News / Africa

    Liberia Urged to Come Clean on Illegal Timber Shipments

    The UN says between 30 and 100 billion dollars are lost each year to the illegal trade in timber. (UNEP)The UN says between 30 and 100 billion dollars are lost each year to the illegal trade in timber. (UNEP)
    x
    The UN says between 30 and 100 billion dollars are lost each year to the illegal trade in timber. (UNEP)
    The UN says between 30 and 100 billion dollars are lost each year to the illegal trade in timber. (UNEP)
    James Butty
    An official of Global Witness said it is important for the Liberian government to be sincere in demonstrating which government official, or officials, has ownership in logging companies that are illegally shipping timber, despite President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s order to halt timber export. 

    A U.N. panel of experts found in a report earlier this month that key figures in the government own shares in companies that continue to engage in illegal logging.

    Global Witness, which investigates corruption related to natural resource use, Thursday said the logging company Atlantic Resources was shipping millions of dollars worth of illegal timber from Liberia under secretive contracts called Private Use Permits.  

    Jonathan Gant, a policy advisor with Global Witness, said the companies are not operating by themselves and the Liberian government itself may be ignoring Sirleaf’s order.

    “Certainly, in order to export, the companies need to sign certain papers. They need to have an export permit, which is issued by the Liberian government’s Forestry Development Authority, and the Forestry Development has signed export permits, despite the president’s moratorium stating that there should be no exports.  And, it is reported that the Ministry of Justice has also stated that exports are allowed despite the president’s order,” he said.

    A UN Panel of Experts report to the Security Council on December 4th found that key members of the government own shares in some of the companies that were violating Sirleaf’s moratorium.
    Butty interview with Gant
    Butty interview with Ganti
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    A local media report said the UN Panel of Experts found that Medina Wesseh, formerly director of Sirleaf’s cabinet and also chair of the president’s re-election campaign in 2011, owned shares in Forest Ventures, one of the companies allegedly involved in illegal logging.

    Gant said, while Global Witness was not pointing the finger at any one official, the UN Panel of Experts report raises a fundamental question: who really owns these companies and why does the government seem bent on exporting timber in violation of Sirleaf’s order.

    “The evidence that was uncovered by the United Nations, the evidence of who is it is that owns these companies, that’s actually evidence that many people in Liberia have [been] seeking for a very long time.  It’s not evidence that we were able to dig up ourselves, and it shows that for all the transparency that the Liberian government is trying to demonstrate to the world, there are some major flaws in who it is that owns the companies operating in Liberia,” Gant said.

    While refusing to point a finger at any one government official, Gant said he believes the illegal shipment of timber may have a “hand and a glove relationship.”

    “It is important for the Liberia government to be sincere in demonstrating who it is that owns what company.  At the same time, however, one shouldn’t let the companies off the hook, even when they are not linked to the Liberian government,” Gant said.

    Private Use Permits, according to Global Witness, were designed to allow private landowners to cut trees on their property and do not contain the more stringent social and environmental protections required for certain other large logging permits in Liberia.

    As a result, these permits can be used to avoid requirements for sustainability and fair compensation to the government and local communities.

    Global Witness said Private Use Permits currently cover 40 percent of Liberia’s rainforests, and that the largest holder of these permits is Atlantic Resources.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora