Nimba Needs Proactive not Reactive Intervention

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This Editorial targets Nimba County politicians, most especially the undisputed leader of them all, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson.

It has to do with Cocopa, and the failure of the government of Liberia (GOL) which, several years ago, seized control of the company from its owners, LIBCO, for what was described as “bad labor practices.”

Now, the GOL has, since that takeover, been embroiled in a similar practice, because it has not been able to keep pace with its obligations to the company’s employees.

Last Monday angry Cocopa workers, demanding four months’ salary arrears, blocked the Ganta-Saclepea highway that leads to the nation’s entire southeastern region.

Our Nimba Correspondent Ishmael Menkor reported that Senator Prince Johnson, speaking on Ganta Radio, appealed to the Cocopa Workers to remain calm as GOL was making efforts to pay their salary arrears.

That is what we call reactive politics. Why did Senator Johnson, Nimba’s most powerful son, wait until a crisis erupted before saying or doing something about the problem? Well, if he claims that he had earlier intervened on behalf of the workers before they blocked the road, that was not reported, and the public knew nothing about it.

Prince Johnson is not only a powerful Nimbaian, he is also the county’s Senior Senator and probably also its most beloved son. Love, respect and recognition are the unmatched ingredients of power. So, why did the Senator not use his power, his leverage, to come to Monrovia and plead with Finance Minister Boima Kamara and even President
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf herself to pay the Cocopa workers and preempt the conflict? Does either President Sirleaf or Minister Kamara have the power to pay a deaf ear to Senator Johnson? We think not.

We urge Senator Johnson to form a delegation comprising Superintendent Fong Zuagele, Nimba’s Junior Senator Thomas Gupee and the Nimba leader in the House of Representatives to proceed to the Mansion and the Finance Ministry and request a solution to this perennial problem – meeting the salary and other obligations to the Cocopa workers.

That, of course, does not give the Cocopa workers any legitimacy to do what they did blocking the highway to the southeast. What have the southeasterners to do with this problem? Nothing! So, why should they be the victims? That is patently unfair and unjust.

And while we empathize with the workers—their children are not in school and their health benefits are not forthcoming—we think the Cocopa workers should refrain from displaced anger against people in the country’s whole southeast, who have nothing to do with this problem.

So, Senator Johnson, Superintendent Zuagele, these are your people. You, too, are responsible to ensure that every Nimbaian obeys the law, keeps the peace and behaves in an orderly and peaceable manner, for Nimba’s own peace and that of the entire country.

The broader, even larger issue, of course, is what to do with Cocopa. Clearly, the government, which has serious management problems of its own, has failed to manage Cocopa properly. This has been worsened by the dramatic slump in the world price of rubber. But remember that a few years ago, the rubber price was over US$2,000 per metric ton. Did the Cocopa management put away something for a rainy day? Why did not the management invest in cocoa, which also grows well in Nimba?

We urge the GOL to seek a long-term solution by diligently finding a buyer who can properly manage Cocopa and return it to stability and profit.

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