Friday, November 03, 2006

Costly Porcupine


This is based on a true story.

Once their was this country boy. He was always looking for something in the bush. As so many young men, he had an insatiable hunger for life itself and was sure in his knowledge of how to get along.

One day he was walking through his aunt's cocoa farm when he came to a large stand of bamboo. The shoots towered over him to a height of close to 25 feet and it was a long way around.

So the young man was walking along the trail that circled the bamboo stand, and he saw a huge porcupine dash into the bamboo just ahead of him. His first thought was, "man that would make one hellova soup."

He ran back to his aunt's kitchen to fetch a chunk of fire coal. He was going to smoke that meat out. When he got back to the place where he first saw the porcupine, he knew he would have crawl into the bamboo bush. With the fire coal in hand he went in as far as he could and set a small fire. Then disaster struck.

Since the bamboo stand was so old there was plenty of dry leaf litter on the ground. The dry leaves caught fire almost immediately, and what a fire! The young man got out as fast as he could. Feeling lucky to be alive, he was helpless to put out the great fire he had started.

As the blaze got more intense the bamboo exploded. Pow! Pow! Pow! It was as load as any gunshot. People from miles away could hear it and came running. They witnessed the fire as it was completely out of control jumping from the bamboo to the cocoa farm.

That was one of the most costly porcupines ever eaten! Half the cocoa farm was lost. Not just for that moment in time, but future production as well. From re-planting to producing plants would be another three to four years. From one foolish and impetuous young man thinking only of his own belly and eating for one day a prosperous future was

This brings to mind the situation in Nimba today. Are we to sacrifice our future on some risky scheme for a handful of jobs up at the mine and down at the port? If we stop to think about this in a mature manner, there could be much greater rewards. A clean safe environment, sustainable allied industries and a plan that takes our beloved Country beyond the 25 years of the Mittal Steel deal.

Accounts in the press since August related to the Mittal Steel Contract have discussed and emphasized that the sticking point has been control of Liberia's main port and railway line, which the original deal awarded to Mittal. The main port and railway line are a given in the minds of all Liberians and friends of Liberia. There is much more at stake. Are we going to settle for this concession?

Mittal Liberia chief executive Joseph Mathews has insisted the deal (with the Transitional Government) his company signed was legal. Who can dispute his statement recently in a BBC interview, "We went ahead according to whatever the rules were on the ground at that time." This probably included a backroom deal to transport Guinea's ore for a fee from the Rio Tinto mine across the northern border.

Oh course Mittal's drum beat over the last half a year (in case someone is paying attention) is that they will be "Socially responsible". Mr. Mathews continues to say that Mittal is socially responsible and committed to providing health and education facilities, as well as suitable housing, to the people in their concession area. I hope it is true that Mittal will operate to the standards of the global community.

Until, we see this in the contract, Mr. Mathews is just another big rusty man in a long line of duplicitous company men.

I say that this porcupine is not enough. Could we be so foolish the smoke out this one thing and lose the farm and all the future benefits.

J. Carl Dealy
EarlyBird Foundation

3 Nov 2006


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