Liberian President Promises to Stop British Company “Taking” Community Land

NGOs welcomed the Liberian President’s statement on the land dispute between local communities in Grand Bassa and British palm oil company Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO).

 

Global Witness and Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU) welcomed the commitment by the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to make any expansion by the British palm oil company Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) onto Jogbahn Clan land dependent on the approval of the communities affected.
 
EPO has been accused by the communities of taking their land and clearing it without their consent. In September 2013, community members were reportedly beaten and detained by EPO security staff. The company denied that it acted without community consultation or outside Liberian law. The commitment by the President marks a significant victory in the battle for customary land rights to be respected.
Natalie Ashworth from Global Witness said, “While Liberia desperately needs investment it cannot afford to do business with companies which trample over vulnerable people. By this decision, the President has shown that she intends to put her people first.”
 
British company, EPO, has two palm oil concessions in Liberia covering a total of 89,000 hectares. The company took steps in late 2012 and throughout 2013 to expand its operations in Grand Bassa County onto land customarily held by the Jogbahn community.
 
The expansion of the company’s operations would have destroyed the forests, farms and wetlands upon which the Jogbahn people rely for their livelihoods and food. Communities reported to Global Witness that over the course of 2013 they were subjected to increasingly severe intimidation by EPO security staff. The intimidation escalated in September 2013 when 17 community members were reportedly beaten and arrested by EPO security staff and officers from the elite Liberian Police Support Unit (PSU).
In a letter to Global Witness the company stated that “they were not involved” in the incident and they “never instructed or directed any of its staff or PSU officer to intimidate Jogbahn community members... at any time.”


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