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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora