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Cassava Hill community rejects rights groups’ report

In less than 72 hours after two human rights organizations threatened to file a lawsuit, seeking US$ 2.5 million dollars compensation from Chinese road construction company CICO for multiple environmental abuse, several communities in Cassava Hill area have distance themselves from the report, stating they have no information regarding such report.

Recently, two human rights groups, ‘“Environmental NGOs Friends” and “Advocates for Community Rights” issued a statement in Monrovia, saying they believed that the livelihood and existence of Cassava Hill Community and nearby areas have been seriously threatened by CICO’s operations in the area.

In reaction to the statement, two community leaders, Mohammed Ali Konneh and Arthur Hill as well as several residents from surrounding communities said they are not aware of any engagement with residents regarding the company’s operation.

They said the rights groups failed in ascertaining the actual story on the ground and wondered how they arrived at such major decision on behalf of the community. Konneh said it is difficult to cite a case in point were the groups visited the area and conducted investigation about pollution and human rights issues.

“While we do not support any side to the conflict, we would like to clearly state here that the rights and consent of the community must be respected in any given situation,” Ali said, and added, “The report also reached the conclusion that the US$2.5 million lawsuit is seeking compensation from the company for environmental and public health threats to communities, air, water, plants, animal and children. So our question now is when and where the lawsuit was filed.”

Ali and Hill, both community leaders, noted that in coming weeks and months, they will conduct follow up in various communities to ascertain the existence of the groups and weather the Government of Liberia is aware of their existence. When contacted, the management of CICO said the company has no knowledge regarding the report.

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