Liberia’s Land Commission Blasts NGO for “Lies”

The Acting Chairman of Land Commission, Mr. Walter Wisner, has described the Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI), an NGO operating in the country, as a lair, destructive and deceptive organization that does not mean well for the Liberian people.
He said SDI sends out falsified information and reports to its donors that have the propensity to harm the country, only to satisfy its greed and ego.
He spoke recently in Grand Cape Mount County’s Zodua Clan, where the SDI had earlier reported that Sime Darby, a Malaysian oil palm company, was engaged in land grabbing to effect its investments with the Liberian Government.
The LC officials made the claims during a festive ceremonies marking the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the people of Zodua Clan and the company which is investing in palm oil and rubber plantations in Western Liberia—covering Bomi, Gbarpolu and Cape Mount.
SDI chief Salias Siakor spoke to the BBC in London sometimes ago, alleging that Sime Darby grabbed land in Cape Mount, Including Zodua Clan, without any compensation to the locals. He is alleged to have told donors to block funds intended to help the government institute a land reform process, mainly under the auspices of the LC.
“There are some good NGO’s and some bad NGO’s in this country. Some of them are very destructive, while some of them are productive. One of those ones that are carrying out lies is the one they call Sustainable Development Initiative,” Wisner told a full town hall in Falie town where the signing ceremony was taking place. “They are bent on spreading lies. They rely on lies to get support from their donors,” the irritated-looking Commissioner said.
“Now,” he furthered, “their chopping in Zodua is over. They will not come to Zodua to tell lies. They spread lies that Sime Darby is grabbing land here. They only want to get money to build big mansions. Go to Robert Field high way and see the mansion Salias Siakor put up there. He got the money from donors, built the compound and turn around to lease the compound to SDI. They depend on lies to survive.”
At the mass gathering attended by government officials, civil society organizations, elders, chiefs and youth groups, on June 28, in Falie, Wisner said, the Land Commission was interested in working with NGOs in the country, but some of them were out for spreading lies to their international donors to get funding.
“You know this NGO they call SDI which is on the Robert Field High Way? They call it Sustainable Development Initiative. They always tell to their donors, false news just to get money. I tell them that today their chopping is over in Zodua. They will not come here to tell lies to their donors,” he said.
Mr. Wisner said, “We love to work with NGO, because some of them will guide us along the way, but others, they will just jump up to spread lies. One of them is SDI. He has a compound which he is renting to the NGO. Do you see, Green Advocate, the leader is a teacher. Alfred Brownell is a man who loves to guide people along the way. He pointed out some of the things which the Land Commission did not see in the contract.”
The people of Zodua signed an agreement which allowed the Malaysian oil palm company to develop 5,000 hectors of farm land.
Some of the residents said, “at least GA [Green Advocates] can understand at times in helping to guide. But as for SDI, they want for us to renegotiate the entire contract. This is not good. For us, we want people that will come to develop our land. This land has been here for many years and only farming we are doing,” Mr. Mohamad Kromah said.
Wisner added: “There are some good NGOS and some bad NGOs. We love to work with good ones. If the good ones continue to work with us, we all will make this country forward. But for SDI, they are not doing the right thing.”
The MOU signed by the locals and Sime Darby states that “the execution of this MOU is a pre-requisite for the demarcation and survey by the Ministry of Lands, Mines, & Energy of the proposed areas (minimum 5,000 ha, free of all encumbrances and with slope of no more than 20 degrees) agreed upon through a free prior and informed consent process involving the Concessionaire and Zodua Clan.”
The agreement further states that, “the Concessionaire considers fifteen (15) persons to serve as representatives of Zodua Clan and who will assist in land management process along with a nine (9) member (Elders) Advisory Board who will act on their behalf at all times.”

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Author: D K Sengbeh

Danicius Kaihenneh Sengbeh (author of Sengbeh's Weblog) is a respected and renowned Liberian journalist, poet and writer with with journalism experience since 2001, of working both as a mainstream journalist and a communication/media consultant in Liberia. He is Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia (elected Dec 2013). He was Assistant Secretary General of the Union Dec 2011 to Dec 2013. He is also Editor-In-Chief of The Informer Newspaper—one of Liberia’s credible dailies. Before joining the Informer, Danicius had served as reporter, chief reporter, sub-editor and News Editor at The Independent Newspaper between 2002 and 2006. Before then, he was reporter at the defunct Patriot Newspaper and Kiss FM 2001-2002. Danicius is a UN Media Fellow and Liberia’s first UN Medal Award-winning journalist for his contribution to journalism and for being the second Liberian journalist in 15 years to qualify for and successfully attended the United Nations’ Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalist Fellowship Program in New York and Geneva, Switzerland in 2012. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Mass Communication and Sociology from the University of Liberia and a Diploma in Journalism from the International School of Journalism. He holds several awards and recognitions both in and outside of journalism, and carries dozens of certificates in journalism and communication from studies in Ghana, China, United States and Switzerland, among others. He volunteers as Chair of the Information and Communication Committee of his local Bardnersville community. He can be quickly reached via (+231) 886586531/777586531/777464018/ dakasen1978@yahoo.com

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