MONROVIA-A few days following the signing of the amended Mineral Development Agreement between the Government of Liberia and Arcelormittal Liberia on September 10, 2021, a mysterious website and Facebook page with unknown sources emerged in the media space of Liberia spewing dangerous misinformation and deception to the Liberian public.

The sudden appearance of this dark and suspicious website in the Liberian public space motivated several high-level Liberian cyber security experts to launch an investigation into the source, including the website and Facebook host and administrator.

After weeks of thorough examination and scouting, the source and host of the website were traced to Ukraine and probably Russia. Even more concerning was the discovery that a certain cloud software was used to shield the administrators of both platforms. These outcomes raise serious cyber security concerns and questions.

What are they hiding, particularly, that they are sourced from a foreign country and influencing public opinion in Libera? If the motive of the website was sincerely to educate and honestly inform the Liberian public then why are they hiding? Why do they continuously try to twist the facts and misinform the public? What were they fighting? Are they questioning the ability of the Government of Liberia to adequately negotiate an agreement that benefits the Liberian people?

Are they trying to blackmail the Government after a gruesome twenty-four months of negotiation with Arcelormital to derive the amended Agreement which was sent to the Liberia Legislature? Who are the sponsors of this notorious website and what do they hope to gain by deliberately attempting to create doubts about this historic agreement in the minds of the Liberian people?  Could this not be a plan carefully crafted to sabotage the amended Mineral Development Agreement and create dissension in the country for ulterior motives, thus threatening national security? These questions should be of concern to all Liberians, particularly, that general elections are barely a year away.

A foreign Concessionaire based in Guinea and other stakeholders with interests in gaining a foothold in Liberia’s iron ore-rich Nimba County, near the Guinean-Liberian border, have apparently retained the services of hired guns to wage a vigorous and malicious campaign of negative propaganda, with the obvious intent of influencing our Lawmakers against objectively approving the agreement, while also sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of the Liberian people. Fortunately, this strategy has failed as the Senate has now approved the agreement and the final details are now being crafted by a Joint Committee of the two houses in keeping with law.

One of Empower Liberia’s recent publications posted on several websites, including Facebook, the website contends that the European Union disapproves of the amended Agreement because it grants a monopoly of the rail infrastructure and the port facilities in Buchanan to AML.

However, this allegation was contradicted by the following statement from the EU’s High Representative and Vice President, Mr. Joseph Borrell, on February 1, 2022: “The High Representative/Vice President is aware that the Government of Liberia and Arcelor Mittal (AM) reached an agreement, which is currently under ratification by the Congress of Liberia, to amend the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) and to expand mining and logistic operations of the company in Liberia. The Arcelormittal investment is by far the largest in the country and will be one of the largest mining projects in West Africa.

One of the objectives of the amended MDA is to share the railway among the three mining companies in Liberia and Guinea so that transport services are open to the two other mining companies in Guinea.” Moreover, the High Representative/Vice President continued, “there are benefits for the country and its citizens, foreign investments being essential for Liberia’s development. For the EU this investment, with its link to the viability of a decarbonized steel industry in Europe, is of high importance.”

Suddenly, the reality has by now begun to dawn on Empower Liberia that its baseless campaign of deception and juggled facts, has failed to achieve the results it had hoped for. The Agreement has been approved by the National Legislature of Liberia, despite the magnitude of the horrendous battle of negative propaganda waged against its passage by Empower Liberia and its surrogates. However, the pill of defeat seems too bitter for them to swallow, and they still refuse to concede the obvious but have resorted to complaints in their latest Facebook and website articles.

In recent days, Empower Liberia has posted a Yes or No Questionnaire on Facebook and other websites with selective questions extracted from snippets of the amended Agreement, designed to elicit the answers they want, while purposely omitting Article 3 of the Agreement which resolves the matter of monopoly of the rail infrastructure and the Buchanan Harbor port facilities. Nevertheless, some responders have seen through this slick gimmick and have refused to answer Yes or No, without being provided access to the amended agreement in its entirety.

To do so would, of course, expose the truth that the contents of the amended MDA are not shrouded in secrecy to conceal the fact that it is against the best interest of the public, an idea at the heart of Empower Liberia’s propaganda. Again, what do Empower Liberia and its surrogates hope to gain by this determined effort to mislead the people of this country? If they strongly believe that they support the people’s interest by the venom they spew in the propaganda which they have been posting, would it not help their case were they to publish the amended MDA in its entirety on their website? Do they fear the public’s backlash should the amended MDA be published, and the deception of their propaganda exposed?

The amended MDA clearly establishes the fact that the Government of Liberia has not given a monopoly of the rail infrastructure and facilities of the port in Buchanan to ArcelorMittal, to the exclusion of other users. Infact, the rail and port facilities in Buchanan have been solely owned and supervised by the Government since 2007. The fact that a self-proclaimed NGO (Empower Liberia) funded and retained as hired guns, and intent on getting a share of Liberia’s vast iron ore largess, would deliberately spew forth such venomous propaganda based on distorted facts, with the potential to compromise the security of the state, that the Government of Liberia had ceded control of the rail and port facilities in Buchanan to AML is appalling. This is a formula for civil strife in the nation, given the delicacy of the matter.

Fortunately, the Government clarified the situation in a statement before the Legislative ratification of the agreement: “critically important, the Government has finally secured terms creating a framework for multiuse of the existing Rail and Port asset for transport of Guinean ore through Liberia. Following difficult discussions, the amended MDA now provides a clear framework in which the Government can enter into access agreements with mining companies for transport of iron ore through Liberia.”

To stick to the core of this article, despite a vicious and malicious campaign of misinformation vigorously waged by this mysterious and clandestine website called Empower Liberia, the Agreement got concurrence from the Liberian Senate almost a week ago on February 7, 2022. The Agreement was first passed by the House of Representatives on December 17, 2021, with recommendations in a report purportedly heavily influenced by forces behind the dark Empower Liberia platforms. Many pundits in the security sector suspect the Russian-funded and Swiss-based mining company, Solway as being behind the clandestine Empower Liberia webpage and Facebook platforms.

For additional background, a company, Solway, was given a mining exploration license with an exploration area that overlaps ArcelorMittal’s concession area, and if ArcelorMittal obtains the additional 16 years expansion by the ratification of its amended Agreement, Solway’s operation in Liberia may be hampered. Now, instead of turning to the only solution to the problem – NEGOTIATION, they may have chosen to turn to dark propaganda against ArcelorMittal and to stop the ratification of the amended Agreement with the Government of Liberia.

This move was a miscalculation, and should it had succeeded, the only loser was going to be the poverty-trapped people of Liberia – with thousands of jobs slipping by while families continue to roam the days unable to minimally care for their families. Understanding this conspiracy, one would now understand while there were dome Liberians with vested interest calling for the outright rejection of about 3000 new jobs, over US$75 million annual revenue, an additional 0.5 million to counties of Arcelormittal operations, and many more opportunities to ordinary Liberia. It is totally unthinkable! Had the ploy of Solway and its purported dark website – Empower Liberia succeeded, that would have put a huge dent in the investment climate of Liberia and it is doing business rating. It would make no sense and dash the hope of thousands of Liberian youths who are idling sitting at home or walking the streets seeking jobs to bring financial relief to their families, to watch as they see the opportunities of ArcelorMittal deal missed them simply because it was selfishly and myopically rejected.

Notwithstanding, the wisdom of the Libera was in the patriotic display when they passed the deal and now seeking the lower House to reassess their recommendations for an acceptable harmonization of the Agreement.

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