Firestone Rubber Plantation Company Be Damned
AT US$0.06, THEY were given 1 million acres of land for a 99 years lease by the government of President Charles Dunbar Burgess King in 1926.
WITH THE ACQUIESCENCE of the King administration, they forced many indigenous Liberians to work slavery hours for a pittance under slavery conditions.
THEY ESTABLISHED THE LARGEST rubber plantation in the world and at one point in time supplied the Allied Forces during World War II. They have maintained a stranglehold over the rubber industry since its entry into Liberia.
THEY KEPT THEIR TAPPERS in shanty zinc shacks while its foreign staff was chauffeured in frigid air conditioned cars.
CHILDREN OF TAPPERS NEVER enjoyed the amenities from the parents’ toil and sweat which made Firestone the largest and biggest rubber plantation in the world. Born to rubber tappers, they, too, like their parents, ended up as a rubber tapper, continuing that vicious cycle of dirt poverty.
DURING THE CIVIL WAR, AS revealed by the aptly titled documentary, “The Warlord and Firestone, the company surreptitiously funded the war by giving support to Charles Taylor in order to be protected and that support, cash or kind, led to the killings of over 250,000 Liberians and foreigners alike, including the murder of five American Catholic nuns which was allegedly done by men of Taylor’s NPFL. Karma can be a bitch, sometimes.
BARELY HAD THEY REACHED the end of their lease agreement which was in its 78th year in 2004 when the National Transitional Government of Charles Gyude Bryant added additional 33 years without taken into consideration that despite the long years of being in the country, Firestone Plantation Company had added little or no value to Liberia or the lives of its workers at the lowest of the ebb.
DURING ITS LONG YEARS of being in the country, they have not built a plant to produce all of Liberia’s needs—tyres, latex gloves etc., not even a single ‘ganga’ ball for the children of its dirt poor employees tapping rubber under inhumane conditions. They did not build a processing plant to produce animal feeds from rubber seeds in order to enhance the growth of the animal husbandry industry.
WHEN EBOLA STRUCK AND the country was in desperate need of rubber materials such as gloves which were lacking in many hospitals from Lofa to Maryland, they could not stand up and beat its chest proudly to announce that they would fill in a crucial gap since the country came into being in 1847.
HOWEVER, HOPES WERE raised by then President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who promised to review every deal entered into by the Bryant led Transitional government, beginning with Firestone.
IT WAS THEN THE HOPE AND prayer of every Liberian that the deal would be not renewed but who were they hope on what happens to the future of their country? What Uncle Sam wants is what Uncle Sam gets. The sorrowful misery of neo-colonialism and having an enclave plantation-based economy.
COMPROMISES WERE REACHED, and well after a nearly a century of being in the country, they were coerced to provide semi-decent houses to those who toiled and broke their backs to made Firestone what it is, or used to be.
THEY WOULD GO ON A PUBLIC RELATIONS stunt to win a court case in America by placing students on glitzy billboards around Monrovia, touting them as smart for emerging with flying colors on the WAEC exams but impeccable sources at WAEC hinted us in years by that it was all far from the truth.
LITTLE WONDER WE HAVE not seen these billboards and students since they won the human rights abuse case brought against them by a child rights group.
AMID ALL OF THIS GLARING wrongdoings and misgivings on the part of Firestone, a bill recently emanated from the office of the President to the Legislature, seeking an amendment to the agreement Firestone signed with Liberia in order for the company to venture into agricultural activities.
WHAT A GRAVE TRAVESTY! FOR all of these years of being in Liberia, what can Firestone boast of or proudly be a part of?
BY GIVING FIRESTONE A CARTE Blanche to venture into agriculture the Liberian government is shooting itself in the leg in its failing desire to make the country self-sufficient. He who controls your stomach controls your life.
FIRESTONE HAS HAD US hamstrung in our own country, on our very own land for a very long time, beginning with its $5 million loan given to the King administration in 1926. A sovereign country went through hell and high water. Firestone brought in its Comptroller to Superintendent – money the government made a commitment to pay back.
IS FIRESTONE REALLY serious about agriculture? How then, since “Charlie King time” they did not engage in the production of rice to its employees but would instead have to resort to the importation of Pussawa rice?
CAN LIBERIAN FARMERS REALLY withstand Firestone’s might? Where does that leave them, also like owners of rubber farms whose sales of rubber were determined by Firestone until President Tolbert ask the Chinese to build a rubber processing belt in Gbarnga which riled the company at that meant it no longer had a monopoly over the price of rubber in Liberia.
AND SO AS THAT BILL GOES before our Legislators hearken to the cries of Liberians who don’t want another nail in the coffin of Firestone’s grip on Liberia. From the cheap sale of 1 million acres of land to build the biggest plantation in the world to the support of Charles Taylor in a war that killed over 250,000 Liberians and foreigners, Liberians have had enough from Firestone.