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4 wounded in ERU-protestors’ clash

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Flashback: Photo of a peaceful sit-in by a group of women before the CICO compound in Margibi County

Officers of the Emergency Response Unit or ERU of the Liberia National Police have clashed with protesters at the Margibi County office of the Chinese International Construction Company or CICO, leaving several protestors seriously wounded.

CICO is currently rehabilitating the Redlight-Gbarnga highway. ERU officers used teargas and pepper spray Monday, 16 May to disperse hundreds of protestors, predominantly women, who have gone for the third time in demand of benefits allegedly owed them by the company.

The protesters are aggrieved residents of Weala and its surroundings who have for the past four years been demanding compensation from the company for alleged damages to their houses from the company’s operations. Those claiming damages are more than 1000 residents. Four of the protestors – two women and two men sustained injuries in Monday’s clash with police.

The protestors had earlier staged a sit-in at the two entrances leading to the company’s compound, completely halting its normal activities. Private security guards from the Vision Security Guard Service contracted by CICO to secure its assets or premises along with some members of the LNP Margibi County detachment entered the compound to get some of the foreign staff out for lunch, particularly Chinese, something which the protesters refused to allow when the ERU officers used teargas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

In the process, many of the protestors sustained injuries and were placed in a vehicle rushed away from the scene apparently to hospital for medication. The spokesperson for the aggrieved Weala residents Alonzo J. Tucker said, narrated they have been engaged with the company since 2012 to rehabilitate or compensate for their damaged houses but to no avail, and now they were completely impatient.

Mr. Tucker said they will remain at the company site for as long as they could until their demand is met, adding that not even any official of the county they will listen to this time around. He also said the county authorities are silent about alleged mal-treatment citizens are receiving from the company, which he claimed owes them US$1.5 million in damages.

Margibi County Superintendent John ZubahBuway, who said he was not prepared for an interview, however told reporters in a chat at the Kakata Administrative Building on Monday, May 16, 2016 that the Ministry of Public Works had told county authorities in a meeting earlier that the heads of the aggrieved residents should do a numeration of the damaged houses and forward said report to the ministry.

Superintendent Buway also indicated that the issue is now with the Ministry of Public Works and the Accident and Casualty Insurance Company or ACICO which has an insurance policy with CICO management.

By Ramsey N. Singbeh, Jr. in Margibi-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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