Citizens, Local Workers In Fuamah Decry Dreadful Conditions By: Yassah J. Wright

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China Union continues to remain irritable with living up to its social contract stipulated in its 25 years Mineral Development Agreement, as citizens of Fuamah District in Bong County, are now considering staging a protest action at the Chinese Embassy, to draw the Chinese government’s attention to the breach in social contracts by one of their companies operating in Liberia. China’s union is said to be not moved by the several calls over the years to improve on its social contract with citizens as well as some of its promises made in an agreement with citizens. The company in 2009 signed a 25 years MDA with the government of Liberia, which came into full swing in 2010, under which it was expected to build modern housing units for its local workers, a hospital, a school, a safe drinking water facility, toilet, pave the main road from Kakata to Hinde area and a dam along the St. Paul River. For 13 years now, locals have continued to complain about the company showing no interest despite consistent pressure from citizens to do so. In 2014, then-student leaders of the Student Unification Party, Foday Fahnbulleh and Prince Momolu Kabah were sent to jail for almost two days, as a result of their revolt against the China Union’s poor social development responsibility. The student leaders set roadblocks along the main road leading to Bong Mines, demanding the company address the concerns of citizens, especially the pavement of the deplorable road for which they were incarcerated. Now a Representative of the district, Bong County District Number Seven, where China Union Operates in the old Bong Mines area, Fahnbulleh is still firm on prevailing on China Union to take immediate action to address the social development needs of the locals. Fahnbulleh has raised concern over while concession which was expected to be reviewed every five years but in 13 years, that agreement is yet to be revisited, leaving residents of the district who were supposed to be beneficiaries to become scapegoats of the agreement. In the wake of the company’s refusal to live up to its commitment to locals, the long-time advocate against its operation, now Representative Fahnbulleh has prevailed on China Union to begin implementing some of its promises yet to be fulfilled. Fahnbulleh, while prevailing on the company’s management to review its agreement, has demanded China Union to with immediate effect, begin the pavement of the road from Kakata City, passing through Bong Mines to Hinde, in Bong County. A recent visit by In-Profile Daily Reporter confirmed that the company has already begun putting crushed rocks along the road that was recently in a deplorable state.

Fahnbulleh said that as much as the company has begun what he calls “partial rehabilitation” of the road, putting these rocks along the road is accordingly not satisfactory pledging his commitment to ensure that the road is paved. China Union has a 25-year Mineral Development Agreement with the government, which also takes into account the company’s social responsibility to locals in the surrounding area.  However, Representative Fahnbulleh noted that it was saddening for the company to operate for 13 years now without adhering to its social responsibility, leaving residents in the concession areas in an awful state. “You did your survey and saw the kind of houses the people live in, no good drinking water facility for our people who even work with them, no direct scholarship, even though I understand that it was through them the Bong Technica College came into being, but how many people from Fuamah are attending there. Because his district should be a direct beneficiary of educational support, people from here should attend the Bong Technical College Free,” Rep. Fahnbulleh pressed. “In as much as we are seated in our capacity as spokespersons for our community, we think we are in the best position to ensure that all of these things that should benefit our people come to reality.” He is perturbed that while China Union is yet to build a modern housing facility for its local workers, as stipulated in the MDA, leaving locals to continue dwelling in appalling conditions, while they have modern facilities up the mountain for their Chinese experts. Fahnbulleh further maintained that these missteps from China Union have prompted him to send a communication to the company’s management, which further requested 10 days for their head office in China to respond.  He said: “China Union has a document that speaks about building a 130-megawitspower plant along the St. Paul River, which is yet to be done, since the company’s operation in the district.” According to him, if the company had been taking action towards its social responsibility for the past 13 years now, they would have built that dam and that was going to be economically viable for the country and Liberia would have been selling current out of there. Representative Fahnbulleh further said the company has not been able to build a school in Fuamah, a clinic, a drinking water facility, a latrine facility, or a hospital since then. Fahnbulleh blamed the lack of will on others who have been leaders in the county since the company operation to monitor the operation of China Union for its attitude to not love up to isocaloric development responsibility “In as much as we are seated in our capacity as spokespersons for our community, we think we are in the best position to ensure that all of these things that should benefit our people come to reality,” he noted.  At the same time, Representative Fahnbulleh has expressed his commitment to ensuring that citizens of the district benefit from their social development benefits, as he has remained firm, since his student community days.  At the same time, some citizens who spoke our reporter in the district have expressed optimism that a lot will be achieved, owing to the pressure from their lawmakers on China Union. The citizens who spoke in separate statements told the reporter that it was saddening that the company would not take steps to implement some of its responsibilities, after 13 years of operation. They are also requesting their lawmaker to ensure that the company is terminated if they are unwilling to address some social responsibilities to give a chance to other potential companies to come in for operation.

They said no leader from the China Union has visited them to understand the condition of local workers, but the last leaders have always given them false hopes. Some local workers who prefer anonymity complained of poor latrine facilities, lack of safe drinking water at homes, no electricity, and a couple with dilapidated housing. They are appealing to Representative Fahnbulleh not to allow their living conditions to worsen, but to prevail on China Union to address them.

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