Home Economy AML Linked To “Apartheid” In Bassa …Blamed For Running Two Hospitals: One For White Corporate Executives, Other For Poor Black Workers

AML Linked To “Apartheid” In Bassa …Blamed For Running Two Hospitals: One For White Corporate Executives, Other For Poor Black Workers

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By: H. Richard Fallah

Buchanan: Grand Bassa Chapter of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSL), has alarmed over what it terms as “continuous gross disrespect and humiliation of the Bassa People being allegedly perpetrated by Arcelor-Mittal Liberia (AML), through its operation in Grand Bassa County.

In a press statement issued on Saturday, June 3, 2023, the Civil Society group alleged that Arcelor Mittal is in flagrant disregard to the laws of Liberia, especially, the company’s Mineral Development Agreement it signed with the Liberian Government.

According to the CSO group, series of consultations and meetings have been carried out by the people of Grand Bassa County and Lawmakers of the County since 2019, with ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) served several invitations to attend the meetings.

The citizens group pointed out that the meetings sought to create an opportunity to address several major concerns of the Bassa People, but the company has refused to attend any of the called meetings.

“We want to inform you, ladies and gentlemen of the press, that sadly, AML has been tenaciously unwilling to attend these meetings and has since continued to behave in a manner and form that suggest that the concerns of the masses of Bassa are invalid,” the group indicated.

The issues, according to the citizens group, were again highlighted by the Civil Society Council during citizens’ engagement which was held in the Unification Pavilion in Buchanan City on May 7, 2023.

In said meeting, the people of Grand Bassa County authorized the Civil Society to take the lead in flagging the unhappiness of the Bassa Citizens on the planned relocation for construction of a Concentrator Plant from Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County, to Yekepa, Nimba County.

The citizens group also linked the AML to other violations of the Mineral Development Agreement it signed with government.

The Bassa Civil Society group accused AML of instituting an apartheid policy at its concession area in Buchanan with the establishment of two separate and distinct hospitals-one for the white corporate executives and another for the poor black workers.

The Bassa people recalled that in 2010, AML promised that by 2012, it would have refurbished the Stephen A. Tolbert Memorial Hospital with all modern equipment for the general public, local and expatriate staffs.

However, according to the aggrieved citizens, the AML maintains the deplorable hospital for the use of poor and black local staffs, while it opened a well-furnished and well-equipped hospital only for the white expatriate staffs in the concession area.

They claimed the furnished hospital is not allowed to be used by black poor workers.

“This is very disturbing, annoying, and unacceptable,” the CSO group maintained.

Recalling that Liberia is amongst several African nations that helped to fight the apartheid system in South Africa; the group expressed shock that the Weah Government will sit idly by, to see Arcelor Mittal implement a policy of apartheid in Liberia.

They believe that the action of “ArcelorMittal Liberia,” has infuriated the people of Bassa who see the action of AML as an insult to, not just the Bassa People, but Liberians in general.

The aggrieved Bassa citizens noted that the people of the County (Grand Bassa) have mandated the civil society to speak in the loudest of voice, to organize peaceful protests and as well, take legal actions where necessary, against AML.

According to the citizens, since a protest action was staged by a pressure group called, ‘RESCUE BASSA MOVEMENT’, which prompted government’s intervention at the time, the Liberian Government has tried to whitewash the issue and downplayed the key concerns being raised by the people of Bassa.

They mentioned that the government tried to find quick-fix methods in addressing their concerns.

“For the record, we want to state categorically that we don’t see any genuine action from the government and its partners to address the concerns of the people of Grand Bassa County,” it disclosed.

Bassa Civil Society Council: “The council was invited by the government and the position of the council was articulated by its chairman which remains constant.

The group maintains that it will carry out two action plans, as it has been mandated by the people of Bassa including the conduct of peaceful protests and the institution of legal actions.

This, we are determined to do, and do with all our strength and powers,” the CSO group added.

Additionally, the group has threatened not to attend any meeting with the government and its partner on this matter in the absent of their legal counsels.

According to the citizens group, “the people of Bassa are not ready, or at no time decided to make or carry out barter system concerning the concentrator.

The decision is for the people of Bassa to make and not their lawmakers or local leaders.

The Grand Bassa Civil Society Council is a conglomeration of grassroots civil groups in the county which has been concerned about the ill-treatment of the Bassa People by ArcelorMittal and has been holding series of consultative meetings to find an amicable way in resolving these concerns that they believe have the ability to undermine the peace of the county and the country in general.

Speaking on the citizens’ concerns recently, Grand Bassa County district #3 Representative, Mathew Joe, among many things said the plant is still in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, because the law provides for it.

He said rumors which have been spreading like a wildfire in street corners by some people that the Bassa Lawmakers have received bribes for the concentrator to be relocated is untrue.

In May, 2023, Grand Bassa District #5 Lawmaker, Thomas Goshua, thanked the civil society for reaching this far with its advocacy for the people of Bassa.

“This process of engagement on this matter started since 2019,” he added.

Rep. Thomas Goshua mentioned that AML’s “disrespect” to the people of Grand Bassa should not be tolerated.

He called on AML to “use helicopter” as a means to transporting their ores abroad.

The Bassa people pledged their support to the civil society council of the county as the lead advocate on these issues.

The Bassa Lawmakers also promised to keep away from the matter, because, by not during so, the good intent of the Bassa people could be beclouded by politics as Liberia is in a political era as the 2023 presidential and legislative elections approach.

“We, the lawmakers, are politicians and these are political times. Therefore, it will be good that the council runs the advocacy,” they concluded.

In 2021, the Government of Liberia and the Management of ArcelorMittal Liberia signed an amended version of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) that commits one of the world’s largest steel giants to investing an additional US$800 million in Liberia. AML has so far, not commented on allegations being involved in acts of apartheid in its operating areas.

But even before the amended copy of the MDA was signed, citizens from the company’s operational areas in Nimba and Grand Bassa counties had protested against the agreement.

At one point, it was gathered that the company experienced physical harassment and intimidation when country devils were taken to AML’s premises in Nimba to halt its operation. It however, remains unclear as to who facilitated the action of the country devils.

As the first major investor under the Weah administration, ArcelorMittal committed to investing US$800 million in its operation in Liberia.

The commitments of the company, some observers said, rekindled confidence for private sector investments in the Liberian economy with over 2000 new jobs that were expected to be created during the construction phase MDA and as production volumes surge.

The company indicated that its operation will also yield additional 1,000 new employments, targeting Liberians.

Arcelor-Mittal has been engaged with the Government of Liberia on the need for an amendment since August 2016 with the former Sirleaf Administration, demonstrating its partnership with AML to keep operations afloat and offering win-win solutions such as utilizing the HFO plants it had procured in 2014 to supply much- needed electricity in the country.

Negotiations with the Weah Administration began on September 17, 2020, and the company was engaged in 54 meetings with GoL, IMCC, and its international advisors over the 53 weeks it took to conclude by Sept. 10, 2021.

Fifty of these meetings were on Infrastructure sharing as requested by the Government of Liberia. AML has also been highlighting some of its gains and challenges since it signed the MDA with the Liberian government.

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