Sahn Malen Stakeholders urge government for Fresh Land Lease Agreement with Socfin

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Stakeholders in Pujehun District have cried bitterly to the Government of Sierra Leone to have a new land lease agreement with the Socfin Agricultural Company in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom in order to continue to coexist peacefully in their communities as well as get the desired benefit from their lands. Last weekend, a team of Civil Society members funded by the right group organization, the Action for Large Scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT) undertook a fact finding mission in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom to investigate allegations of shooting of workers of the Socfin Company.


Socfin Agricultural Company isbeing accused of grabbing more than 12,000 hectares of land belonging to the Sahn Malen Community

Socfin Agricultural Company isbeing accused of grabbing more than 12,000 hectares of land belonging to the Sahn Malen Community

The team visited and spoke with members of the communities in Malen and Bamba Village. Before undertaking the fact finding mission, ALLAT and its constituent members including Green Scenery issued a public notice denouncing any form of violence in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom. According to their release they said “if the allegation is true, ALLAT and its members denounce the act of using weapons to resolve a problem” and sympathize with the staff that met with this unfortunate incident.

ALLAT members have on several instances undertaken actions that would lead to dialogue and an amicable resolution to the land rights issues in Malen Chiefdom.

According to allegations advanced by the Socfin Agricultural Company through Philip Tonks, the community people allegedly and “deliberate” burnt down their plantation in the Bamba Village and by the time staff of the company were there to control the fire, the villagers attacked them with gun shots wounding the plantation manager.

As at press time, more than thirteen people were arrested by the police and locked up at the Bo Police Station awaiting further investigations which has now lasted for more than ten days.

In Bamba Village and its neighbouring communities, there is fear and panic among the community people being that their relatives have been arrested while a list of names are also being displayed with key members to be arrested. This fear is now within the community and its impact can be spotted even from the old mom’s in the village who are apparently afraid to talk to anyone visiting, even on a fact finding mission like ours.

More than four years ago, the Government of Sierra Leone entered into a land lease agreement with the Community people in Sahn Malen for taking over their land for palm plantation. Within hours of the agreement with the community people, the government in turn made another land lease agreement with the Socfin Agricultural Company to overtake the lands belonging to the community people in Sahn Malen. From the onset, this deal is still not however welcomed by some members of the community people and some of them had earlier preferred for direct negotiation with the company. Neither the Government of Sierra Leone nor the Company listened to the cry of the people in Sahn Malen and decided to only work with those who had been willing to give out their lands.

Earlier in 2014, one of the land owners in Sahn Malen, Madam Hannah Deen, said she is not willing to give out her land to the company but the Government of Sierra Leone together with Chief Victor Kebby forcefully grabbed their land and gave it out to foreign investor. She said because of stereotype in the society where women are not allowed to take decision on land issues, her voice and resistance was never recognized and today she stays out of farming.

The Paramount Chief of Sahn Malen Chiefdom PC Victor Kebby is so powerful in the community that even during his absence some of the community people are afraid to vent out their grievances.

During the investigation, officers of the Office of National Security in Pujehun had earlier warned and called on government to address the growing grievances in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom. According to them, it has been quite some time they had been hearing such grievances from the community people but the government had failed to take any firm action towards addressing the demands of sections of the land owners. The Deputy District Chairman of Pujehun District, Mr. Kalilu Fofanah also raised concern about the growing tension in the Chiefdom and called on the central government to do more in order for peace top return in that chiefdom.

A staunch stakeholder in the Pujehun District, Hon. Mojueh Kaikai re-echoed the long standing grievances in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom. In a telephone conversation, he said there is now need for the grievances to be put to rest between the community people and the company in order for a peaceful co-existence. He said as a member of the Pujehun District he is deeply concerned about any issue or deprivation that the community people may face in the district.

Commenting on the alleged shooting in Bamba Village, the medical doctor in Pujehun, Dr. Kebby, said he did not hear any form of shooting and is ready to testify anywhere when he is called upon.

The Support Officer in the Pujehun Police Station, Superintendent Paul Banister said the root causes of the shooting allegation in Bamba Village in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom must be properly investigated and addressed otherwise it may have to continue while police continue to make arrests. Police officer, Superintendant Banister, opined that there must be a new negotiation between the Company and the government since they are the one that signed the agreement.




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