How Long Will Rubber Plantation Dwellers Live And Work In Fear?


By Gbe Sneh


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 16, 2006


Peace in Liberia is being portrayed as “fragile”. But, for the already traumatized citizens that live and work on the rubber plantations, peace is beyond fragile. It is broken. Just what will it take for these plantation workers and their families and relatives to have peace? As if it is not enough to grapple with slave wages, poor living conditions, and a polluted environment, they are now weary of terror by hooligans.

Guthrie is now a synonym for “Terror”. In the government-admitted, neglected Southeast, Cavalla is now another name for “No Man’s Land”. Sinoe Rubber Plantation is a fiefdom ruled by King Paulson Gartey, an ex-combatant omnipotent.

What is the 17,000 strong UNMIL plus the Liberian National Police and the National Security Agency doing about this? Why are command posts not being set up in these troubled regions? Is it not a common practice in security enforcement that troubled spots receive fair concentration of forces?

We once talked about jobs neglected, making this article a reminder to the Ministry of Justice. Plantation terrorism is not today’s baby; it has existed since the start of the civil wars; it is older than UNMIL. But that does not mean it should be treated with the respect it now enjoys! Ridding the rubber plantations of occupation and terror is a job neglected much too long.

The Liberian National Police, backed by the Justice Ministry and UNMIL, recently conducted Operation Squatters Removal: Monrovia. “Si Dweh bele; bele Dweh Tai.”
That’s Kru for “You nah able Pape Elephant; but you able Baby Elephant.” The real squatters that are committing crimes are on the rubber plantations. So, let’s do another operation - Operation Squatters Removal: Rubber Plantations.

If UNMIL, along with the LNP, can convince us of a scarcity of forces to back an excuse for not setting up temporary command posts in or around the plantations, all should not be lost in tackling this problem. There is an option available to handle the situation. This entails assessing the crime chain. In doing so, we find that what we are dealing with is an illegal trade in rubber - criminals tap rubber trees illegally and collect the latex for sale; they also commandeer buckets of latex from plantation workers and sell same, endangering workers’ lives and robbing them of their daily sweat and bread.

Would it be that difficult to break this illegal trading chain by focusing on the co-conspirators that are purchasing stolen rubber? Who are these buyers of stolen goods anyway? How many security personnel would it take to place surveillance on this black market? In short, take away the market, and there is a very good chance the sellers would have second thoughts of amassing ill-gotten rubber for which there is no buyer.
With cell phones all over the place (don‘t ask how the minutes are paid for, plenty people have them), why not set up whistleblower rewards to aid the process?

It must be a sense of urgency with which we tackle this lawlessness that pervades the rubber plantations. The foremost reason is to liberate segments of the population yearning to be free; it’s been a while now since we declared “the war is over.” Secondly, it is a heavy block to our pressing need to have UN Sanctions lifted. Making strides to become Kimberley certified alone will not sell our case to have sanctions lifted. Coupling that with a show of blanket security over the entire nation, a clearly spelled out precondition set by the UN Security Council, is what it will take.

As long as Human Rights Groups continue to publish findings of rights violations, there is a good chance that our reconstruction efforts will be stymied. Jobs to be created by having sanctions lifted would be on hold. With so much agitation swirling around “right-sizing” and “down-sizing“, that’s not what we want.

At this stage, when “reconciliation” is a buzz word, how attainable is it for rubber plantation dwellers, when hooligans are bent on perpetuating antagonism, via terror, all over the plantations? What these criminals are doing is adding more to be reconciled. Very counterproductive! What is baffling is that these criminals are getting away with it, being very bold about it, while the people continue to feel hapless and live in fear. Our quest is not for selective peace and reconciliation to take hold is special regions, with Monrovia as top beneficiary. What we all want is blanket peace and reconciliation, which must include every village, small town, and county.

The national cost due to failure to solve this problem is much too high - PEACE deferred for some, JOBS on hold for many, and an UNFAVORABLE Travel Advisory that would make Liberia “Closed For Business”. On account of this last consequence, let’s call upon all those who took exception to the recent US Travel Advisory on Liberia (a seriously negative one) to make real their rebuttal, by leading the way to let GOL know that there is an ugly price to pay for going slow on lawlessness. Let’s not instead pass the child, if the child has not made the grade. GOL must act NOW.

© 2006 by The Perspective

To Submit article for publication, go to the following URL: