“Since the war finished in Liberia, that was the first day to see arms,” said Garamondeh Banwun. “We were afraid.” Banwun, like many people here, reports beatings handed out by police, some of whom – it is claimed – rode in EPO vehicles
While neighbouring Ivory Coast’s economy is the fifth fastest growing in the world, Liberia’s is forecast to shrink by 1.4% this year. The government’s annual budget is a paltry $570m. Beyond long-established rubber plantations and some iron ore mining, there is no industry to pull Liberia out of its slump. Palm oil’s meteoric rise meant plantations have been seen as a huge opportunity. Little wonder that successive governments granted vast concessions, equivalent to around 25% of the country’s land mass, to companies in the rubber, logging and palm oil trades.
James Otto represents the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), a non-governmental organisation explained, “Companies continue to knowingly rob communities of their land and forest resources to their disadvantage – posing serious threats to their livelihoods and living spaces.”