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8 Jan 2021

Gerald C. Koinyeneh, FrontPage Africa

Liberia: Green Advocates files lawsuit against Salala Rubber Corporation staff accused of attacks on community; violence followed community meeting re. IFC complaint against SRC for alleged land grab & other rights abuses

"Liberia: Salala Rubber Corporation Accused of Masterminding Violence against Affected Communities, Green Advocates", 8 January 2020

Aggrieved residents of affected communities have accused the Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC) in Margibi County of masterminding a wave of violent attacks against them and Green Advocates International (GAI).

The residents claimed that the latest attacks by the group, comprising current employees and contractors of the company have led some residents including local activists to flee the area for fear of their lives, while most of them who left behind are now living with fear.

... When contacted by a team of independent investigative reporters who visited the area recently, the Human Resource Manager of SRC, Jallah Mensah said he could not comment officially on the company’s matters because he was on vacation. “I cannot say anything about that because I am on vacation, and if I comment now, it means I am working,” he said.

... According to the residents, the violence erupted when the pro-company group disrupted series of meetings that were scheduled between them and staff of GAI -and its partners.

The meetings with several communities near the plantation were intended for GAI staff to provide updates on the status of a complaint filed with the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 2019 against SRC.

The Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) is investigating land grab, economic displacement and loss of livelihood, labor rights violation, gender-based violence and threats of reprisals and intimidation by SRC.

... FrontPage Africa has gathered that GAI has filed a lawsuit at the Weala Magisterial Court against alleged perpetrators of the violence against its staff. Several individuals have been arrested in connection to the incident and awaiting trial, while some are on the run.

... Established in 1959, SRC holds a concession of over 40,000 hectares in central Liberia.

The company merged with a rubber processing factory, Weala Rubber Company in 2007, with the merger retaining its name.

A year later, the new company received a US$10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to expand its plantation. The expansion was marred by the eviction of several towns and villages, the destruction of farms including private rubber farms and edible crops like eddoes and plantains.

There have been series of contentions over the failure to pay compensation for damaged crops and the lack of farmlands for local communities to cultivate ...

The longstanding land dispute in Margibi and neighboring Bong County, involving villagers and SRC led the 22 villages to file a complaint to the International Finance Corporation’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO).    

The IFC found the communities’ compliant eligible following an assessment mission here in June last year. The communities opted for a resolution to the dispute with the company—one of two options under the IFC’s complaint mechanism. However, SRC chose a compliance audit, the other option.