Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) which operates in three statutory districts in Sinoe County, southeast Liberia has conceded to wrongdoing in the county, but says several measures have been taken aimed at peacefully resolving all disputes with citizens whose land or crops were destroyed by the company.
The international environmental watch group Global Witness recently accused the company in a report of destroying secrete places, farms with scoops and forcefully taking lands owned by citizens in the county.
However, briefing Journalists following four days intensive and independent investigation in areas operated by the company, GVL Vice President for Sustainability and Principal Technical Advisor Mr. Andrew Kluth admitted that while everything is not well with its activities in Sinoe, equally so some portions of the Global Witness Report were misleading, untruth and only intended to damage GVL’s reputation.
According to him, GVL did not forcibly take away any land belonging to citizens, but agreed that in some areas of its operation, there were complaints by BanahWorteh Township, Kpanyan Statutory District, accusing the company of failing to observe the following RSPO including 2.2.2 which clearly states that legal boundaries shall clearly be demarcated and visibly maintained; that for any conflict or dispute over the land, the extent of the disputed area shall be mapped out in a participatory way with involvement of affected parties, including neighboring communities, were applicable.
Citizens of Banah Worteh Township documented that because of GVL’s failure to observe those sections of the RSPO led to intervention by the office of the Development Superintendent of Sinoe to avoid future confusion in the district.
However, Mr. Kluth argues that due confusion between citizens of Bodioh Wleh Town and Sir Wleh Town over a parcel of land, management resolves not to operate in the disputed area until all parties to the conflict can amicably resolve the dispute.
Despite the company’s acknowledgement of the conflict, the people of Worteh Town say they are of delay in the signing of a MOU between them and GVL for development projects yet to take effect so they are prepared to take any action that would bring them relief since the county’s authorities has failed to render justice in keeping with customary rights.
Mr. Kluth said GVL has decided not to operate in disputed areas hence, management has been depositing huge sum of United State dollars into an extro account of the two towns involved in the dispute until the situation is resolved.
Moreover, after a one day report covering observations, findings and recommendation from an assessment carried out by the office of Assistant Development Superintendent Moses Tuwleh a conference was held between GVL and the Township of BannahWorteh on August 3, 2016 at which time the committee recommended that GVL should always involve the actual owners of old towns during mapping exercise to establish meets and bounds before erecting enclave.
On claims of damage to water source (s), details that its investigation saw a coal burning field owned by one Mr. Isaiah Dapaye, and materials found on the ground included split wood and a burnt site, an old coal production facility, adding that a creek located in the area had changed color or was polluted and unsafe for drinking.
The findings revealed that the creek was damaged as a result of GVL’s operational activities, include clearing and planting of palm seedlings, noting that because of the damage caused to the water source, Mr. Dapaye and Elijah Behdioh could not use the creek for drinking purpose any longer.
It therefore recommended that GVL finds alternative means for farmers in the affected area to have access to safe drinking water.
In response to these concerns, GVL rehabilitate several water sources, including hand pumps for use by farmers in the affected area, but the report dismissed claims by another farmer Mr. Elijah Behdioh that the company cleared his farm, which was proved to be false.
Vice President Kluth said management is prepared to compensate any citizens of the county who have claims backed by evidence of GVL destroying their farms or crops, adding that the company will not operate in any part of the county that is in conflict. Editing by Jonathan Browne