LIBERIA: GVL Assesses Damage Following Butaw Protest

Days after protesters stormed and vandalized the premises of Golden Veroleum Liberia; the company says it has commenced assessing damages at its Butaw farm site in Sinoe County. The company in a press release issued yesterday said the assessment would be completed in the coming days, renewing its commitment to local communities in Sinoe and Grand Kru.

“A team of technicians have been dispatched to Sinoe to assess the level of damages caused,” GVL Spokesman Stephen Binda said in a statement. In addition, the company said it has commenced discussions with the Sinoe and Grand Kru Legislative Caucuses, the Liberian National Police in a bid to resolve the matter. With the assessment, Binda said the company’s monthly payroll for employees would be conducted as usual. The company described the violence and looting as a great lose to both GVL and its Butaw community.

Binda said while it acknowledges the intervention of government into the matter, GVL has not been officially offered the use of the Sinoe County Development Fund. “It is not our intent to use the county development fund to repair damages,” Binda said. “We absolutely would not accept these funds for any repairs whatsoever, if we are asked to use these for damage repair, we would utilize the funds to the desires of the local Sinoe citizens and use directly for urgent county purposes, such as school, clinic and road building and repair. We will not under any circumstances use the county development fund for any damage repair. Our thought and belief is the county development funds are strictly for the people of Sinoe and not GVL.”

On Tuesday of last week, members of the Butaw Youth Association staged violent protests demanding an immediate meeting with a top GVL official. The company management requested to schedule the meeting for an appropriate time, as it was in the midst of a management coordination meeting at the time.

Entrances were later blocked, by the Butaw Youth, preventing vehicle and employee movement, while stones were thrown at managers and facilities. Several company vehicles were damaged, while others sustained body injuries and properties looted, thus causing dozens of GVL employees to flee into bush for safety.

The genesis of the complaint by the Butaw Youth stemmed from an ongoing boundary dispute between Butaw and the neighboring community of Murrysville. GVL indicated in a previously released statement that its corporate policy and international standards dictate that the companies not expand into areas with boundary disputes. “Due to the boundary dispute we do understand the frustration with the slow progress in Butaw,” said Binda. “We too have been frustrated by this, however, we have a very clear policy of not entering into disputed areas and this will not change.”

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