Liberia: Protest in Gibi District as Citizens Resist Green Advocates, Say It Is Sowing Seed of Discord
GIBI, Margibi County – It appears that the once cordial relationship that existed between Green Advocates International (GAI) and the people of Margibi County has turned sour.
Residents of communities near Salala Rubber Plantation on Friday, December 18, 2020, protested the presence of some employees of GAI in their communities.
On Friday, December 18, 2020, some residents near the plantation chased some employees of GAI from their various communities on ground that the NGO is sowing a seed of discord among residents.
They claimed that the GAI employees including one Paul Larry George had taken a foreign national to their communities to incite them against the company.
“They have come to incite us against the company,” a protester says “We will not allow them to manipulate us as they have done in the past.”
SRC is planning on resuming operations since it recently shut down operations due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
“I think it is because they have heard that SRC coming to restart its operation that is why they have come to talk negative things about the company again,” James Flomo, one of the protesters told journalists who arrived on the scene.
Daniel Sengbe, a resident of Jorgborlorsue Village is grateful to God that the company is resuming its operations soon.
He said “look, the company been close for almost a year. Life is very unbearable for me and my family. Green Advocates International is not in our interest. We will not allow them here anymore. Let them go somewhere else and do their job there and leave us alone”.
Jefferson Kollie of Baypolue Town who spoke to journalists through an interpreter said he is shocked to hear that GAI has returned to their communities when they haven’t done anything to improve their lives.
Mr. Kollie said the NGO has only succeeded in putting them against the company, which is the source of livelihood.
“I want SRC to consider coming back because life has turned so hard since the company closed almost a year ago,” he said.
“Green Advocates has never brought anything for us here before. They have only fool lied to us. They are the cause for SRC to close and since the company closed, they haven’t been able to bring one cup of rice for anyone of us here, then they heard the people want to come then GAI want to stop them, we citizens will now stand up and deny them entry to our communities,” he further said.
For his part, Paul Bondo, a resident of Jorgborlorsue village blamed the advocacy group for the suffering and hardship they are facing.
“They have wrongly informed us about the company’s operation and have incited us to speak against SRC management. They have caused us serious economic hardship. We are very tired of their fruitless advocacy,” Mr. Bondo argues.
Also speaking, Famata Flomo of Kolleh Town alleged that GAI did them more harm than good in their ‘so-called’ advocacy for local communities since 2013.
“Since GAI came and promised to ensure that SRC pays for our damaged crops, nothing has happened, but they keep coming here and lying to us. We are tired of hearing their lies and confusions, Madam Flomo said.
She dismissed the allegation that the company was involved in human rights violation, and said the only issue they have with the company is the payment for some crops damaged during the clearing of land.
“So, that their lies and false claims that women are being raped is a mere lie intended to claim international attention,” Madam Flomo said in an angry tone.
Samuel Kollie, a citizen Didi Town, who was also part of Friday’s protest, reiterated that they were brainwashed by GAI to accuse the company of perpetrating sexual crimes and polluting drinking water sources.
“Most of us have and continued to benefit from the company directly or indirectly because we get practically free medication, our children are allowed to attend the company school here and so, if Green Advocates will come here and continue to give false hope and make us and SRC management to be in confusion, we will not allow this to happen anymore but rather stand up against GAI continuous presence in our various communities,” he said.
Speaking further, he said Green Advocates International also used underage children to stand with several placards with the inscription: “SRC, please return our land to us” among others’.
Kollie is asking the Government of Liberia to intervene to abort an attempt to scare the investor from returning following several months of closure.
He threatened that the failure of the government will leave them with no alternative, but to lawfully take action to avert suffering caused by the repeated negative campaign against the company’s operation.
SRC was established by a merger in July 2007 between a standalone rubber processing factory called Weala Rubber Company and a standalone rubber plantation formerly called Salala Rubber Corporation. The plantation was set up in 1959 by the Weala Rubber Company and was acquired by the Socfin Group in 2007, after the civil war in Liberia. SRC is owned and managed by the Socfin Group.