Illegal Exploitation of the Gola Forest Is a Shame — Why Are We Mismanaging our Priceless Forest Resources?

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Our hard working reporter, Hannah Geterminah, found her way deep into the Gola Forest last week and came away with a very disturbing report, published in yesterday’s edition.

She reported that legal and illegal mining activities are taking place deep in that  forest.  This is despite the fact that two neighboring governments, Liberia and Sierra Leone, very recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly manage the Gola National Park.

Why are we Africans so careless and non-committal about agreements we sign?  Here we have two whole governments—those of Liberia and Sierra Leone—which have signed an MOU only last week—on February 18, 2020 to be exact—and within the next two weeks our reporter was able to catch red-handed people engaged in intense illegal mining in the forest.  “The sound of the machine that is used at the mining sites  scares animals away, causing them to flee to neighboring Sierra Leone,” Hannah reported.

Following a tour of surrounding villages of the forest, she said that there are “intense ongoing mining activities in the very ‘protected forest’. This mining has totally polluted the water that villagers use for drinking and cooking; forcing the local women and pregnant mothers with babies on their backs to walk nearly two hours to find drinking water!

Surely the Forestry Development Authority cannot claim not to know about this terrible abuse of not only the forest and its resources but our dear people, especially our mothers and pregnant women, who live there and have to endure grave hardship and suffering just to find proper drinking and cooking water.

Who are the forest rangers appointed by FDA to protect this forest?  Do they report to FDA the things that are happing in the Gola Forest?

A 20-year-old woman, Massa Swaray, a resident of the forest, confirmed to Reporter Geterminah that huge mining activities are going on, dangerously affecting the water and causing the women to walk two hours or more to find safe drinking water.

One of the miners interviewed by Reporter Geterminah, a 24-year-old Sierra Leonean named Sylvester Bio, confessed to being involved in illegal mining activities in the forest.  He has no license from the Liberian government but claimed that the village leadership gave him permission to do illegal mining there, with the promise of sharing the proceeds with them if successful.

We ask again, why is our government so inept, so weak, so lackadaisical?  How can a whole government permit foreigners to enter our priceless forests and do illegal mining, scaring away our animals that God has placed there to survive and protect the very forest?  What is the role of FDA or the so-called Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (LME)?

This Editorial must first be directed pointedly at the Minister of Mines and Energy and the FDA Managing Director.  The next person to whom this Editorial is directed is the President of Liberia, George Weah, these people’s boss, who appointed them to these high posts and is chiefly responsible to make sure they do their jobs efficiently, effectively, honestly and with the highest sense of responsibility.

We do not know who in this government is responsible to read this Editorial—and all the editorials of the nation’s newspapers and other media and bring them to the attention of the President of Liberia.

President Weah must understand the purpose of media—they serve an early warning system, warning of the grave dangers we face as a nation when our senior officials fail to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

We challenge the FDA Managing Director, Mike Doryen and the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler Murray, to dispatch immediately an investigative team to the Gola Forest to see what is going on there and STOP ALL THE MINING and other illegal activities.  Let these two Ministers also report to the Liberian people what the investigative teams found in the Gola Forest and what action was taken to arrest the grave occurrences our reporter has written about.

The Gola Forest is one of our important national reserves which MUST BE PROTECTED, and these two officials—the M&E Minister and FDA Managing Director—are primarily responsible for this.  Let them take their jobs seriously, get busy, act immediately and decisively and do what needs to be done.

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