President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has rejected appeals to grant ‘presidential clemency’ and abandon an ongoing investigation into violent protest and looting of ArcelorMittal’s facilities in July by youths of Nimba County.
While President Sirleaf was touring health facilities on Tuesday, 7 October, mothers of some 47 violent protesters arrested by police after the incident, prostrated before the President in a Nimba Town of Zolowee, begging her to pardon their children’s wrongdoing on 3rd and 4th July.
During the violent protest in Tokadeh, Yekepa, the government had said the mine company’s employees and contractors were held hostage for hours without food or water; and offices, mining equipment, vehicles, construction materials and office supplies in buildings were destroyed and looted.
A train and bridge were also said to have been set ablaze, while six riot police officers were shot and wounded by the protesters in retaliation to tear gas canisters launched at them. But the elderly women, speaking through an interpreter, J. Parkison Zuwah, insisted on a pardon in the case rather than going through investigation, because he said they have already realized that their children “did bad thing.”
“When you punish the child for their wrong doing, it’s better for them to come out because there’s no investigation here. We all know they did bad thing; they have already breached the law, so we’re just holding your foot,” the women pleaded.
But in response, President Sirleaf said, government must first establish from the young people through investigation what has angered them so much to destroy millions of dollars investment, instead of expressing their grievances through their leadership.
“It’s not just the one company you’re destroying. Once you do that, all the other companies will say well, Liberia is not safe for investment, then they close their operations and go. Then, what will happen to us? How we will grow our economy?
How we will fix our roads? How we will do things that we’re supposed to do?” The Liberian leader asked in disappointment. She said government will see what to do after the investigation, assuring the women that some senior citizens of Nimba will be on the team to investigate the cause of the incident.
“[What] made the young people so vex to destroy everything just like that? Because if we say we [don’t] have jobs, we’re supposed to go and report to the superintendent; you report to the minister; you report to me; we sit down; we find a way. We see the thing that [bothers] you; we fix it.”
After visiting the health facility in the ArcelorMittal concession area, President Sirleaf repeated the government’s stance to knowing the root cause of the young people’s action against the company while addressing reporters in the presence of ArcelorMittal’s authorities.
The demonstrators had claimed their action was aimed at registering displeasure over the Ganta-to-Yekepa Highway, the County Social Development Fund and other issues affecting their communities.