Yes, that statement pained many of us. But that same year General Yakubu Gowon, the Nigerian Head of State, was overthrown. His successor, General Murtala Mohammed, who was determined to minimizing corruption in Nigeria and reforming the civil service, was assassinated. In that year, too, Angola and Mozambique became independent, followed immediately by civil conflicts, in the case of Angola, lasting 30 years. Then a succession of coups d’etat took place in the continent’s most prolific coup basin, West Africa. And it was only five years after that Time story that our own coup occurred, plunging Liberia into ten years of terror, followed by a 14-year civil war that devastated the country and killed over 250,000 people.
Was that “backward” enough? You bet.
But with the election in 2006 of the nation’s and Africa’s first female President, Liberia began to experience a robust rebound. Many good things started happening, including the President’s swift and decisive repair of the nation’s international image. Liberians once again began to feel proud to be called Liberians.
Within four years the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and our other international partners waved our US$4.6 billion debt; and government embarked on the redevelopment of our infrastructure.
GOL also began a conscientious review of laws and treaties governing its concessions. The Firestone, Arcelor Mittal and other agreements were renegotiated. Liberia also began a very serious review of its forestry laws and regulations, in a determined bid to protect its forests, which are the last remain rainforests in West Africa. After many years of struggle with the illegal occupants of the Sapo National Park, the government was able to end that occupation, driving away scores of well armed multinational thugs.
These are all glowing examples of reform. But now, sadly, things seem recently to have taken a backward turn. Three international environmental and natural resource watch groups have released an alarming report on the state of Liberia’s forests. The report said that within the last two years alone, a quarter of Liberia’s total land mass has been granted to logging companies, under “secretive and often illegal logging permits.”
The report, issued by Global Witness (GW), Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU) and Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) said 66 “Private Use Permits” have been issued covering over 26,000 kilometers, meaning over 23% of Liberia’s territory. The report said the local people who own the land “had not been properly consulted and were not able to change key contractual terms when told to sign their forests away.”
The result is that neither the local communities nor the Liberian government itself is set to receive any substantial revenues from the forests, which have been clearly given away by the Liberian government!
One of the key culprits in this whole exercise, according to the three whistle blowers, GB, SAMFU and SDI, is the Malaysian logging giant SAMLING which, they say, now have access to “Liberia’s most pristine forests. It is also reported that the new logging contracts issued under the “Private Use Permits,” now cover over 40% of Liberia’s “best intact forests.”
This is nothing short of explosive!
Does President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf know about this? Probably. Last week she suspended indefinitely Moses Wongbeh, FDA’s Managing Director.
Does the FDA’s Board Chair, Agriculture Minister Dr. Florence Chenoweth, know about these alarming revelations?
Whether or not she does, she owes the Liberian people an immediate explanation.
More seriously, there must be an immediate halt to these so-called PUPs, which are calculated to rob West Africa of its last remaining rain forests and plunge Liberia and the entire sub-region into a deadly global warming crisis.
The PUPs must be stopped now in order to rescue Liberia’s forests from perishing, from being wiped off the map, stopping our enviable rainfall and inviting the Sahara Desert into Liberia.
Should that be allowed to happen, that would force us painfully to admit that Time Magazine was right. We must, however, do everything possible to foil (halt) the African doom that Time predicted nearly 40 years ago.