The indigenous people of Putu especially those in a project-affected community are asking the Government of Liberia to include them in the current and ongoing review process of the Putu Iron Ore Mining (PIOM) Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) to enable them seek and protect the interest of the Putu people.
The Putu citizens, in a resolution addressed to government functionaries, said “that the Government of Liberia through the Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy along with the Inter- Ministerial Committee on Concession acknowledge and honor the request from the indigenous people of Putu to be included as affected, vested and interested parties in the current and ongoing review process of the Putu Iron Ore Mining, Mineral Development Agreement so as to enable them to seek and protect the interest of the Putu People.
The Putu citizens also resolved “That the people of Putu are indigenous with distinct language, custom, culture, tradition, way of life and governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous people and ILO Convention 169 which is a matter of customary international law and is- a binding instrument”.
The resolution further said, “That the indigenous people of Putu are among more than 15 indigenous groups located in Grand Gedeh County which include but are not limited to the Tchien, Kanneh, Gorbo, Gbao, Gborbo, Zelah, Niao, Putu, Konobo, Glio, Twabo, Glaro, Gbarzon, B’hai, Gboe, Ploe, sometime referred to as Krahn”.
The citizens said as a result of the full assessment of the Putu Iron Ore Mining Mineral Development Agreement the following gaps; violations of their rights, errors and shortcomings were identified which include but may not be limited to internationally protected human rights.
The citizens named this right as the right to property, rights to adequate standards of living including adequate food, adequate housing and health with right to culture and religion, right to non-discrimination in the enjoyment of all human rights.
The citizens also named rights such as the right to development, right to freely dispose of lands and natural resources and the right not to be deprived of the means of subsistence as well as the right to a satisfactory environment favorable to development.
The citizens said by being signatory to the listed international conventions and treaties, which include the above internationally protected human rights, Liberia has consented to national and international obligations to protect, respect and remedy human rights violations of local communities and indigenous people, especially the indigenous people of Putu as it relates to development and investment on their lands.
The Putu citizens named these treaties and conventions that the Government of Liberia had subscribed to include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) (party, ratification 22/9/04).
The citizens also named the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Optional Protocol (CCPR) (party ratification 22/9/04), the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discriminations (CERD) (party — accession 5/11/1976), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) voted in favor.
The Putu citizens also cited the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (party —ratification 4/6/1993), the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (party — accession 17/7/1984), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (party — ratification 8/11/2000 and UN Declaration on the Right to Development, General Assembly resolutionA/RES/41/128 of 1986.
The resolution said under Customary International law, various treaties and the Constitution of Liberia, the indigenous people of Putu have the inherit-sovereign rights to make laws for their governance and alter same when their happiness and safety so required as provided for in Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia as well as Article 7 of the Liberian Constitution, which states that in its management of natural resources the Republic of Liberia’ shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens, it is hard to imagine a greater feasible participation in the management of natural resources than is guaranteed by the right to Free, Prior, Informed Consent ( FPIC).
The resolution also noted, “That under international, human rights law traditional possession, custody, management, access and use of customary land and natural resources by indigenous and tribal people amount to a property right, which can only be breached under special conditions, including observing the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC); in this regard, the indigenous people of Putu hereby declare all of Putu land and resources as their customary land and resources”.
“That the spiritual, religious, customary, cultural, and traditional sites of the indigenous Putu people must be respected by the company/concessionaire,” the resolution said.
“Under international and Liberian laws, the indigenous people of Putu are entitled to receive, adequate, just reasonable and equitable benefit or other suitable compensations for loss of traditional properties and other rights in respect of customary land and resources,” the Putu Citizens resolution said.
They further noted these benefits or compensation could be financial or by grant of alternative land and resources or could be Equity Shareholdings in the development project.
The Citizens said in this case, the Putu Iron Ore Mining operation or revenue sharing of production sharing fairly negotiated with the free, prior, informed consent of the indigenous people of Putu.
They also resolved that the indigenous people of Putu are represented at the table in all negotiations and review of the Putu Iron Ore Mining Concession Agreement by their chosen representatives and that cost of legal representation and other expert advice and support provided to thePutu people by various legal and technical experts to enable their participation in the current ongoing or future reviews of the Putu Iron Ore Mining Mineral Development Agreement must be borne by the Company/Concessionaire and the Government of Liberia.
The resolution said an umbrella organization is hereby established for all Putu citizens within Putu Administrative District and all over the world to enable all Putu citizens to act in one accord and speak with one voice which is hereby called the “Putu Contact Group.”
The resolution further said “That all aspect of the Putu society including all social structures be reorganized to reflect present day reality and to meet the present needs and aspirations of all indigenous Putu citizens.”
The resolution said in consideration of free, prior, informed consent, the people of Putu have a right to equity share including right to revenue sharing with the company or concessionaire and the Government of Liberia; and, that the Putu people commit themselves to promote peace and unity and speak with one voice now and in the future.