Monrovia-Feb-7-TNR: On Tuesday, a group of young men, identifying themselves as residents of host communities in Nimba County, staged a protest at the Capitol Building, wielding placards calling for the rejection of ArcelorMittal Liberia’s (AML) amended which at some point is anticipated to be review by the company and the Joseph Boakai administrations.
During interactions with journalists, they levied unsubstantiated accusations against the company, alleging pollution and insufficient hand pumps for safe drinking water in villages surrounding the mines in Nimba.
They further claimed that AML disregards their concerns and instead attempts to influence their local leader with monetary inducements. These allegations, though entirely baseless, have the potential to tarnish Foreign Direct Investment prospects.
It is crucial to present some facts and raise pertinent questions. Firstly, why is there a protest against the extension of ArcelorMittal Liberia’s operations, a proposal rejected by the 54th House of Representatives under the Weah Administration under shady circumstances?
Since the Boakai Administration, there has been no discussion about AML’s extension, and the President is yet to appoint a Mines and Energy minister or fully operationalize the National Investment Commission or the Bureau of Concession.
In the absence of these national structures, how likely that young people would travel from remote areas in Nimba to Monrovia specifically to protest the “AML Extension”? Contrary to their claims of a lack of hand pumps, ArcelorMittal Liberia has indeed constructed over seventy hand pumps in the mining villages, even though some may currently be non-operational due to lask of regular maintenance.
Could they be sponsored by someone who is against the expansion of AML in anticipation that this administration could probably begin the process of reviewing terms of the 3rd AML Mineral Development Agreement (MDA)?
Contrary to the assertion of these young men, ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) actively engages with all host communities, fostering social and economic development across Grand Bassa, Bong, and Nimba counties.
By providing jobs, developing local infrastructure, and creating opportunities for local businesses, AML’s community relations team collaborates with elders, women, youth, and the physically challenged. This commitment makes AML’s mining project a significant foreign investment in Liberia, setting an encouraging example for others.
Beyond economic contributions, AML collaborates with local communities on health and education initiatives. The Safety Club initiative, launched in 2011, enhances health and safety in schools along the rail line and service roads. AML also invests in education through the Advanced Academic Studies Scholarship (AASS) and supports livelihood projects in Nimba County.
This comprehensive engagement aims to build a better Liberia, evident in the construction of schools, market halls, hand pumps, hospitals, and more. It is disconcerting that a group claiming affiliation with an AML-affected community remains oblivious to these developments, raising suspicions of intentional misinformation against AML.
The potential repercussions of dismantling AML, Liberia’s largest taxpayer and a crucial contributor to government revenue, extend beyond job losses to economic stagnation and increased pressure on the government for job creation. While acknowledging imperfections, it is crucial to recognize the danger of being manipulated to lobby against the extension of a vital contributor to Liberia’s prosperity.
The orchestrated protests on Capitol Hill Tuesday fueled by greed and misinformation against ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) pose a severe threat to the prospect of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Liberia and jeopardize the broader national development agenda.
Liberian youths must recognize the potential consequences of participating in such sponsored movements that are built on lies.
Instead of being swayed by divisive tactics, we urge Liberian youths to channel their energy into meaningful dialogue with AML and relevant stakeholders because constructive engagement provides a platform for addressing concerns, fostering understanding, and ensuring that the country’s development remains on a positive trajectory.
Let us collectively embrace a path of dialogue and collaboration to build a prosperous and sustainable future for Liberia, recognizing that genuine progress and sustainable development hinge on fostering a conducive environment for responsible investment.
By engaging in constructive conversations rather than succumbing to the pitfalls of sponsored protests, we empower ourselves to contribute positively to the growth of our nation, and by this we learn to champion the cause of truth, transparency, and collaboration, recognizing that meaningful dialogue with AML is a powerful tool for addressing any legitimate concerns and shaping a future that benefits all.
The stakes are high, but by choosing dialogue over discord between the communities and AML we pave the way for a Liberia that welcomes foreign investment, encourages economic growth, and ensures a brighter future for generations to come.