Rivercess Citizens Resolve Concession Dispute
The long running dispute between citizens and a logging company operating in Rivercess County was amicably resolved last week following the intervention and mediation of the Liberia Timber Association (LibTA).
The logging Company known as EJ&J Investment which operating area covers sixteen towns in Kploh District including Zannmie town has been faced with citizens protests including setting up road blocks and agitations in its concession area for what the citizens including local traditional chiefs described as breached of an MOU signed between them and the company.
In a drive to ameliorate the lingering tension and find a lasting resolution between the two groups, a delegation of the Liberia Timber Association (LibTA) accompanied by one of its international partners, Nature and Development Foundation (NDF) paid a three-day working visit to Zannmie Town, Kploh District, Rivercess County and initiated discussions that led to the resolution of the dispute.
Using the Alternative Dispute Resolution method /manual developed by LibTA and partners to quell and settle disputes arising among logging concessions and locals in concessional areas, the LibTA team led by the association’s Head of Secretariat Mr. E. Ekema Witherspoon and Mr. Glan Asomaning of the Nature and Development Foundation (NDF) solicited views from both parties that led to agreement on several counts as measures to be implemented for the permanent settlement of the lingering conflict.
The EJ&J Company represented by its Managing Director Mr. Stanley G. Whilzer promised to construct eight hand pumps in communities hosting it concession by March 2022. The Company also agreed that other pivotal issues the citizens and elders have raised including the construction of toilets; employment of youth and housing facilities will be subsequently addressed following the setting up of the hand pumps.
The overture by the Company was graciously welcomed and accepted by the citizens’ spokesman Samuel Yancy , elders and traditional leaders as Mr. Witherpoon of LibTA and Mr. Asomaning, a Ghanaian representing NDL lauded the parties for the peaceful dialogue that led to the settlement of the prolong dispute.
Speaking earlier during the discussions, the citizens and elders accused the EJ&J logging Company of breaching the MOU by failing to construct hand pumps, toilets, providing safe drinking water, no supply of medical drugs, no housing facilities and employment for youth from towns hosting its concession.
On the other hand, the Company blamed the citizens and elders for allowing people to do pit sawing in their concession; allowing other companies to do logging in their concession, people conducting massive mining activities, and occasional road blocks,
Prior to the holding of discussions for negotiated settlement on Tuesday, the LibTA and NDF mediation team held a one-day workshop to educate the Company representatives, citizens and elders in the concession area on the Alternative Dispute Resolution Manual which is now being used to mediate or intervene in conflicts to reduce or halt the preponderance cases of logging concessions being taken to court.