TLC Africa

 

Firestone tries to Rob Liberia Twice in One Century

Many Liberians had serious reservations with the existing 99-year Firestone/Liberia lease, how disappointing for Gyude Bryant and the NTGL to extend this lease for another 36 year! What are they thinking!

Commentary by Ciata Victor

In 1926, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Ohio, negotiated with the administration of President Charles Dunbar Burgess King (1920 - 1930), to acquire the land that is now known as Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia. To put it bluntly, the Firestone deal was nothing other then daylight robbery, by Harvey Firestone and Charles D. B. King, of approximately 4% of the entire landmass of the country of Liberia.

The deal gave Firestone one million acres of Liberia's rich tropical forest for 99 years, at the annual rate of six cents that is $0.06 per acre a year, for 99 years. In addition, any gold, diamonds, or other minerals discovered on the land would belong to Firestone.

The current 99-year contract with Firestone, which expires in 2026, translates into Firestone paying Liberia only $60,000.00 a year for 99 years, for the one million acres they lay claim to. In the 70 years that have since passed since the signing between Harvey Firestone and Charles D. B. King, Firestone has paid Liberia only $4.2 Million total, while in 1943 alone, the company made $35 million from its Liberia operations.

The last 3 generations of Liberians have been, and continues to be bothered by the Firestone / King deal, knowing that the deal was not beneficial to Liberia, but was signed unscrupulously with Firestone, to enriched through bribes and kickbacks, those who had a say in the signing.

This added extension of 36 years to this travesty against the Liberian people, is even more troubling, because it is not the mandate of the Transitional government to extend current leases or to sign new leases on land and territories in Liberia.

If the NTGL needs to be reminded about the mandate given to them by the 2003 CPA, I am only too happy to remind them. In February 2004, during NTGL Chairman, Gyude Bryant visit to the US he stated this about his and the NTGL's mandate and I quote, "The peace conference in Accra established the NTGL and this is it's mandate.

1. To disarm the combatants
2. To rehabilitate them into their communities and with their families
3. To bring back home all refugees and ensure that internally displaced persons go back to where they normally live.
4. To ensure that Liberia becomes gun free, so that there will be no intimidation, extortion, and harassment through the barrel of the gun, so that come October 2005 people can vote their consciences and have a government of the people.

It is one thing to honor an existing contract, but to extend this rouge document with Firestone, which if Liberia patiently waits, ends in only 21 years, is insulting to every Liberia in this and future generations.

Firestone and the corrupt, incompetent, greedy, National Transitional Government of Liberia officials that signed this new extension will hear our protest loudly, starting on this very day of the signing of the extension.

We will prepare to challenge the legality of this extension in both Liberia and US courts. We are saying that we will not stand by quietly, while Firestone robs Liberia, twice in one century. The NTGL may not care about what is in the best interest of Liberia, but the children of the last 3 generations, who have questioned, debated and argued Liberia's 1926 agreement with Firestone, will protest this extension in this administration, the next administration and beyond, if that is what is required.

We will argue this valid and legal point, that the extension granted today February 22, 2005, to Firestone on the Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia is not legal, it was signed by a transitional government, which does not have the authority to sign leases on government owned anything, in the Republic of Liberia.

If Firestone wants to extend it's lease in Liberia, I suggest that Liberia insist the current contract be terminated and a new one negotiated. This time Liberia will upgrade the six cents an acre a year, to include the complete funding of a Hydroelectric dam, to be completed in Liberia within the next 9 years. Not only should it be large enough to provide power to every square mile of Liberia, but also be able to provide electric power to areas beyond Liberia's borders with Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. It should also include a provision that Firestone build three top notch institutions in the Harbel, Bassa area. A modern, fully equipped, top rate medical facility, an elementary, high school complex, and a modern Agriculture College, fully equipped with labs, computers, chairs, desk, libraries and books. This recommended deal would not only benefit the people of Bassa directly, but also every Liberian who can afford to pay for electricity. These projects would go much further in aiding the government efforts to revive the economy, by creating new and lasting jobs, new prospects and opportunities for the people of Bassa, Liberia and it's neighbors, and unlike the 1926 deal, the funding of these projects will not be in the form of a loan to Liberia, but rather, fair and reasonable payment by Firestone for use and royalties, on the Land and the minerals it produces.

Lastly, I am curious to know the opinion of presidential candidate Varney Sherman, on the NTGL extension of Liberia's lease with Firestone. My curosity arise out of the fact that Mr. Sherman is a legal scholar who is not only close to the grounds in Monrovia, but also former advisor to Chairman Gyude Bryant .

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Ciata Victor is webmaster of The Liberian Connection - Africa (TLCAfrica.com) web site.