-Want Communities Defend Human Rights within Rubber Concessions
Green Advocates International (GAI), Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), Natural Resource Women Platform (NRWP) recently launched the Community Advocacy for Land and Livelihood Support (CALLS) project.
Launched under the theme: “Communities Defend human rights within rubber concession’ , the project will be implemented in Margibi, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties working with communities in defending human rights on rubber plantations.
The project will help to improve social cohesion among aggrieved communities looking at tricks of companies to divide communities, promote stronger community leadership and do SWOT Analysis.
It is also aimed at promoting community engagement practices on non-violent approach, enhance collective advocacy with communities; recruit new members in unity and one voice and improved supportive environment for community-based human rights by identifying key stakeholders with completing interest defenders.
The project will also promote small-scale community-based livelihood initiative; improved livelihood for community, small enterprises for economic empowerments.
The concerned rubber plantations include Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC) and the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC). The three years project is implemented by Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), along with Green Advocates International (GAI), and the Natural Resource Women Platform (NRWP) and is funded by Bread for All (BFA), church-based organization in Switzerland.
Launching the project in Monrovia Friday, the Head of Programs at Green Advocates International, Francis K. Colee reminded concessionaires and others that human rights advocates are not enemies, but working for the good of society. Colee also said human rights defenders are also involved in amplifying the voices of the communities and residents.
“We sit and do background investigations. We at Green Advocates work with stakeholders, communities and companies. We represent the communities because they are our clients. We work with government, communities and companies because we strive for a win-win situation where companies invest to make profits,” Colee said.
The Green Advocates International Head of Programs also said “We are not enemies to government or companies.”
Also speaking at the launch of the project, the Chairman of the Yeabamah National Congress for Human Rights, a community based advocacy group at Salala Rubber Corporation in Margibi and Bong Counties accused the company of considering human rights defenders as enemies.
Abraham Kamara alleged that they don’t travel freely and they are pointed accusing fingers at every day. Kamara also said they are ill-treated on a daily basis, calling on President George Weah and others to intervene.
“We Human Rights Defenders are ill-treated by the Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC), but our partners, Green Advocates International, ARD and others are doing very well for us. SRC sees us as enemies and we don’t move freely, they point accusing fingers at us every day. We want President George Weah to join GAI and international partners to deliver us from slavery at SRC. They are ill-treating us and saying they gave our government money,” he said.
Kamara further said “We want SRC to respect us human rights defenders. We are ready to go to court and die for our rights.”
Responding to Kamara, a representative of Salala Rubber Corporation said he understands the expression of Kamara.
Jallah Mensah said he is in empathy with them, but said they have made significant gains as a company in communities and others they are working with.
Mensah said “We have engaged our communities very well. We are incorporating outsiders in our school system allowing them to pay minimum fees.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of Ablojay in Grand Bassa County and Liberia Agricultural Company Project Affected Communities said they have not been tempered with as reported by his colleagues from Margibi County.
Nathaniel Monway however said the company needs to do more for the communities. Monway said “GAI, ARD and others have opened our eyes on the importance of land as community people. We have not been tempered with, but we have not been given opportunity to work. We don’t talk about things that are not happening in our area. We want the company to work with us.”
Meanwhile, the Human Resource and Administrative Manager of the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC), Harry Attoh said they have engaged the various communities positively.
Attoh further assured that they will remain engaged with the communities. “We are very keen in working with the communities and we have a very good relationship with them. If the communities are satisfied, there will be no third party. Now, the communities are selecting their own projects.”
Speaking at the launch of the project, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister for Operations, R. Matenokay Tingban commended GAI, ARD and others for the project for working with the local communities and the companies.
As ministry working with local communities as well, Deputy Minister Tingban said the Ministry of Internal Affairs will work with organizations working to improve the livelihoods of the rural communities and citizens in the country.