Citizens of Gboe Chiefdom, Gbarzon Statutory District in Grand Gedeh County are calling on the Liberian Government, through Representative Alex Grant, to immediately halt the operations of the A & M Incorporated (Liberian Harwood Corporation or LHC) and ensure that the company vacates their forest within the coming weeks.
The LHC is a logging company and subsidiary of the Aissha and Mustapha (A&M) Enterprise Incorporated – a group of businesses owned by Aissha Conde’, former wife of former Liberian rebel leader Sekou Damate Konneh. The company has a five-year renewable Memorandum of Understanding with the locals of Gboe Chiefdom and has been operating there since 2011.
Addressing his kinsmen in Zean Town on April 14 2016, Zean Town Spokesman Tommy Clark noted: “If you cannot help people, do not facilitate damaging them”. “The Liberian Hardwood Corporation must go out of our forest. We do not want to continue doing business with the company. We know how Hardwood was chased out of Lofa County. We have been peaceful and patient all this long, because we do not want other Liberians to say it is Grand Gedeh citizens again. We can use other means to prevent Hardwood from operating,” he said.
Amidst loud traditional battle cries in affirmation to his assertions, Clark said: “the last time, we drove employees of Liberian Hardwood from our hand pump [when they came to fetch drinking water], because the company is yet to construct any for us, though it should. Take a look at the only primary school in this town; it is made of mud and it came to existence as a result of citizen’s collective efforts”. In a separate addressed on the operations of LHC in their Chiefdom, the spokesperson of Geewon Town and Women Chairlady, 43-year old Julia Quiah, described the condition in which pregnant women gave birth to children in the area as horrendous and disgraceful. Quiah further indicated that youth and children of Geewon Town were leaving the area in pursuit of education because the only primary school has no structure, least to mention stationary and teachers. The road passing through this town onto surrounding towns and villages is deplorable and does not show semblance of the presence of a logging company in the area. The last time, we nearly died from serious running stomach until one NGO came and built us a hand pump,” she said. The Geewon Town Spokesperson noted that the Liberian Hardwood office is in Geewon does not supply the town with street light for the children a taste of modernity [good life].
“God will pay them double for the wickedness they are doing to us. Except they are not cutting and carry our logs from Gboe day and night.” For Gboe Chiefdom Youth Advocate, Sampson Andrews, it would have been better to watch the trees grow old and rot, than to leased the forest to a company for socio-economic dividend and experience the opposite in return.
“Actually, the operations of LHC here is very frustrating -frustrating because Hardwood is not implementing any of the provisions indicated in the social agreement signed between us. For instance, we were told
in the agreement that they will construct hand pumps and clinics in all project affected communities to assist us with quality safe drinking water and health care delivery. The company also promised to award ten scholarships to youth of Gboe Chiefdom, but up to present, not a single copy book has been given to a primary school student around here, least to mention scholarship.
Even the jobs are yet to come,” Andrew claimed in a very frustrating tone. Darius Jacobs of Gartoh Village described the Liberian Hardwood as not real. “So, so four-one-nine (419) the managers are on with us. They are using my ancestral land as one of their lining bases, including our front and back yards and garden areas as well, but not a dime or a cup of rice has ever been given to the aged people. The machines operators do not even greet us”, he also claimed.