Former President Weah only reinforced the Moratorium placed on Unprocessed Rubber by Former President Sirleaf

By Bedell Willie Bokasa

The politics surrounding the moratorium placed on unprocessed natural rubber by some individuals that former president Weah issued an Executive Order No. 124 to protect Indian Businessman Jeety is far from the truth. It is important for people to understand that government is an institution of continuity.

Liberia has a long history of rubber as one of its natural resources dating as far back in 1926 with the establishment of the American owned Rubber company known as the Firestone Rubber Plantation.

Unarguably, rubber has been one of the major sources of Liberia revenue income, with the sector serving as one of the job markets for many Liberians. Sadly so, for 98 years of existence as a rubber producing country and finding itself in the 16th place among the world rubber producing countries, Liberia has not been able to produce any tangible thing made from rubber in Liberia.

Although, there has been unease tension surrounding the working, and purchasing conditions as well as the agreements signed between the Liberian state and rubber companies, but it is worth noting the progress the government of Liberia has made since 2008 to transition from just producing and exporting the unprocessed rubber, to placing a ban on unprocessed rubber for the sole intent of encouraging the production of rubber materials in Liberia.

Why the ban on unprocessed natural rubber?

On November 10, 2008, President Sirleaf considering the economic role that the rubber sector plays in the economy of Liberia, issued an Executive Order No. 16 with the sole intention of taking concrete action to curtail the decline in the Liberian rubber industry. It is noted in the Executive Order that: Accordingly, the Executive Order was intended to eliminate what the government called “the misuse of government resources and all other corrupt practices”. The Order noted that the rubber industry was part of the state economic, providing the highest single source of annual revenue for the government and at the same time providing more employment opportunity for Liberians in the country. “NOW, THEREFORE, with the intention of taking immediate steps to curb the decline in the Liberian rubber industry until appropriate policies and frameworks can be put in place to improve the situation of the rubber industry in the longer term in order to ensure redevelopment, new development, increased production, increased job opportunities and increased revenue to government, it is hereby ordered as follows.” The Order stated.

Section 1 of the Order also states: “That from the date of this Order, there shall be no exportation of unprocessed natural rubber from Liberia until otherwise advised. Unprocessed natural rubber shall be defined as the raw material tapped from rubber trees, not having gone through any processing to change its physical or chemical composition; or natural latex, coagulum, cup lump, tree lace, bark scrap, ground scrap and any other form of unprocessed or processed natural rubber (including concentrated latex and dry rubber produced or derived from the latex produced by rubber trees. For purposes of this Executive Order, “processed rubber” shall mean latex concentrate, technically specified rubber (“TSR”) and other dry rubber or grades of rubber that are generally considered to be processed rubber by the natural rubber industry worldwide.”

In the exercise of the Executive power vested in the President by the constitution of Liberia, President Sirleaf on April 28, 2014, issued another Executive Order No. 60 to replace Executive Order No. 16 and 50 banning the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber from the country. Hence, as a matter of reinforcing the Executive Orders No 16, 50, and 60 issued by former President Sirleaf, the government of Liberia under President George Manneh Weah, in 2023 issued an Executive Order No. 124 banning the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber due to the gross abuse, absolute misuse, and rampant stealing of unprocessed natural rubber, and the subsequent exportation of it with no benefit to government and people of Liberia.

When the need was becoming so overwhelming for Liberia as one of the oldest rubbers producing countries to transform its rubber sector, it took a long-lasting consultative trend with actors involved to arrive at the decision of banning the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber.

It was a hard decision, but the government was under obligation to have placed the ban on unprocessed natural rubber in the interest of the state and most of the people, to safeguard the rubber industry, change the narratives of Liberia’s rubber history of producing rubber and can’t produce even “rubber plate, rubber ban, or tires in the country.”

The Executive Order No. 124 banning the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber states that “From the date of this Executive Order, there shall be no exportation of unprocessed natural rubber from Liberia until otherwise advised,” the executive order declared. “Unprocessed natural rubber shall be defined as the raw material tapped from rubber trees, not having gone through any processing to change its physical or chemical composition; or natural latex, coagulum, cup lump, tree lace, bark scrap, ground scrap, and any other form of unprocessed or processed natural rubber (including concentrated latex and dry rubber produced or derived from the latex produced by rubber trees).”

To ensure that Liberians in rural area and all small farm holders have full access to the rubber market, the Executive Order further states “That within 30 days of the issuance of this Executive Order, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, shall make a special effort to provide access to domestic markets for Liberian rubber farmers in remote areas who rely primarily on cross-border trade in unprocessed natural rubber,”

As a matter of alleviating theft in the rubber sector, it is also clear within the Executive Order: “That transporting or moving unprocessed natural rubber outside of rubber plantations between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. shall be prohibited. Individuals found transporting or moving unprocessed natural rubber during those hours shall be stopped by the plant protection force or law enforcement authorities. Any person found to be in violation of this Executive Order shall be prosecuted by the Ministry of Justice.”

The Rubber Development Fund (RDF), and the Small Farm Holders Association have since welcomed the ban on the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber by the Liberian government.

In keeping with the doctrine of “government of continuity” former President George M. Weah issued an Executive Order No. 124 banning the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber due to the same reason as outlined in Executive Order No. 16, 50 and 60 issued by former President Sirleaf. It is therefore comical, for people who can do research, or for the hate they have for President Weah to always associate him banning the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber for the sake of Jeety.

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