Exiled Democracy Movement Calls for Sanction on Liberian Timber
(Open letter to UN)
January 16, 2002
President and members of the UN Security Council
The United Nations
New Your, NY
January 15, 2002
Dear Mr. President:
First, permit me to briefly introduce our organization to you and your august body. The Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia (MDCL) is a nonprofit independent political movement dedicated to achieving nonviolent democratic change in Liberia. The movement is committed to the building of democratic institutions in Liberia and ensuring transition to a democratic way of life. It was founded to:
a) Serve as a unifying forum for the formulation of appropriate policy consensus on:
1) Political stability in Liberia
2) Economic and social growth in Liberia
3) Peace and stability in the West African sub-region
b) Serve as an instrument to discourage the use of military force or any undemocratic exercise of power as a means of bringing about meaningful democratic change in Liberia;
c) Collaborate with foreign governments, international organizations, and Liberian political parties, including civic organizations, to bring about lasting democratic change in Liberia;
d) Liaise and cooperate with all like-minded, democratic, progressive organizations, in pursuit of democratic empowerment and accountable programs;
e) Encourage the promotion of peace and good will between Liberia and its neighbors and the international community; and
f) To encourage the development and implementation of proactive programs that facilitate the practice of the rule of law, democracy and good governance.
The second reason for this letter is to officially register our unflinching support for the imposition of timber and/or logging sanctions against the Charles Taylor government. Scientists and “good common sense” tell us that, rainfall or the lack thereof, erosion, heat or drought, or any imbalance of the ecosphere, affects everyone and every living thing. (Global warming comes to mind!) Certainly, there are unique relationships between heavy rainfalls or inadequate rains and the rainforests on the one hand, and man’s reckless use of the rainforests on the other. In the case of Liberia, the blatant and rapid destruction of our once virgin rainforests by President Charles Taylor and his international collaborators has produced, and is, causing an ecological disaster not only for Liberia, but the entire West African ecosystem.
The Liberian rainforests play a vital role not only in the West African region, but also in the continent’s ecological system. Liberia’s rainforests harbor large amounts of endemic flora and fauna such as the world’s endangered pygmy hippopotamus. It houses some 2,000 flowering plants, 125 mammals, 590 rare birds, 1,000 rare forest elephants, 74 rare reptiles and amphibians and over 1,000 insect species. Some of the 225 different species of trees identified are estimated to be between 300 to 900 years old. According to international conservationists and environmentalists, Liberia’s rainforests are the most seriously endangered in the entire Upper Guinea Rainforest, which includes the forests of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Togo and la Cote d’Ivoire due to massive, unregulated logging activities, . Global Witness, Greenpeace, Wildlife Fund, and several international entities estimate that logging has already destroyed 50% of Liberia’s rainforests, thereby creating negative implications for the entire West African region. These scientists, including UN’s own experts, predict that at the rate Liberia’s forests are being cut down by logging companies, the country could lose these rainforests within five to ten years. Concurring, Liberia’s own Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Roland Massaquoi, admitted to Global Witness in April 2000, that, “…it is evident that most of the country’s natural rainforests [have] been depleted without reforestation…if Liberians are not careful about the effective utilization of the forest reserves, the nation would face drought in the next 15 years.” In a May 21, 2001 Boston Globe interview, Liberia’s noted environmentalist and President of the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia, Mr. Alexander Peal, re-echoed President Taylor’s Minister of Agriculture, saying, “Ten years ago, we [Liberia] had a management plan - the national forest areas were clearly demarcated and patrolled by forest guards. Now, I don’t see that any more. We don’t even know if we’re on a national forest lands anymore. I think we’ve lost them already.”
Clearly, as you can deduce from these international expert analyses, another sanction is desperately needed in order to "put the brakes" on Mr. Taylor’ recklessness in managing the country’s depletable resources. Consequently, it is our fervent hope that you will carefully digest the content of the enclosed document, including those that have already been submitted by our partners (Global Witness, Greenpeace, etc.) and honor our request to place verifiable sanctions on the Taylor Government and his collaborators, on the timber industry, to drastically curtail or completely stop the outright destruction of this depletable commodity until an internationally acceptable method and reclamation programs are found and put in place.
We know that the Secretary General Kofi Annan had argued that new sanctions would hurt only the poor in Liberia where about 80% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. He went on to say that sanctions on the timber industry in Liberia would hurt the total of 95,000 Liberians. I will argue that the number is just a drop in a bucket compared to the more than 2.5 million Liberians and the future generations of Liberians, as well as the entire West African Region who will be hurt by the depletion of our forest resulting in drought and/or desertification. The fact is that the poor people of Liberia are not benefiting today, in any significant way, from the resources derived from the export of timber. In addition to aid from various NGOs, Liberians in the United States are, and have been, the lifelines for the poor in Liberia. Liberian expatriates send tens of thousands of dollars to our suffering masses every month while Mr. Taylor uses our natural resources to wage war on West Africa, enrich himself, torture, and frighten the people of Liberia and its neighboring countries. The question is, what social services is Mr. Taylor’s government providing for the people of Liberia from the proceeds of the timber industry? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? The answer is NO. Quite to the contrary the costs, by far, outweigh the benefits.
Working in concert with our national and international partners, MDCL would like to meet with you and/or your designees to help ensure that Liberia’s resources are responsibly extracted and accountably used for their intended purposes - national development, including social, economic, and educational services for the citizenry.
Nohn R. Kidau
Nohn Rebecca Kidau
One West Lake Street, Suite 402. Minneapolis, MN 55408. Tel. (612) 822-2214
CC: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Nations and Organizations of the International Community
National and International press.