Lower Margibi: Aggrieved Residents Alarm Over Ill-treatment by SRC/LAC

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Aggrieved residents of lower Kakata, Margibi County have alarmed over being allegedly removed from their towns and farms by the Salala Robber Cooperation (SRC).

The residents explained that they have been relocated to an area that is difficult to reach in Margibi.

Moses K. Yah, Town Chief of Dokai Ta Town said “we are currently facing series of challenges over here because of the forceful removal from on our various lands.” He further that a long time ago when SRC reportedly intruded into their lands, they wrote the company about the situation, informing that it could bring future embarrassment. But the company in its reply, according to Mr. Yah, informed them that it was not aware of the town in that area.

“We saw the company coming in again some years ago taking our land without any word to us or how it got the right to come in.  We don’t understand why they are doing this, and all that they are doing for which we do not have enough land to make farm on, it cannot give us employment opportunities to help us send our children to school,” Jerry S. Baryogar, a resident of the area said.

He alleged that the company without any proof goes ahead to implicate young men of the villages surrounding the plantation of stealing rubber, and men who are working there will sometimes grab and beat those that they implicate.

When contacted, Mr, Jallah Mensah, Who is the Human Resource Manager of Salala Rubber Company, said he could not make any comment now because he is on vacation.  “I cannot say anything about that because I am on vacation, and if I comment now, it means I am working.”

Salala Rubber Corporation along with the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) was granted concession in 1959.  It was again acquired by Socfin in 2007, and since taking over there have been conflicts between it and the local villagers over its expansion.  Socfin is a group of powerful agro-industrial conglomerate and it is listed on Luxembourg.

The land conflict in Margibi and Bong Counties involving villagers and SRC has led 22 villagers to file a complaint to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Compliant Advisor Ombudsman (CAO). The IFC has granted US$10 million loans for the expansion of the company but with a condition that any act of expansion should be characterized by Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the people, something that the SRC according to the villagers has fallen short of in their complaint.

An assessment team that visited the plantation earlier solicited views from both parties, and the company during the hearing resisted the allegations and argued that “Deeds or tribal certificates of land within the development area dated after 1959 when the concession agreement was signed are ineffectual under Liberian Law because the Concession Agreement supersedes any subsequent grants to the title.