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Date: 2019-10-17 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00008623

Companies
Firestone

The story of Firestone in Liberia during the Doe / Taylor violence ... reporting by FRONTLINE.

Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess

This FRONTLINE story is reasonably good ... but also quite shallow. I watched the video from end to end and then realized that there was really no conclusion ... nor even the basis for a conclusion.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/firestone-and-the-warlord/

I was very much involved with Liberia in the 1970s and up to the Doe coup. The company I worked for, Continental Seafoods, had a fleet of trawlers based in Monrovia at the fishing port. We collaborated with the Mesurado Company, a local company that had been built up by Stephen Tolbert, the brother of William Tolbert, the President of Liberia. Stephen Tolbert was also the Minister of Finance. Stephen Tolbert was killed in a plane crash in the late 1970s, and it is my understanding that the company then became 50% owned by his widow Carmena Tolbert and 50% by his brother, President William Tolbert.

After the Doe coup, the Mesurado Company was nationalized ... confiscated ... by the Doe regime, and within days the company was gutted. Everything that could be moved was taken away by soldiers and the general public.

A little over a year later I was retained by Carmena Tolbert-Doe (widow of Stephen Tolbert) and the IFC to negotiate the recovery and privatization of the Mesurado Company, but my analysis of the state of the company and the demands of the Doe administration made any progress impossible. The IFC was upset about my conclusions, though the subsequent events in Liberia showed that my recommendation not to proceed was well founded.

Getting back to the FRONTLINE presentation about Firestone in Liberia ... my criticism of the piece might be that the horror of the events has been downplayed. The scale of the killing is downplayed in the FRONTLINE piece ... and the fact that Firestone tried really quite hard to get back into Liberia was commendable. Yes ... a private company does want to make money, but they also took big risks in order to be involved with Liberia during these times. Could they have done more? I think, probably not.



The text being discussed is available at
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/firestone-and-the-warlord/

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