Members of the Malen Affected Land Owners Association (MALOA) have alleged to be seriously undergoing persecution by chiefdom authorities including police officers as they are always being prevented from holding meetings in the community, especially when they are connected to land issues affecting them.
This was revealed in one of the community meetings organised by Actionaid International at the Sahn Malen Town in Pujehun District, South of Sierra Leone.
The Malen Affected Land Owners Association is an organisation of over 1,000 (One thousand) indigenes in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom who felt aggrieved and convinced that the agreement between government, chiefdom authorities and the SOCFIN Agricultural Company, is not in their favour for which they continue to strongly advocate against.
In her ordeal, a Community Activist, Hannah Deen, recounted that they were once told by Paramount Chief Kebbie that he had got investors who were ready to engage in large scale agriculture in the chiefdom, but neither did he tell them the content of the agreement, nor the depth of the operations.
“We were all shocked one day to see foreign faces together with the Resident Minister then, Moijueh Kaikai and a team of police officers who told us they had got the approval of government and chiefdom authorities to begin operations in our community” she explained.
Madam Deen recounted that it was when they had realized that the Police Officers, council members and the Paramount Chief were not supportive of their decision, that led to the protest staged from which (45)forty-five members were arrested and some are serving detention in Bo Prison while one is dead.
She stated that the Local Unit Commander attached to the chiefdom had long declared the affected landowners’ meeting to be illegal, for which he constantly monitors them and had vowed not to ever give clearance for such meetings.
One of the released prisoners, Bockarie Swarray revealed that he was planning to migrate from the chiefdom as he was not sure of a better stay because he had no land to farm on and since he came from prison, the company authorities have refused employing him for manual labour because he was part of the aggrieved land owners.
“I have become a stranger in my land of birth because the bush which had been my source of wealth and authority is no more” Swarray wept.
Generally, most land owners in the Sahn Malen Chiefdom confirmed that the SOCFIN Agricultural Company has taken vast land from them which has consequently disturbed their farming activities for which they lack even sufficient food to feed themselves least a alone talk of sponsoring their children to school.
In a response by the Chiefdom Speaker, Robert Moigua, he stated that the company had given most them compensation for their crops in the form of money, yet they keep crumbling that such cannot be equated to the benefits they used to derive from their plantation.
Chief Moigua stressed that the operations of the SOCFIN Agricultural Company is one that everybody has to benefit from in future, and they as authorities do not intend to revisit any “faulty agreement” as alleged by subjects.
By Keifa M. Jaward
Wednesday November 20, 2013