Relatives and family members of those facing court hearing for vandalizing ArcelorMittal properties earlier this year are pleading with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for clemency on their children.
The citizens, who could not really channel their request through a spoke person, but decided to speak individually along the way, admitted that their children were in error to have destroyed the company’s properties, rather than seek peaceful means to resolve their grievances.
The citizens spoke with President Sirleaf on Tuesday October 7, while she was on her way to ArcelorMittal’s operation site in Yekepa for a brief visit.
It may be recalled on July 3rd and 4th 2014 facilities of the steel giant, ArcelorMittal, were attacked and vandalized by some residents of the county, mainly youths.
The vandals attacked ArcelorMittal’s main mining facility, located in Tokadeh, Nimba County and held the company’s staff, contractors and employees hostage for hours.
Offices were vandalized and mining equipment; vehicles, construction materials, office supplies and buildings were destroyed or looted.
Law enforcement officers, who had gone to restore calm were shot at and injured, the government reported at the time. Several people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the incident.
Some of those initially arrested were Gun Siaway, Emmanuel Zore and Wuo T. Dolo, whom county authorities accused of leading the protest against the company in the Gbarpy area which lies between the provincial capital Sanniquellie and Yekepa.
During a stop-over in Zolowee Town, while en route to Yekepa on Tuesday, the citizens informed the Liberian leader that they did not understand why their children had attacked the company, causing the loss of millions of dollars.
The citizens, majority of whom were elderly women, however, pleaded with the Liberian leader for a presidential pardon.
President Sirleaf, in response, told the weeping women that the court process to determine as to whether they were culpable is ongoing. She urged them to let the law of Liberia take its course as a means to deter future repetition.
She urged citizens of the county to seek peaceful means to their grievances as government will equally not allow their rights to be violated by any company operating in Nimba County, and Liberia in general.
During her visit with the company, President Sirleaf reassured authorities of ArcelorMittal of her government’s fullest protection as long as it continues to operate under Liberian laws.
The Liberian leader promised that those accused of vandalizing the properties of Arcelor Mittal earlier this would have their day in court.
She assured the company that government will continue to create an enabling environment for investment opportunities thereby leading to job creation and will not allow any group of people to undermine development by their actions.
Meanwhile the ArcelorMittal saga brought shock to most Liberians, the government, especially President Sirleaf, taking into account the over 14 years of violence the country had just gone through.
In response to the incident, the Liberian President announced that Nimba would bear the brunt of the actions of some of its citizens, who recently allegedly looted and destroyed properties of the company, as well as some public infrastructures in the county.
President Sirleaf said then that the violence in Nimba County on the company’s facility was a national threat, especially to the county’s economy.
She said the violence appears to be springing up elsewhere in the country, including concession areas and said the exercise of freedom without the associated responsibility, leads to anarchy, something the government is not willing to tolerate.
“Anarchy anywhere in our country undermines our collective progress. We cannot permit this to happen, the Liberian government is absolutely resolved that whatever, whomever, the unlawful incitement of the public to violence, will be dutifully punished according to law,” she said.
President Sirleaf said the government’s collective response to the attacks must be decisive, immediate and forceful because of the gravity of the rioters’ action.
Upon hearing the news that President Sirleaf had announced that the county would be held responsible for whatever damages the rioters caused, the Nimba County Legislative Caucus vehemently disagreed with the President’s utterances terming them as ‘not serious or jokes’.
“The President is joking, we will challenge it constitutionally she has no constitutional authority she has no power.” Nimba Legislative Caucus represented by representatives Samuel Koigar and Jeremiah Koung.
“This is the president who said she will adhere to the law if she said that then she is not reading her own constitution, she needs to read her budget law if someone commits a crime he or she must be investigated. Let no one provoke Nimba in the term of this crisis, Nimba has condemned the violence in the strongest term and let those who carry out the act take full responsibility and let none provoke Nimba.”
Nimbains, comprising prominent citizens On July 14, in a release, condemned the violence and the act of vandalism carried out at the company by the young people.
“We the citizens of Nimba County join our fellow Liberians today in condemning the shameful acts of violence and economic sabotage that were carried out by some residents from within the areas surrounding ArcelorMittal facilities,”
“We are appalled that they elected to use violence and vandalism as a means of expressing their grievances. Nothing justifies such an action in a fragile society seeking to mend wounds from past acts of communal violence and war. Our hearts go out to the company and its staff as well as law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens who were victims of this despicable violence,” the citizens said.
Some eminent sons of the county that signed the release were, Frederick Norkeh, Michael Slawon, Victor Kpaiseh, Carlton Boah and others.