. For me, this kind of proposal is not only selfish but also devilish. It also shows the level of insincerity some activists exhibit in the discharge of their so-called civil duties,” Nyplain explained.
“To date, Brownell’s Green Advocates had been shown the backdoor in all communities in Sinoe County especially areas where Golden Veroleum is operating including Kpayan, Tatuweh, Butaw and Taejouwon- Nyplain,” he added.
Chief Fakamu Samukai, Paramount Chief of Clay District, Bomi County, told this paper in an interview during the weekend that his people had resolved not to do business with any NGO, especially; Green Advocates whom he described as creating more problems for the people rather than solving the problems.
“I remember last year over 600 of our people lost their jobs only because they were told to go on strike and stop Sime Darby from clearing their old rubber trees. Today those contractors who were put down are just here doing nothing. I think Brownell created more problems for our people. So, we the people from Gorblah Clan decided that anything that will have to do with negotiating with Sime Darby, we will do it ourselves,” Chief Samukai stated.
For instance, in Bomi County where Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL) is negotiating with the locals for land and is on the verge of paying crops compensation to farmers, the elders have decried the interference of the Green Advocates.
The communities established a land committee which is working with different stakeholders including Bomi County CSO representative, the Ministry of Agriculture, the land Commission, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency among others.
For Alex Balo, a onetime confidant of Attorney Brownell, who heads more than 27 Civil society organizations in Grand Cape Mount County, it is time to call a ‘spade a spade.’
“I think it is time we call a spade a spade. I have worked with this guy; I know him well; he always has some kind of motive behind the work he does, which was why I broke ranks. I think he is not representing the people’s interests,” Balo said in an exclusive interview last week.
“We have unanimously agreed not to continue doing business with Alfred Brownell. I think he does not have the character to continue advocacy in this country, because he is not sincere about the things he does. He is self-centered and wants to have the final say in everything that the team is doing. Therefore, as head of more than 20 Civil Society Organizations and other pressure groups in Grand Cape Mount County, we have agreed to disengage doing business with this character,” Alex Balo, Chairman of Civil Society Organizations in Grand Cape Mount County said in a strong voice.
Balo Further said his former counterpart level of deception can be compared to no one else, but former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, who is currently nursing 50 years in a British prison after being convicted of multiple charges including crimes against humanity, rape, murder, torture, use of child-solider among other crimes.
“Alfred Brownell and Charles Taylor have the same characteristics; he is very deceptive and he cannot be trusted, that is the principal reason why our people in Zodua said they didn’t want him to represent their interests during the negotiations with Sime Darby. Even people who are currently working with Brownell will tell you that he is a dictator and that he has the final say in every decision about the team,” Balo intimated.
Balo said as civil society actor, working with Brownell means working against the interest of the people. “I agree that it is good as civil society people to flag issues especially with concessionaries, but these issues should be germane and realistic. We should also provide a platform to solve the problems. Whenever you fall short of that, the people will now begin to question your advocacy and you could lose relevance,” Balo continued.
The environmental lobbyist problem is not just with the local civil rights groups in various counties, but he also has a bone to pick with some national and international Non-governmental organizations. The sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and Search for Common Ground has accused Attorney Brownell of keeping other civil society actors from actively working in the Project Affected Communities in Grand Cape Mount County.
In response to the allegations, Cllr. Alfred Brownell said his records can speak for him, rubbishing the allegations and terming them as a campaign against his character by enemies of GA.He further said the communities had a right to say yes or no to his advocacy.
According to him, “Green Advocates will not force community members to make representation on their behalf without their Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). So if a particular community does not give their free prior informed consent for us to represent them with concessionaires or in any other matter, we cannot force the people.”