By Julius T. Jaesen II
Managing Editor/Democracy Watch
It is not with any great dismay that the Democracy Watch read the cooked-up lies and gibberish spewed out recently in two local newspapers in Monrovia concerning access to the Tokadeh-Buchanan railway corridor. The Democracy Watch can recall over the last two months or more, a few hired media outlets backed by some parties interested in the usage and access of the railway have been on a propaganda stunt with the wilful intent of forestalling the passage of the third wave of the Mineral Development Agreement negotiated and signed between the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal-Liberia – alleging that the agreement before the Legislature gives exclusive and the monopolistic rights to AML thus disallowing others the access to the port and rail.
Democracy Watch wants to emphatically state that such dangerous lies spewed out in media reports are far from the verifiable truth as the extended MDA being ratified by the Legislature doesn’t give any exclusive rights or monopoly whatsoever to AML on the access and usage of the railway contrary to the lies being circulated in media reports.
The extended agreement that has gone into ‘Conference Room’ at the Legislature which was opened for public scrutiny for several months, has in its provisions enshrined that provide for multi-user access to the rail and port infrastructures.
Copies of the amended Mineral Development Agreement in the possession of the Democracy Watch coupled with a few lawmakers and cabinet ministers we spoke with unanimously confirmed that the negotiated and signed MDA between GoL and AML unambiguously stipulated in Article 3 amongst other things, provides for multi-user access to the rail and port infrastructures.
The Democracy Watch wonders why some media institutions would just choose to publish and broadcast unsubstantiated information and outlandish lies in blatant disregard to the ethics jealously guarding the noble and sacred journalism profession. But disgustingly sad, such is the pandemic of disease rotting our society we got to confront if we must change our country for the better, and for generations to come after us.
However, one thing that is always unvarying or constant reality is that to ignore the fact doesn’t change the fact and the truth. Yes, no one can stop anyone from fighting tooth and nail to pervert the fact and the truth by wilfully and maliciously kicking against what the fact and the truth are by proffering vicious lies and deceptions for personal gain. The fact and the truth will always remain the fact and the truth. Nothing else can change them even if it takes mountains of cooked-up lies, propaganda, deceits, schemes, manipulations, and poison to wilfully vilify and contaminate the fact and the truth. The fact and the truth will always and at all-time even if they are crushed to the ground, remain the fact and the truth.
And what is the fact? It is yet instructive to note that the settled and yet uncontested fact is that ArcelorMittal, Liberia’s biggest investment partner, and taxpayer, that has so far invested US$500 million in the rehabilitation of the rail and port infrastructures and is intending to do a further investment of over US$200 million in rebuilding these infrastructures, has not been given any exclusive rights or monopoly on the usage and access of railway and port as media reports want Liberians to erroneously believe.
Article 3 of the amended MDA states clearly, “Subject to the rights of the Concessionaire and provided in the Agreement, the Government may, at any time during the Term and Extended Term of this Agreement, authorize the Concessionaire and one or more Users to further expand the Railroad capacity for their own respective needs, subject to subparagraph below and by the Railroad System Operating Principles; it is being understood that all users, including the Concessionaire in its capacity as a user, will be responsible for providing and driving their respective trains for haulage of products, which trains will transit on the Railroad under the control and supervision of the Railroad Operation, by the Railroad System Operating Principles and the relevant provisions of the MDA when it becomes effective.
So, you see. The Government of Liberia still has the exclusive authority and has not lost it to AML in determining who uses and accesses the rail and port far from the outlandish lies reported in two local dailies recently that the third amendment gives AML monopoly.
Recently, speaking on state radio, Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, vehemently dispelled these dangerous lies and informed our citizens that our government remains in charge of the railway and all other state assets. Also, the minister cautioned the public to not give any due currency to criticism against the third wave of amendment of the Mineral Development Agreement as it is in the best interest of our country, especially our unemployed youth.
The third amended MDA that is in the conference room at the Legislature when finally ratified amongst other things, will allow ArcelorMittal to expand its investment portfolio in Liberia by an additional US$800 million. This agreement when ratified, will provide over 2,000 new jobs for the country’s idled youth and boost economic development in buttress to the close to 3,000 jobs already provided by AML over the 15 years since its operation in Liberia. This may not be what detractors want to hear but this is what the public knows to be the substantiated fact.
We implore our honorable men and women on Capitol Hill to do the needful by ensuring that our country doesn’t lose its biggest capital gain investment since the administration of this government headed by Ambassador George Manneh Weah. We are convinced that AML’s US$800 million expansion project will go long way in contributing immensely to the government’s job creation efforts and help to improve the overall economic conditions of our country.
It would be patriotically disingenuous to stand in the way of foreign direct investments which is tantamount to stopping the creation of jobs which amongst other things, is the most obvious advantage or reason why developing countries like Liberia will attract foreign direct investment.
The US Department of States in its 2020 report affirmed this indisputable fact that for Liberia to fulfill its development goals and potential, it would require considerable foreign direct investments.
The Department of States report whilst saying what our country requires to boost economic development and create job opportunities for its vexing youth population, also laments that low human capital development is an impediment constraining investment and development. To buttress the Government of Liberia’s efforts to address this barrier inhibiting investment and development raised in the Department of States report, ArcelorMittal-Liberia, has been and continues to provide the quality of technical skills and education needed by the job market to Liberian citizens. The company has constructed the Science College of the Nimba Community College and paid 50,000 per annum in support of the Science College in Nimba.
Also addressing the technical gap in the labor market, AML reopened the Yekepa Vocational and Technical College in 2017 and has so far spent over US$7 million to refurbish a state-of-the-art training facility. Enrolment at the college has surged to 159 students and graduated the first batch of 45 students in 2021.
Besides, ArcelorMittal, the largest foreign investment company in post-war Liberia, has disbursed over $1.7 million to support its scholarship program that has so far sent 29 Liberian students to seek advanced education oversea.
In Liberia’s post-war reconstruction, no other investment company has contributed so significantly to education, and other sectors of our economy like ArcelorMittal Liberia has done over a decade-plus.
In conclusion, we urge media institutions in their service and duty to our country and its people to verify information reaching their newsrooms from people with vested interests counterproductive to the good of our country’s progress in the mining sector and other critical sectors of our economy before publishing in their newspapers or broadcasting on the radio stations.