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Hidden Foreign Hands Target Liberia’s Investment Negotiations, Prompting Failure

Liberian Economy

Liberia West Africa: – For more than three months now, the internet space has been polluted and bombarded with repeated disinformation and slanderous propaganda with the willful intent of stalling a major foreign direct investment, with the propensity to suffocate Liberia’s already struggling economy. Should this dubious interference succeed, thousands of hopeful Liberians would be left hopeless without jobs.

For some time now, some exploitative foreign corporate agents with vested interests in Liberia’s railway usage are covertly hiding behind a webpage dubbed “Liberian Economy” to spew out unfounded and conjectured lies targeted at preventing the government of Liberia from reaching a plausible conclusion on the ratification of a US$1.2 billion restated Mineral Development Agreement with the global steel giant, ArcelorMittal. ArcelorMittal has been operating in Liberia since 2006, with over US$1.7 billion in the Liberian economy.

Our investigation reveals that the “Liberian Economy”, an echo chamber of foreign companies spreading false information, suddenly surfaced on Facebook on March 6, 2023, immediately following news of renewed talks between the government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal-Liberia (AML) to harmonize differences on some provisions in the earlier version of the amended third Mineral Development Agreement that seeks to expand AML’s investment by additional US$1.2 billion. The amended MDA will provide over 2,000 direct new jobs and 4,000 indirect new jobs in Liberia and further deepens ArcelorMittal Liberia’s already elaborate partnership as the Country’s largest taxpayer consecutively for several years now.

The actual motives behind the efforts of the apparently foreign firm are yet unknown. An increasingly known part of the strategy of this hidden agent is to present their ploy in the form of advocacy to exploit the interest of our country and its largely unemployed youthful population whilst wanting to falsely present themselves as authentic advocates. These hidden hands started their negative campaign with promotional articles about Liberia’s rich natural resource deposits and went further to discuss how the country has the potential to deliver prosperity if its resources were managed well. Suddenly, it began to amass Facebook relevance by tagging itself as an agent of free market evolution in Liberia.

On March 2023, those foreign agents with interests in Liberia’s railway infrastructure, speaking through their ventriloquist puppet of a webpage, the “Liberian Economy”, published an article pressuring the government of Liberia to implement Executive Order 112, which calls for non-discriminatory access on a multi-user basis, to Liberian infrastructure assets.

In that publication, the “Liberian Economy” adored and rained praise on Ivanhoe/HPX Group of companies and SMFG who have deep interests in using the Buchanan -Yekepa railway and the port of Buchanan for no other reason but to only transport ore they intend to mine in Guinea.

On the other, hand, ArcelorMittal-Liberia, which has invested about US$500 million in restoring the Buchanan to Yekepa rail and the Buchanan Port, has longtime ago welcomed multiuser access to Liberia’s rail and port facilities and has also called on other companies with vested interests in the future use of the facilities to join in investing. However, those companies hiding behind the fake webpage – “Liberian Economy” – to slander the respected reputation of ArcelorMittal have shown no interest in investing in expanding the railway and port infrastructure.

Taking a nose dive into the dark webpage of the “Liberian Economy” and its maliciously misguided articles, one wonders why none of their articles have names of authors or traces of its managing editor and writer. The absence of this vital information exposes the intention of the website and raises questions about its credibility.  It is becoming increasingly obvious that the creation of the dark website, Liberian Economy, is intended to disrupt the Liberian economy and take bread from the tables of thousands of Liberians who are directly employed with ArcelorMittal and also those small businesses contracted by the company. Through the contracts with AML, these businesses have been able to create jobs for hundreds of families from the proceeds they get from the global steel giant.

By June this year, the Liberian Economy devoted its entire content to its singular target – ArcelorMittal, for which it was established- publishing outlandish lies and mistruths against the company’s operations to undermine nearly two decades of ArcelorMittal’s work in Liberia.

A negative campaign of this nature and magnitude targeting ArcelorMittal is not new to the company.  As with the Liberian Economy, in September 2021, a dark webpage suddenly emerged out of nowhere, days after the Liberian Government and ArcelorMittal signed the third amended MDA and submitted same to the Liberia National Legislature for ratification.

Months after publishing trumped-up lies against AML’s operations, the dark website Empower Liberia’s motive was uncovered by several journalists in Liberia and abroad, forcing the dark hands behind the website to shut it down.

The lingering question that remains unanswered by the fake webpage and its sponsors is how an exclusive communication sent to the National Investment Commission by HPX landed in the hands of a covert web and social media page whose identity no Liberian knows, if not the author of the letter wanting you to front for their vested interests in the usage of our railway and port facilities?

Weeks of investigation have also uncovered that the “Liberian Economy” web and social media pages were neither created in Liberia nor managed from Liberia or by Liberians. Forensic social media investigation shows the site and Facebook page were created outside of Liberia with an affected audience set for Liberians.

The Facebook page is boosted daily to reach as many Liberian audiences as possible to disseminate to achieve their objective of spewing false information about ArcelorMittal and its operations in Liberia.

Our search further unveils how the hidden hands behind the “Liberian Economy” have top-level government officials planted at the negotiation table with ArcelorMittal and the government and furnish their benefactors after every negotiation session. These agents would send feedback from meetings on AML’s amended MDA to their patrons, who then restructure the information into negative propaganda against AML and the government’s investment drive through the “Liberian Economy” web and Facebook pages.

Every step of the way on the negotiation into the restated AML third Mineral Development Agreement is shared with other companies that have no business with the discussions.

It is not just about the calculated wave of mis and disinformation against ArcelorMittal, but the impact of this negative social media campaign by foreigners on Liberia’s investment future is what is concerning. Investors may potentially hold back reading this unprecedented propaganda and unfounded lies that are being carried out by the “Liberian Economy,” supposedly by non-Liberian companies with nothing but only business interests in Liberia.

It will be a hard time for the government of Liberia to act on these horrible lies and embellished truths spree against the overarching national interests since this undermines the pronouncement made by President George Weah that the company is ready for business. And a continuation of this slanderous lies will could only roll back years of international and regional progress aimed at making Liberia a respectable business-friendly nation.

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