Taylor Moves To Own Minerals

The Perspective
January 18, 2001

With mounting evidence against him for plundering Sierra Leone's diamonds, President Charles Taylor is pressing his National Legislature to give him the sole power on decisions regarding natural resources.

In an Act before the Legislature dominated by his cronies, Taylor wants to solely and personally determine the fate of Liberia's minerals, forest products and all agricultural products he has designated as "strategic minerals."

"The President of Liberia is hereby empowered to declare and designate from time to time, when deemed fit and necessary, any Natural Resource of Liberia, in addition to the aforestated(sic) resources herein declared, by this Act, as Strategic Commodities. When a commodity is declared by the President as Strategic Commodity, such declaration shall conform to and be consistent with, domestic laws and regulations; and shall not otherwise impair or adversely effect existing agreements or rights granted by an Act of the Legislature up to the date of expiration of said rights or agreement.

"The President of the Republic of Liberia is hereby granted the sole power to execute, negotiate and conclude all Commercial contracts or agreements with any Foreign or Domestic Investor for the exploitation of any of the Strategic Commodities of the Republic of Liberia. Such Commercial Agreement shall become effective and binding upon the Republic as would any treaty to which the Republic is a party, upon the sole signature and approval of the President of the Republic of Liberia".

A Legislator from one of the impotent opposition parties lamented, "This is theft by legislation! Never before in our history has a President wanted so much, stolen so much in so short a period. Now, he wants us to surrender the country to him. We have already done that. His brother is in charge of the forests, which are disappearing every minute. He, his cronies and his Lebanese friends and other foreign partners in loot are having a field day in depleting our forests. Just why he wants us to give him the legal rights and protection to steal and loot more is beyond belief. We need a King, not a President who despises the concept of balance of powers. God help us!"

But the Act, which observers believe will nevertheless be passed, further empowers Taylor, who was arrested in the United States for allegedly stealing about one million dollars from the military junta when he served as its purchasing manager, to personally decide the fate of:

"All mineral resources particularly, gold, diamonds, hydrocarbon and any other finite Natural Resources Deposits such as, natural gas, precious minerals; metals and stones, now discovered or to be discovered in the future, which have economic and commercial value; and may be marketable domestically and internationally.

"All Natural Forest Resources particularly forest products such as, Logs and Timbers and other unique and rare species of vegetation and trees common and indigenous to Liberia.

"All unique and rare Sculptures, Arts and Artifact, Handiwork and Hand Crafts of historical, cultural, social, spiritual and economic value to the Republic of Liberia.

"All food and agriculture products, such a rice, coffee, cocoa, rubber and sugar, marine life as well as rare and unique species of wildlife and fishery such as fish, animal and birds indigenous to Liberia."

Controversy within the rubberstamp Legislature brewed recently when Taylor's wartime defense spokesmen and business partner now Senator, Thomas Woewiyu, accused the Senate of passing midnight laws without the knowledge of the Legislature. He accused Senate President Keikura Kpoto, who served as chair of Samuel Doe's junta party, the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), of masterminding illegal bills in the interest of the President and his loyalists. Doe once threatened Kpoto with imprisonment for using his position to collect goods from state businesses and pocketing proceeds. A bill printed by the President to transform it into law was rejected by some members of the Legislature who contended the printing was illegal.

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