Home Economy China Helping or Looting Liberia?

China Helping or Looting Liberia?

by newsmanager

By Our Staff Writer

MONROVIA: As the People’s Republic of China (PRC), wrestles for influence in many African states including Liberia, it appears that the powerful Asian state’s much-heralded promises to help with the development of post-conflict countries on the continent such as Liberia have apparent hidden motives.

PRC quickly returned to Liberia following the forced resignation of Liberia’s former President, Charles Ghankay Taylor, and his subsequent departure to exile in the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2003.

As Liberia tries to rebuild its economy which was abysmally destroyed during its decade-long armed conflict, counting on the assistance of developed and other third-world countries, many Liberians saw it as a major relief when PRC returned to Liberia, a West African Nation in need.

Prior to its return to Liberia, PRC persuaded Liberia that its relations with Liberia must be enacted into law as it relates to embracing the One-China Policy, and for Liberia not to do any business with Republic of China, or Taiwan, viewed as a renegade state, highly placed and unimpeachable diplomatic sources who are familiar with the renewed relations involving Liberia and PRC hinted this paper.

PRC landed in Liberia in grand style, making promises to help resuscitate Liberia’s broken economy as well as help to strengthen food security in Liberia via implementation of multiple agricultural projects.

When Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won the 2005 Presidential Elections, Beijing heavily lobbied for Liberia and Africa’s First elected female President to visit the PRC.

The former President of Liberia, and Nobel laureate, Sirleaf did visit China amid colorful ceremonies during her regime.

When Madam President returned to Liberia from PRC, she lobbied with the National Legislature to reaffirm Liberia’s commitment to the One-China Policy. Moreover, the two countries established trades and cooperation projects.

However, according to critics, PRC dominated the mineral development discussions in relation to various ore deposits and other natural resources in Liberia.

Sources narrated that while the German owned Bong Mining Company was reportedly holding talks with Liberia on its alleged intension to return to Liberia, PRC hurriedly encouraged China Union to invest a whopping US$2.6 billion in Bong Mines and promised to give US$40 million, then, to former President Sirleaf, as a signature bonus. Bong Mines is located in Fuamah District in Bong County, Central Liberia.

Because of the Chinese expressed interest at the time, Liberian officials downplayed Bong Mining Company’s return and awarded the Concession to China Union.
Reports had it that Chana Union, at the time, took four years to pay Madam President’s signature bonus as the operations of the company is still in transit.

As things unfolded, then, Liberia apparently turned away from the West and awarded nearly all road construction and development contracts to Chinese firms including CHICO and CICO.

The Chinese charged US$1 million a mile for roads construction. Besides, the Chinese used Liberian natural resources including rocks and sand to build some of the country’s roads that were already paid for.

As Liberia’s development and reconstruction intensify, Chinese nationals took advantage of the country’s glaring weak governance system, to position themselves at strategic areas around Liberia, selling rocks, sand, cold water, ice, among others and even got involved in doing businesses that are exclusively reserved by law for Liberians.

Having observed the influx of Liberian business tycoons in China, some Chinese nationals allegedly designed a strategy to dupe mainly Liberian business women of loan money by putting fake goods into their respective containers, sources said.

Such schemes, according to sources, led to lots of Liberia business women going bankrupt, subsequently falling in problems with banks they borrowed the money from.

More than that, the Chinese nationals took over the entire importation of clothing and other dry-goods that Liberians were importing from China by opening big clothes center down town Water Street, referred to as CHINA TOWN.

The Chinese sell both retail and wholesale goods at the apparent detriment of Liberians business community.

The businesses of Liberians who were importing wearing from PRC have collapsed due to China Town’s reported scheme to undermine Liberian businesses, and by extension, the growth and development of the Liberian economy.

Without the necessary intervention of the relevant Liberian authorities, following many cries from the Liberia businesses, the Chinese step up their game of what appears to be looting, by reportedly establishing fake companies which are allegedly involved in smuggling of gold, diamonds, timbers and other natural resources.

Critics said some Chinese nationals acquire mining licenses for Exploration but they are instead engaged in Exploitation, and they care less about the local communities in which they operate.

At areas of mining operations, bad labor practices are the order of the day, according to sources. They explained that sometimes, the Liberian government will pronounce a ‘political statement’, but nothing tangible will be realized and more such malpractices continue unabated.

One commentator said ‘Liberia is suffering in the hands of China because the country wants more developments for its citizens, particularly Electricity and Roads network but the Chinese only care to milk Liberia’s resources while paying lip services to two major concerns-roads and electricity.

China’s help is regularly tied around diplomatic favor, they loaned Liberia US$50 Million to the build terminal of the Roberts International Airport, just within few years, the facilities are in a deplorable stage.

The Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Ministerial Complex also built by the Chinese has no fire trucks, internal electricity and other basic services.

