Liberia: MNG Gold, Affected Communities Strengthening Mutual Dialogue
Kokoyah District, Bong County – Residents of Kokoyah District in Bong County had their first dialogue meeting with MNG Gold and vowed not to cause any disturbance or interrupt the company’s operations in the district.
Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]
The locals made the commitment recently at several development meetings organized by the company.
Towns that attended the meeting included Dolo’s Town, Bohn’s Town, David Dean’s Town, Bahn town, Sayewheh Town and others.
Last year, aggrieved residents went amok, looting the company’s properties.
At the opening stage of the meeting, Eugine J.M Kollie, Government Liaison to the company, said, it was good that citizens from across the district came to be part of the first meeting in 2019 to discuss issues affecting the communities and find solutions instead of engaging the company negatively.
Kollie told the leaders of the district and citizens that the meetings were in a form of workshop where each town would separately discuss issues affecting them, for one person to do a presentation for the company to choose the most important and subsequently have them implemented.
Speaking through their representative, Ochebe Sunniway, said they will always cooperate with the company in accessing any area for its operations, building roads, bridges, and other infrastructures.
“On behalf of my town, I would like to apologize to MNG Gold for the disturbance and damage caused last year,” a resident of Sayeweh Town said.
“We will always dialogue with the company when we are feeling aggrieved.”
Isaac Weah, town chief of Bahn Town, said he was very happy that their town was part of the meeting with affected communities.
“We have been left out of development for the past times because of the people who took over before this CR team. We are kindly asking the company improve on our various requests,” Weah said.
The citizens appealed for roads, amendment of the Memorandum of Understand prepared by construction of hand pumps among others.
Elijah Tokpah, who spoke on behalf of Dolo’s Town, appealed to the company to help pay volunteer teachers of the Dolo’s Town Public School, procure solar lights for the town and rehabilitate the road leading to Dubor Town.
Tokpah said the failure of government to place over six teachers of the school on payroll was causing serious embarrassment for the institution.
“There is nothing to inspire the teachers to continue teaching our children. The six teachers have been teaching for five to six years without getting on government payroll,” he said.
Tokpah highlighted the deplorable state of the road from Dolo’s Town to Dubor Town and called on the company to intervene before the rainy season begins.
He said the road becomes impassable for vehicles during the rainy season; a situation he said could increase the hardship of citizens when the rainy season begins.
A promise by MNG two years ago to construct a clinic in Dean’s Town also dominated discussions at the meeting with citizens calling on the company to take up the initiative rather than giving it to another construction company.
Matthew Mark Gbanken, Dean’s town spokesperson at the meeting, said if MNG constructs the clinic, the company would pay workers of the town attractive salaries.
Gbanken also disclosed that Dean’s Town has gone out of drinking water because all of the hand pumps constructed the company few years ago have been damaged. “We have to walk long distances to get water because the only functional hand pump we had has spoiled,” he said.
Addressing concerns from citizens, Lloyd N. Ngwayah, Public Relations Officer of MNG Gold, highlighted numerous corporate social development contributions to Kokoyah since the company began operations in Kokoyah over five years ago.
He named which the annual provision of US$10,000 scholarships for Kokoyah students and annual US$6,000 as Gratuitous (Development) funds for Kokoyah.
He said the company has renovated two public schools in Sayewheh Town and David Dean’s Town, as well as paying eleven volunteer teachers from the two schools since academic year 2015/2016.
He also said the company has constructed and rehabilitated roads and built a senior high school for its employees and Kokoyah citizens.
He also named the construction of a modern police station in David Dean’s Town, which is fully furnished 18-rooms officers’ living quarters; payment of damaged crops over the years, worth thousands of United States Dollars, employment opportunities for hundreds of affected communities’ members and Kokoyah citizens;
Ngwayah also highlighted the Kokoyah obligations and responsibilities as spelt out in the MOU and called on the citizens to also live up to its obligations in the MOU the same way they expect MNG Gold to do theirs.
“If any affected communities or some of its member(s) or the entire district have any issues and concerns, they should write their concerns and submit it to the Kokoyah Development Steering Committee (KDSC) which negotiated the MOU and submitted it to management through the elders’ representative Mr. Adolphus Zackpah or the CR Team and not result to violence,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Orhan Yasin Dag, Safety and PRO superintendent said, the company will consider some of the counts raised by citizens at the meeting as soon as possible.
Dag said the company is poised to repair 36 hand pumps in all of the affected communities, prioritize payment of teachers, and take seriously the local employment as spelt out in the MOU
Dag also promised that the company will continue to take care of the welfare of the people as long as the company is operating in the district.