Liberian civil society organizations (CSOs) Green Advocates International (GAI), Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), and Natural Resource Women Platform (NRWP) in collaboration with Swiss-based development organization Bread for all (Bfa), have launched a report demanding the Liberian government to seek a remedy for community members in Grand Bassa, Margibi and Bong counties.
Those community members have been reportedly harmed by activities of the Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC) and Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC).
The group’s pronouncement was contained in a statement they delivered at a press conference in Monrovia on Thursday, February 21, 2019. The statement was read by Simpson Snoh, ARD Program Liaison.
The report, entitled “Struggle for Life and Land,” shows that the affected communities in the three counties have continued to suffer from the loss of their customary and deeded lands due to forceful eviction and destruction of their towns and villages, pollution of water sources, desecration of shrines and sacred places, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention of human rights defenders.
Snoh said food security has deteriorated, and therefore access to water has become difficult for many of those residing in communities around the plantations.
“This situation violates the rights of local communities as enshrined in applicable Liberian laws and international instruments to which Liberia is a party as well as standards that the companies are obligated to honor,” he said.
Mr. Snoh said the report shows that people in many of the communities were not sufficiently consulted about the plantations’ expansions and did not give their consent, “but were forcefully evicted from their customary lands.”
“All of the subsidiary companies, including the Liberian plantation companies, have the responsibility to address and prevent human rights abuses in keeping with the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights,” he said.
Mr. Snoh said where compensation payments were made for loss of crops and houses in those concessions areas, they were in most cases insufficient to compensate for the losses incurred.
He said families in affected communities face difficulties in sending their children to school, because of the loss of farmland, coupled with meager employment opportunities provided by the plantations.
Mr. Snoh said the findings of the report also include violence and threats, particularly against women and human rights defenders.
“Women have repeatedly reported being subjected to sexual violence by subcontractors and, in some cases, by plantation security guards,” he said.
“According to the report,” Mr. Snoh said, “SRC and LAC have violated the fundamental human rights and due diligence standards, which they are required to adhere to under applicable Liberian laws and international instruments, including the Liberian Constitution, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure, etc.”
SRC and LAC, the report said, hold concessions of over 128,000 hectares in the country.