Following the discovery of Black Sand in the Tower Hill Community, Margibi County, where the Chinese are currently mining and selling both rocks and sand, Beijing has steadily deployed thousands of Chinese dredging ships, colossal vessels that can hover up thousands of tons of sand and fish. The mission is clear: Bring more black sand to China to meet the internet needs.

Residents of some communities in coastal areas across Liberia have fought back the Chinese massive efforts of sand grab.

Recently, one of the Chinese nationals’ clandestine sand grab operations was exposed on social media when thousands of bags (25kg) of Black Sand was seen ready for shipment to the PRC.

“Trucks and Trucks load of sand leave this country everyday,” said a victim in a video that has gone viral on social media. Another critic wonders: “Will you ever go to China and touch a beach of their land?”
For a commodity that appears to be available in infinite supply, sand may seem like curious geopolitical objective. But the resource is more vital and has usable quantities.

“These Chinese people are undermining this country,” said one Liberian woman in the viral video, pointing to the package of thousands of black sand bags ready for export to PRC. “They never came to help us,” she added.

Though China and Liberia have years of partnership, the Chinese relationship with Liberia has also been costly, another critic opined.

While illegal sand mining has put money in the pockets of some individuals, soaring extraction has come at an alarming price in Liberia, several locals strongly believe.

For instance: vanishing lands, shrinking rivers, collapsing ecosystems, and the rise of ‘powerful sand mafias.’

For many people, the worst is yet to come. Over mining endangers coastal communities, a threat that will only grow as climate change drives rising sea levels.

Even with these risks, it seems the new Liberian regime that is still in its formative state, doesn’t know exactly how much sand is being mined or realized that a crisis is looming.

“Mass of black sand is being loaded for exportation,” the lady said, “Nobody checks on them, nobody does anything about it, they take quantities of mineral and export them,” she emphasized.

A recent report by the World Bank on Liberia indicated that mining could lead to inland flooding and by 2050 the change from the baseline could exceed 35 percent in major cities including Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, the main port for mining exports.

The report added that coastal flooding and rising sea levels and temporary flooding from tidal levels threaten infrastructure and land in low elevation coastal zones.

By 2050, impacts from coastal flooding are projected to result in an incremental loss of 0.75 percent of capital relative to the baseline, the report added.

The exposure prompted the Boakai’s government to place a ban on the exportation of “Black Sand” and at the same time mandated the Ministry of Mines and Energy to conduct speedy investigation to ascertain the facts regarding the “illicit mining.”

The government said it found out that there were some people in our country recently who were doing sand mining. A citizen journalist posted a video showing huge pile of what is called black sand that were being prepared for exportation.

That action caught the attention of the cabinet and at last week meeting, a decision was taken that the Ministry of Mines and Energy should spearhead the investigation on what is happening.

Meanwhile, before said investigation can go on, we are going to ensure that the mining of black sand is stopped and the exportation of any black sand will have to be stopped.

“The quantity of black sand seen on social media video posted by a citizen journalist is alarming and the government has moved in very quickly to ensuring the protection of our landscape and mineral resources.
“So, we want to appreciate this citizen journalist who made this beautiful video to expose what was going on, got government to be aware and the government has moved very quickly. There is no record to show that there has been any concession in that area”, Information Minister Jerolinmek Piah said.

Sand mining may be the only issue for the government but analysts say there are other areas wherein Chinese nationals are invading the Liberalization Policy meant to protect ordinary Liberian business men and women.
“The Chinese are selling ice, cold water, sand, and crush rocks, and now, they are exporting black sand from this country,” said one diplomatic official who is familiar with the development but preferred anonymity for this article.

At the international front, China does not respect Liberia views as a case point has to do with the global fight for democracy.

It can be recalled that Liberia voted for human rights and democracy at the United Nations during the administration of former President George Manneh Weah but China felt offended and threatened to withhold supports to ongoing projects in Liberia and up to press time, these projects are still on hold but Chinese nationals continue to loot Liberia’s resources including black sand.

Despite the Chinese classic looting of the country’s resources without past administrations taking concrete actions to save the state, it is unclear what tangible steps the new Liberian Administration, headed by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai Sr., will take to RESCUE Liberia on this looting spree.
Meanwhile, the PRC Embassy in Monrovia is yet to comment on these reported malpractices including illicit mining allegedly involving increasing number of Chinese nationals.

Also, the Embassy did not comment on the latest leaked video on the social media regarding the alleged exportation of Black Sand from Liberia to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

On the record, the Chinese Ambassador only visited the new Minister of Youth and Sports, Cllr. Jeror Cole Bangalu last week, where he reaffirmed PRC’s commitment to support Liberia’s development efforts including the strengthening of relations involving the two countries.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment