The Government of Liberia (GOL) and several others including the Press Union of Liberia and Arcelor Mittal, has reacted to recent violent actions which disrupted the company’s operation in Yekepa, Nimba County.
The GOL, in a statement issued said the Liberia National Police (LNP) has restored calm to the mining city of Yekepa, Nimba County and the concession area of Arcelor Mittal, after individuals identifying themselves as the Tokadeh Progressive Youths for Peace and Development led a rampage on the mining site and surrounding areas.
The Executive Mansion, seat of the Liberian Presidency said a number of the ringleaders, including those who shot at the police, have been arrested and are being brought to Monrovia for further investigation and prosecution.
The full extent of the damage, which is still being assessed, includes destruction to private properties, as well as injuries to at least six police officers and damage to public roads and bridges, the government said.
Speaking for the Liberian Government, Information Minister Lewis Brown said, “There is no tolerance in this society for those who act outside the law by expressing grievances through violence, destroying properties, assaulting law enforcement officers, and violating the rights of others. All such individuals will face the full weight of the law,” the Minister concluded.
Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia has assured the management of Arcelor Mittal, and all private and foreign investors that no action will be spared to protect lives and properties as well as the general wellbeing of their staffs and employees.
The government has also expressed appreciation to the peaceful and law-abiding citizens within the Yekepa Community who refused to be a part of such destructive activity, and has reassured all Liberians of the full protection of their rights to live in peace and safety in their communities.
In a statement, the company said over the weekend, senior government officials visited the Arcelor Mittal mine site to conduct their own assessment of the situation, along with senior managers of Arcelor Mittal. The company noted that a full assessment of damages is now underway.
Arcelor Mittal said production at the mine started up again at about 6 P.M. on Saturday, July 5, noting that all employees are safe, and police presence is visible throughout the area.
Arcelor Mittal Liberia further noted that it is committed to the people of Liberia and its Liberia operations. “We will continue to engage with our communities, carry out our corporate responsibilities, and commitments to Liberia and its people,” the company said.
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 in a statement said it 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 the statement.
The Liberian journalist union warned that if violence becomes the norm, Arcelor Mittal or any other 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.
In another related development, the Nimba County legislative Caucus has vehemently condemned the attack on Mittal Steel and welcomed the arrest of all those allegedly involved in the violence that occurred last week.
The secretary of the Caucus, Rep. Warlea Saywah Dunoh, in a radio talk show yesterday said the people of Nimba will not tolerate violence in any form or manner and therefore welcome the decision of the government to arrest and prosecute those caught in the incident that occurred.