Demonstration Marks Chairman Bryant's Visit to Buchanan



By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 7, 2004


The usual rousing welcome ceremony marked by traditional dances, powerful speeches, songs, presentation of gifts and kola nuts to a head of state in appreciation of the leader visit turned the other way on 4 September as hundreds of the inhabitants of the Port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa county, staged a peaceful demonstration in manifestation of their dejection to the visit of Charmin Charles Gyude Bryant, head of the power sharing government of Liberia, to the county.

Hundreds of Buchanann inhabitants who came out from the various sectors of the areas, displayed placards and banners bearing anti-Bryant slogans, with some of them reading - "we want our share of the iron ore deal, Bryant is a failure," while others read "you disappoints us". The situation continued up to the departure of the Liberian leader from the Buchanann, 95 miles south of Monrovia.

The demonstration started at the entrance of the Port city when dozens of luxurious vehicles in Chairman Bryant's convey started to arrive to the disappointment of the residents who are frustrated over the head of state's lack of action in addressing their livelihood and the development of the county.

First to protest the chairman visit was a group of petit scrap dealers who demonstrated to show their displeasure over the alleged failure of the government to create jobs for them. The protest started at the LAMCO Iron Ore plant where Chairman Bryant made his first assessment stop over. The plant is in total ruin.

Besides, the Iron Ore deal, some of the angry residents explained that they were also protesting the appointment of Mr. Robert Vonyegar as Superintendent of the county, accusing the chairman of appointing members of his Liberian Action party (LAP) to key government positions.

Recently, the people of the county denounced and rejected Mr. Vonyegar's appointment and called on the chairman to reconsider the decision but the appointment remains unchanged. Similar situation is happening in other counties, with the inhabitants of these counties opposing chairman Bryant appointing superintendents without their involvement.

The "cold shoulder" given Chairman Bryant and entourage extended to worship places and conference centers in the county, as the thanksgiving service attracted less number of persons. The service took place at the St. John Episcopal Church in central Buchanann.

From the service, Chairman Bryant proceeded to the Fair Ground where a brief occasion to welcome him was held amidst protest. This was Chairman Bryant's first visit since his inauguration in October 2003.

During the occasion, the citizens did not hide their frustration and dissatisfaction as they were explosive in their presentation and remarks but Chairman Bryant managed to calm down the situation by being diplomatic in his response. He also made some donations to the internally displaced centers and hospital - 50 bags of rice and L$200,000.00, respectively. Meanwhile, on August 28 about 5:00am a Chinese commercial vessel-Kang shun, loaded with stockpile of 50,000 tons of iron ore, fled the Port of Buchanan despite of "Stay Order" reportedly issued on the vessel and the appropriate government agencies by the Supreme Court of Liberia.

The Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy and a top Lebanese businessman-George E. Haddad as well as the ministries of Justice, Planning, labor and finance are said to be at the center of the Iron Ore deal, authorizing the sale of the iron ore from the port city.

The stay order by the Supreme Court was followed by a prohibition by 20 civil and human rights groups to halt the shipment of the iron ore but the ship fled the country to unknown destination with the stockpile of the iron ore. The Liberian Mining company LIMCO) is also party to the deal.

The Minister of Lands, Minis, and Energy, Jonathan Mason recently told a news conference in Monrovia that the deal worth US$500,000.00. Some reports say the amount isUS$1.9 million while others put it as high as US$10,000,000.00. The deal took place without reference to the people of Grand Bassa County. This means that the people of the county will not benefit from the proceeds from the sale of the iron ore.

The Supreme court is citing the heads of the Ministries of Justice, finance, Planning, Labor and lands, Mines and Energy as well as National Port Authority and LIMCO to a conference on today September 7, 2004, to give reasons for the shipment of the iron ore despite the stay order issued by the nation's highest court.

The iron ore deal has taken major headlines in the local dailies in Monrovia except for one local independent newspaper which seems to be dancing to the tone of the Justice Ministry after the Minister of Justice allegedly gave the paper's Managing editor US$300.00 as a token.