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Friday, July 19, 2024

Victims in Billionaires War Over Liberia’s Riches

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Control over Liberia vital rail and Iron ore assets sits deep as Washington drops sanctions on Monrovia targeting key allies of outgoing President George Weah who is still recovering from defeat in tightly contested vote.

Latest United States sanctions affecting Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah is more about powerful Americans protecting their economic interest than any legitimate fight against corruption in Liberia, the Minister has suggested.

State Department barred Samuel Tweah and two Senators from entering the United Sates on Dec 11.

He  rejects United States accusation linking him to corrupt practices in the West African nation’s mining sector and offering of bribe to lawmakers to manipulate legislation.

Tweah said US officials acted on misleading information fuelled by American billionaire Robert Friedland’s High Power Exploration desire to gain access to Liberia’s vital rail corridor linking HPX Nimba Iron Ore project in Guinea to Liberia’s seaports.

“The verdict against us and our respective families is unbelievably unjust, unfair and a fundamental violation of our rights,” He said Thursday in a statement read to reporters in the capital Monrovia.

“I have never abused of my position through ‘soliciting, accepting and offering bribes to manipulate legislative processes and public funding, including legislative reporting and mining sector activities.”

“Specific reference to the mining sector confuses me but I believe this reference pertains to my involvement to developing a multi-user gateway through the third amendment of  Accelor Mittal’s current concession and and through granting rail access to HPX, an American company looking to transport rail from Guinea through Liberia.”

Tweah: As a Minister, my job is to provide approved resources to the National Legislature upon request subject to the availability of cash.

I have never influenced “legislative processes” whatever that implies.  Specific reference to the mining sector confuses me but

I believe this reference pertains to my involvement to developing a multi-user gateway through the third amendment of  Accelor Mittal’s current concession and and through granting rail access to HPX, an American company looking to transport rail from Guinea through Liberia.

I say so because about a year ago in Washington D.C. I received hint that persons connected with the American company, High Power Explorations Inc.,  (HPX)  were trying to get me on Treasury sanctions because I was allegedly or supposedly  “favoring AccelorMittal Limited (AML) over HPX and preventing HPX from accessing the rail to conduct its investment in Guinea through Liberia.”

My informant knew this was unjust and unfair, knowing the role I was playing on the Inter-ministerial Concessions Committee and understanding the difficulties and complexities of the negotiation.

I was also informed that persons closed to HPX were considering sanctions against me because the company had paid US$ 37 million to the Government of Liberia through the national budget since 2019 and was yet to have an agreement with the Government.

Legitimate monies received by the Government of Liberia for the development of Liberia through the national budget is never a bribe.

That an agreement has been difficult to reach because of complexity surrounding a pre-existing agreement is no reason to threaten government officials with sanction.

I am providing these explanations and contexts because these are chatters that have underpinned threats of sanction against me and my family from powerful individuals. It is important for the public to understand and know these things.

We have not discussed them publicly as a government but now have an obligation to do so under the current circumstances.

I was advised that to avoid sanction, I should withdraw my support for ArcelorMittal’s   third amendment until after the election.

It was on this basis that I advised President Weah to turn over negotiations on the rail to the U.S. Government since too much propaganda and misinformation were threatening to destroy members of his government.

The president obliged and the Americans for a brief moment tried to bring both HPX and A together to reach some understanding on the multi-user rail system. Meetings were held in London and Washington.

Unfortunately, these meetings did not achieve anything, and the Americans withdrew and turned negotiations back to the Government of Liberia.

The truth of the matter is that Accelor Mittal has an agreement with the Government of Liberia signed by the Unity Party Government that gives Mittal the right to use the Nimba rail and to be an operator of this rail.

In the Government’s vision to develop a multiuser rail system, we have tried to have Mittal relinquish operatorship of the rail to an Independent third-party rail operator for purposes of fairness and equity.

Mittal has not been open to this position, and we have been at a deadlock for more than three years.

Realizing the impossibility of having Mittal give up rail operatorship, and knowing the Government was not willing to proceed to international arbitration, the  Government moved to a position of having Mittal become the User-Operator in exchange for other critical rights  Mittal would have to give up under its current concession that would enable fair and equitable access to third parties such as HPX.

That would have enabled us reach a compromise.   Unfortunately, HPX does not seem open to such a compromises and has insisted that Mittal abandons the rail operatorship. Mittal itself does not want to give up the rail operatorship.

As a consequence, Samuel Tweah   became the biggest victim in this power play between two billionaires, each of whom aims to undo and outmaneuver the other.

This is fundamentally unfair to me and requires correction by the U.S. authorities.

A few months prior to the 2023 elections, the IMCC paid a visit to the Port of Buchanan.

Prior to this visit, we had taken a position to press Arcelor Mittal harder to share the current facilities at the port of Buchanan with HPX and to accept small shipments, about one to two million metric  tonnes of ore through Guinea, preferably from HPX, since under the current concession Mittal is obliged to sharing both rail and port.

I narrated   all these positioning and repositioning to the Americans to prove that neither I nor other members of the Government of Liberia were biased toward one investor against the othe,  but that we were bent on finding a practical solution to a very complex problem.

Given legal concession right Arcelor Mittal has under the current concession forcing them out of operations of the rail would require litigation or the Armed Forces of Liberia bursting through their premises, violating international law.

Since the Government did not prefer any of these two options, we could only concede to Mittal’s operations in exchange for other rights for third party companies like HPX.

However, these explanations still evidently did not impress some higher ups in Washington who have continued to use Africa Intelligence, a propaganda media outfit, to rain attacks against the Government of the CDC.

The headline of one of Africa Intelligence’s articles published on September 29,2023, reads: George Weah irks Washington and Robert Friedland (he is the billionaire owner of HPX) with mine transfers to ArcelorMittal.

Several such false stories have been planted internationally and locally.

As we leave Government, we have left copious transition notes to guide the new administration on these issues.

The latest thinking is to find a way for HPX to share the port of Buchanan with AccelorMittal since it may take a long time for HPX or other third parties to develop separate berths at Buchanan.

We wish the new administration luck in these negotiations and look forward to Libieria having  a fair and equitable multi-user rail system.

I have related the above factual pieces of information to show that publicly available information on which individuals have been sanctioned or are being placed on visa restrictions are not reliable to use to destroy the lives of decent characters who have worked years to earn and build their reputation.

This architecture of disinformation has been deployed to undo the CDC by powerfully connected persons. See Full Statement on page …


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