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In Bea Mountain, Kinjor Violence: House Committee Submits Unhealthy Report For Investment, But…

By Grace Q. Bryant

The House of Representatives’ Special Committee has presented its report on the violent protest in Grand Cape Mount County which many believed if implemented by the plenary would be unhealthy for Liberia’s investment climate.

Among those who opposed recommendations especially on the Country Manager was Grand Bassa County, District 5 Representative, Thomas Goshua, on grounds that it violates the constitutional rights of the Country Manager, Debar Allen.

He made the statement on Tuesday after the Specialized Committee revealed series of damning findings ranging from alleged malpractices within the operations of Bea Mountain Mining Company (BMMC) of which proposed a motion for reconsideration.

The reports, comprising 38 counts, detail a myriad of concerns, ranging from labor violations to instances of violence against protesters and highlighted the need for swift action against individuals implicated in the fatal shooting of protesters at the Kinjor protest site.

Calling for accountability and adherence to the rule of law, the committee among other things, demanded the immediate arrest and prosecution of those responsible.

The lawmakers’ reports to plenary underscored the necessity for increased transparency and accountability within BMMC while key among the recommendations included the resignation or transfer of the Country Manager to restore confidence among local communities and foster an environment of accountability.

The committee also emphasized the importance of local employment and called for the inclusion of qualified Liberian contractors as employees.

BMMC has been urged to undergo a thorough audit of its workforce to ensure compliance with labor laws, including the preference for hiring Liberian citizens for skilled positions.

Healthcare concerns were not overlooked, as the committee urged BMMC to address existing challenges by procuring ambulances, upgrading medical facilities, and providing essential medical supplies to the community.

While some recommendations include the appointment of specific individuals to managerial positions, the committee stressed that adherence to applicable labor laws and regulations must be paramount in all decision-making processes.

As these revelations reverberate through the political landscape, pressure mounts on both BMMC and governmental authorities to heed the committee’s calls for justice and accountability.

The release of these reports marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing dialogue surrounding the relationship between mining companies and local communities, underscoring the imperative for fair and equitable practices in Liberia’s mining sector.

Recently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives set up a committee to investigate the protest which took place in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County; a report which was submitted in session yesterday.

But following the submission of the findings along with the recommendations, Rep. Goshua said the committee in its report accused Allen of standing in the way of development and other charges, yet failed to invite him to vindicate himself, which he informed the presiding is a violation of the Manager’s rights.

He told his colleagues, “Our constitution says that any Liberian can work in any place once he or she is qualified. And by them denying Mr. Allen from working there, is a complete violation of his constitutional right. This is wrong and we should not encourage that.”

But Bassa Representative said, the report violates itself because serving in his capacity as Country Manager, the committee went ahead to recommend his removal and transfer to another position without due process.

Goshua contended that there are visual evidence in their possession that shows the protestors saying that Allen should leave because he is a Bassa man noting, “It is a complete xenophobic and does not augur well for the country. This report if considered will be serving a bad precedent in the country.”

He recalled, “This is not the first time for people to protest against other county citizens. Some time ago, they protested against one man from Nimba, Jackson You, to leave because he is from Nimba. This does speak well of our business climate.”

“What if citizens from Grand Bassa one day come out and say all citizens from Grand Cape Mount should not work in Bassa, what will happen? I think this is wrong.” The representative continued.

On Wednesday, February 28, the country woke up to the disturbing news of a series of protests in parts of Grand Cape Mount County, particularly the main area where the protest was concentrated.

There were reports of excessive shooting of teargas by officers of the Liberia National Police to disperse protesters.

That situation degenerated into transitory hostilities, with alleged shooting of live bullets, setting of roadblocks, throwing of stones, burning of tires, and destruction of other properties.

These acts led to several reported casualties on both sides- at least 4 deaths and 19 injuries.

The aforementioned necessitated the Speaker to constitute a Legislative Intervention Committee with a mandate to instantly proceed to Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County, to negotiate with all parties and restore stability in that part of the country.

On arrival in Kinjor, the Committee was welcomed with jubilations by citizens, who saw and needed for an urgent resolution of the situation.

There were several pieces of gun shells and remnants of teargas, huge smoke in the air caused by combustions from the Police depot, and blazes caused by conflicts.

Several pieces of stones engulfed the main road, thereby hindering the free movement of vehicles and people.

The Committee first convened a meeting with leaders of the protest to ascertain reasons for their resentments, requested and were granted a town hall meeting by the Committee.

During the discussion, the aggrieved workers of BMMC presented a 38-count petition for speedy redress, which they considered a prerequisite for dialogue with the Legislative Intervention Committee or the Management of BMC.

 The Committee, on receipt of the petition, assured the aggrieved workers of the Legislature’s fullest support and commitment to ensuring that their interests are prioritized.

They alleged that the police on duty had in detention at BMC’s facilities, six of their colleagues, and four dead bodies of people who were allegedly killed on orders of BMMC as a result of the incident, to instill fear in the protesters.

To authenticate the petitioners’ allegations, the Committee met with officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP), who were assigned to the compound of BMMC.

They denied having protesters in detention or dead bodies in their possession at BMMC’s facility, as was being alleged; notwithstanding, the police commander confirmed that about three civilians and 10 police officers who got injured during the riot, were taken to the John F. Kennedy Hospital, while about 19 others arrested were taken to Brewerville Police Depot for detention.

On Saturday, March 2, 2024, the Ad-hoc Committee convened its first meeting at the Capitol Building to look at the legality of all 38 counts contained in the petition.

The purpose was to juxtapose the petition with enshrined provisions of the MD and conduct a comparative analysis of assertions made by all sides.

During its analysis of the Agreement, the Committee captured key permissible observations that validate numerous counts of the Petition and expose deliberate violations of the MDA by BMC.

To build confidence, promote openness, and erase the perception of neglect, the Committee assembled at the Kinjor Town Hall with aggrieved workers of BMMC and other residents of affected areas in Grand Cape Mount County, on Monday, March 4, 2024, and presented outcomes of its findings and explained in simple terms what is applicable, not applicable; violated and not violated, as relates to their petition and the MDA.

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