The United Workers’ Union of Liberia (UWUL) has described residents of Nimba County as ‘war mongering individuals’ who feel the country should continue living in violence over the rule of law and turn the hard-earned peace enjoy currently enjoyed by all into a chaotic situation.
UWUL is the workers’ representative organization of Arcelor Mittal that is greatly concerned about the rough side of the mountain being climbed by the company in the country.
At a news conference yesterday, UWUL secretary-general, David D. Sackoh, also condemned the act in a strongest terms, and declared the rioters’ action as “an uncivilized, baseless and selfish expression, which was intended for looting and destroying the company’s property.”
“We firstly condemn the act in the strongest terms and declare it as an uncivilized, baseless, and selfish expression intended for looting and destruction perpatrated by war mongering individuals in Nimba County who feel the country should continue to live in violence over the rule of law and turn the hard earned peace that we enjoy today into a chaotic situation,” Mr. Sackoh declared.
According to him, though the people of Zolowee or Nimba County in general have a legitimate demand, “the approach was in totality very wrong.
“It will neither profit anybody, nor resolve any matter, if we should use violent confrontation to address grievances or make demands; violence is an old argument in Liberia, and cannot be used to address new challenges. Dialogue or peaceful negotiations is the way forward to achieve good results.”
By that, he is encouraging all sides to practice peaceful engagement, no matter which sector one belongs, or how pressing and legitimate the demands are,” the SG urged.
Therefore, he said, “We all know that the natural resources are for the people and that the extraction of the minerals should be converted into improving the living standards of the people by ensuring sustainable development as a hallmark for the generation today and tomorrow.”
However, he said, the people should also understand that they have elected a government to manage the resources on their behalf; therefore, they should know how to take their grievances and concerns to managers of the resources.
According to him, it is imperative that community development plans are addressed in the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), not by community residents as individuals, but by the government on their behalf through
consultations with them. Such consultations should continue throughout the MDA implementation period.
UWUL secretary-general Sackoh insisted that the government should be held liable for the inability of any company to perform to the expectations of the people.
“The government knows politically well what is impeding the company’s performance in a given time, and should be able to correct its pitfalls,” the UWUL Secretary asserted.
“We should be grateful and remember to mention that during the days when all hopes were gone and a dark investment cloud covered the nation, trust in Liberia was timid the future was bleak, while unemployment rampant, it was
Arcelormittal that braved the storm to entered the then war ravished and dreadful country to contribute to the infrastructural development. The company and employed poverty stricken Liberians,” he said.
But, the recent attack on Arcelor Mittal has threatened the stable and friendly investment atmosphere to an unbearable degree, allowing threats and fear to take precedence over peace and stability.
“This has the propensity to cause investors already here to flee the country with their capital and off-load people into unemployment market, the UWUL secretary general warned.
“It also sends bad signal to the outside world against the image of the country that could erode the confidence of potential investors and lead them to play the wait and see game, and contribute to joblessness and untold suffering of the Liberian people in general and not only the Nimbaians.
The incident, Mr. Sackoh said, has a triggered a down effect on the union-management Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiation and tends to weaken the union’s ability to press forward with demands for salary increment and other benefits from the management in favor of the workers.
“We all now raise red flag in sympathy with the company from the recent standoff between Zolowee community members on one hand and the government on the side, while Arcelor Mittal watches on in a dilemma, being a victim.”
Meanwhile, the union secretary general has called on the government to bring both organizers and perpetrators to justice as soon as practical and ensure they face the full weight of the law, as the country is known from its creation to be a laws, not of men.