Landowners protest over delayed report in southern Sierra Leone

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Photo: Maja Hitij
Politico | 21 July 2021

Landowners protest over delayed report in southern Sierra Leone
      
Executive members of an organisation representing landowners engaged in a long drawn out dispute with Socfin Agriculture Company in Malen Chiefdom in the Pujehun district have appealed to President Julius Maada to intervene so as to realise “a win-win outcome”.
 
In a letter addressed to President Bio that was on social media, members of Malen Affected Land Owners Association (MALOA)   expressed concern over delay in the releasing of a report by a Technical Team that investigated the problems between the two parties. They recalled the engagements they had with Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh in November 2018 when he was reportedly sent by President Bio to mediate between the two groups. The landowners said the Vice President endorsed the setting up of a Technical Team that was to investigate the land conflict.
 
The locals say the team which was headed by former deputy Minister of Justice, Abdulai M. Bangura held fact-finding meetings with stakeholders in Malen chiefdom and visited sites. According to MALOA , two years now since the team concluded its investigations and wrote a report, their appeal for a public disclosure of the said report has not been heeded. In the letter, they also alleged Socfin was trying to use another mediation process to discredit the previous one, and also claimed of arrests by the security forces of people, confiscation of palm –oil produced on private farms and the use of Socfin’s radio station in making disparaging remarks about the leadership and ordinary members of MALOA.
 
Talking to Politico, independent Member of Parliament Shiaka Sama who is a key figure in the agitation said some organisations that have shown interest in the dispute are not sincere or independent. He said quite recently, one organisation even entrusted to Malen Paramount Chief Brima V.S. Kebbie the duty of selecting members for a committee from both sides that was to dialogue, a move he considered as a false start, saying the chief who is  part of the dispute should never  have taken the lead in that direction. The MP said contents of the report by the Technical Team that were yet to be made public do not favour the chief. He again asserted their key demands: that all farmlands forcibly taken from the people be returned, that those landowners who got compensated should have the process reviewed and have them fully compensated, claiming the earlier payments were inadequate.   
 
He also expressed dismay over low wages that he said were being paid to the staff at Socfin, whom he claimed were being overworked. Sama also stated that the lands of 25,000 households are now occupied by Socfin that he said had provided “only 3,000” jobs for the locals.
 
Politico reached an official attached to the communication unit of Socfin but he declined to comment on the allegations against the company and also said he had not set eyes on the letter in question.
Original source: Politico
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