By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says the government will undertake the repair of the damaged bridge and roads leading to the ArcelorMittal mining site with funds taken from the County Development Fund for Nimba County.
The Liberian leader on behalf of her government expressed what she termed ‘profound’ regrets to the AcelorMittal family and all those who have helped in managing the ten years of sustained peace with promise that all those accused will have their full day in court.
Although, no time line was specified by the President to when the repair works will begin or its completion, she said further actions will be recommended for the perpetrators of the recent violent protest at the ArcelorMittal facilities.
Addressing the media flanked by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler and the President Pro-tempore of the Liberian Senate, Gbehzongar Findley yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Sirleaf said the government will ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice as a harsh reminder of the consequences of abuse of freedom while the full extent of damages from the incident on July 3rd and 4this still being evaluated.
Recently, President Sirleaf promised that the government will take a decision as its response thereby sending a message to deter any such recurrence because the action meted out on the private facility in Nimba County could set precedence as it has national security implications due to the area of occurrence.
In her regrets, President Sirleaf mentioned how the violence at the ArcelorMittal facilities in Yekepa, Nimba County left several police officers wounded with the holding of employees and contractors both national and expatriates hostage for up to 20 hours and millions of dollars worth of properties looted and destroyed.
The Liberian leader expressed satisfaction at the manner in which the Liberia National Police (LNP) brought the violent protest at the ArcelorMittal facilities under control and thanked the LNP for resisting all of the temptations and for restoring calm without human casualty from the agitators.
President Sirleaf who had described the incident as neither a protest nor a simple attack on a private company but termed it was an attack on Liberia’s economic future, said the incident will have serious negative consequences for the country’s revenue.
Already, at least 47 suspects are being arraigned to proceed to court while a number of recommendations has been proffered by the Police Director, Chris Massaquoi among which he named an increase in the security presence in the Yekepa area, to arrest and prosecute those using the media, especially broadcast medium (radio), to incite the public against government in the name of freedom of speech and to conduct an investigation on the Poro Society (bush school) as to their role in the violent disturbance.
Meanwhile, in his attempts to clarify why the government decided to use the county’s own development fund for the repair when in fact the investigation has not begun least to speak of indicting any particular person or entity, Information Minister said the county’s fund is for development therefore to use the same money for repair is in the right direction and it is in no way a punishment for the residents of that county.
Minister Lewis Brown told journalists following the press conference that people should learn to separate the root cause(s) from the violence or crime(s) committed and that that is just what the government has committed to ensuring that the incident does not recur because it is time that Liberians use the Judiciary or take positive actions in a more civil manner.
Meanwhile, President Sirleaf has, with immediate effect, placed a moratorium on the issuance and use of alluvial mining licenses and permits in Nimba County until the full effects and associated costs of Arcelor Mittal’s operations are finally determined and known.