ACORN Liberia – JUSTICITIZ
New Civil Society Organization Emerges as Liberia’s Society tightens in Corruption and Injustices
Citizens living in rural areas around agro-industry plantations in Margibi, Grand Bassa and Bong counties, have been organizing together since 2011 to stand for their rights (among 2 community based organizations : Kwamuneh and Lac-DistfAC). Rural dwellers and farmers, they have been struggling against land grabbing, pollution, labor abuses, and broken promises from the responsible companies (LAC and SRC, owned by Socfin, controlled by french Group Bolloré).
Leading a common fight for more justice, they decided in October 2018 to build a wider organization that could be able to struggle for social, economic and environmental justice for all its members: low incomes families in both rural and urban areas: Justicitiz was born.
“We realize that the only way our society can become better, rights of the people respected and problems are resolved in our country is when we gather together and speak out loudly. As I speak, we stand ready to mobilize the hugest manpower from various counties where we have organized folks to demonstrate; I mean, peacefully protest against ills that we are faced with in our cities and communities. In this way, we can be assured that situations will be solved”. Mr. Mike George (Spokesperson, JUSTICITIZ).
The organization today
The organization gathers more than 1000 members, in dozens of villages.
A community organizer based in Monrovia has been supporting the organizing, house by house, village after village. Local committees have been elected by members in each village where members are enough. Around SRC plantation, one central committee gather representatives for all villages in upper region, and another central committee is settled for lower region. Around LAC plantation, there is a central committee for district 3, and another central committee for villages on district 4. Two executive committees coordinate villages of both areas, and form the national council, electing national board.
The organization still focus for now on rural organizing and campaigns against this multinational corporation’ abuses.
In remoted areas, farmers rely on lands and crops they can grow. But because of agro-industries and their expansion, land pressure is very strong and they barely have farmlands to farm anymore. Besides, and despite promises from these companies, roads connectivity is very poor, and so it’s difficult to get their products to markets in the urban settlements. Lack of social infrastructures such as schools, health centers or water pumps, has a strong impact on local dwellers, especially children. Living conditions have worsen, and increasing number of unfulfilled promises by management is also fueling tensions with local communities. Furthermore, the companies’ activities are affecting environment : water, soil and air pollution, destruction of forests and wetlands.
For the last years, members have been struggling to get proper compensation for destroyed crops. Thanks to non-violent actions, negotiations led to the payment of US$54, 000 by LAC management to a hundred of families.
They are now focusing on access to education, demanding for school building in villages around LAC.
Some new promises have been made after collective mobilization, but local dwellers are still waiting for the last steps of the building and providing teachers.
Members in villages surrounding SRC plantations are focusing on the same compensation demands, after getting water pumps from the company in several villages.
In these rural areas, facing abuses from multinational corporations, members have to fight for what is owed to them. They hope that growing with help them to scale up campaigns and get social justice for thousands of people in Liberia.