Liberia: Weah Administration Blamed for Deadly Kinjor Protest

Former President George Weah and Newly confirmed Minister of Information, Jerolinmek Matthew Piah

The recent deadly clashes in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County, have prompted questions about the causes of the violence as investigations into the root cause(s) of the fracas have been launched. However, the Boakai administration is accusing former President George Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government for sowing seeds of discord in the area.

Newly confirmed Information Minister Jerolinmek Matthew Piah said the protests that resulted in one confirmed death, despite initial reports indicating three casualties, stemmed from the presence of armed officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia in the Bea Mountain Mining Company (BMMC) concession area.

Piah noted that the decision of the Weah administration to deploy armed soldiers to protect the company’s facilities, equipment, and personnel has since caused anger among residents, thereby building up tension that erupted into violence last week.

In a tragic turn of events, a staged protest on Thursday, February 29, escalated to violence at the company’s concession area in Grand Cape Mount County, resulting in the loss of one life and leaving several others wounded. 

Tensions flared between officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and aggrieved citizens, highlighting the simmering discontent surrounding mining operations in the region.

The protest, which initially began as a peaceful demonstration by local residents voicing grievances against the operations of the mining company, quickly escalated into a confrontation between protesters and law enforcement personnel. Reports suggest that clashes erupted as police attempted to disperse the crowd, leading to a chaotic and violent exchange.

Amidst the chaos, an individual lost his life, succumbing to injuries sustained during the clashes. Additionally, several others suffered varying degrees of injuries, further exacerbating the already tense situation.

Lawmaker Dosii is also blamed for the violence

In response to the violence, the newly elected lawmaker of Grand Cape Mount County District #2, Mohammed Dosii, gave his blessing to the ongoing protest against Bea Mountain Mining Company.

He told residents in Gogoma, Grand Cape Mount County, that they were unhappy with the level of bad labor practices at the mines and that it was time to protest.

After the meeting, the protestors were secured to embark on their actions. As a result, several properties of the company, including the newly constructed vocational school building, were damaged, as well as earth-moving equipment. 

The protestors later set ablaze at the home of one Boakai Lansanah Taraferro, a citizen of the county. He contested against Representative Dosii in the 2023 legislative election.

On his official Facebook page, Taraferro accused Dosii of the arson attack on his home.

Prior to that, Representative Dosii, with a large following, arrived at the site on Thursday, February 29, following a meeting he had with citizens in the town, Golgoma camp, Matambo corridor. 

The chiefs and elders said they were protesting due to the presence of armed men and bad labor practices at the mines.

House calls on Boakai to withdraw armed soldiers from Kinjor

Representative Dosii had earlier called for the withdrawal of armed guards from the community, citing concerns for the safety of citizens.  Due to a communication he sent to Speaker J. Fonati Koffa, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on President Joseph Boakai, Sr. to withdraw soldiers from concession areas and return them to the barracks.

Officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia were deployed in the area by the George Weah-led government to protect the company’s facility and personnel amid protests staged by locals.

The House, during its 14th day sitting on Tuesday, February 27, resolved that the deployment of the soldiers at concessions violates the Constitution and that such action can only be taken by the Legislature during a state of emergency because of natural disaster, civil unrest, armed conflict, medical pandemic or epidemic or other biosecurity risk. 

The House therefore called on President Boakai, as Commander-In-Chief of the Army, to recall the soldiers. 

Members of the House of Representatives also voted for a Specialized Committee to investigate Bea Mountain in Konjor, Gola Konneh District, concerning the company's continued alleged bad labor practice. 

The locals have also been demanding representation in the mining company’s senior management and access to electricity, among other benefits specified in agreements between the company and the county.

Meanwhile, Lawmakers, including Representative Emmanuel Dahn and Representative Yekeh Kolubah, sought to broker peace with the protesters, who agreed to suspend their demonstration pending the resolution of their grievances.

The Liberia National Police (LNP) dispatched teams to investigate the clashes between the mining company and locals. This incident underscores the challenges facing Liberia's mineral-rich economy and the tensions surrounding foreign companies’ operations.

With investigations underway, the government faces the task of balancing economic development with the protection and well-being of its citizens. Calls for inclusive and sustainable policies resonate amid the ongoing dialogue about harnessing Liberia's mineral resources for the benefit of the nation’s people.