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NDA Blasts APC for Land Issue

July 25, 2011
Freetown Daily News


By David Awe


Ongoing discussions and debates on the dangers and implications of several land investment deals carried out by the government of Ernest Bai Koroma have brought out startling revelations. (Pix, NDA's Mr Chernor Bah). 

The debates, initiated by the National Democratic Alliance NDA, have highlighted the possibility of crises between local communities and several European and American multinational companies. The NDA has pointed out that a situation characteristic of Zimbabwe has been created by the APC government of Ernest Koroma through these various land deals.

It should be recalled that the implications of these various land agreements were first brought to light through the findings of a recent independent report published by the Oakland Institute of the United States of America.

The report, which is based on a comprehensive research and analysis of four major land investment deals in the country including that of the Swiss-based Addax Bio-Energy Group, clearly exposed the fact that the government of Ernest Koroma has given out indefinitely more than six hundred thousand hectares of farmlands to multinational corporations from Europe and North America.

Interestingly, these farmlands belonging to several peasant communities in the northern part of Sierra Leone were deceitfully taken away from the poor farmers under the cover of “investment,” “job creation” and “development.”

But the questions that still beg for answers surround the rationale of these various agreements. How do they contribute to agricultural and economic development of the country? And what are the short and long-term implications and ramifications of these land deals? These questions are at the heart of the contradictions presented by this situation.

While certain government officials and representatives argue that it is of necessity to give out portions of so-called “unused” or “unoccupied” land to multinational agricultural companies interested in agricultural investment, many believe that the land question is a serious national question. It requires a serious examination and discussion.

Issues of land are human rights issues. Taking away lands belonging to peasant communities, in the name of whatever programme, represents a flagrant abuse of the owners’ human rights. It is an infringement of local communities’ right to property.  Every inch or piece of land in this country belongs to Sierra Leoneans. It should not be taken away and given to a consortium of foreign companies.

With the growing land disagreements in the western area reaching alarming proportions, the FDN believes government should support or undertake any land agreement or deal that will further exacerbate the already land crisis in the country.

The handing out of lands to multinational companies in the name of “international investment” has far-reaching political and economic implications. Apart from anything else, it puts the country and the local peasant communities in direct conflict with huge capitalist corporations backed by western governments. It is a situation that leaves poor farming communities bare and at the mercy of huge capitalist organisations.

Government needs to be reminded that land is an essential factor of production. It is impossible to advance a holistic programme of economic development without community or state control of land. The situation of countries in Southern Africa and other parts of East Africa are sufficient enough to underline the implications of multinational ownership of lands in Africa.

The FDN would like to call on government to re-examine these various land deals with a view of returning the lands to the various communities affected. The lands are the property of the affected peasant communities. Whether it is “used” or “unoccupied,” it exclusively belongs to them.

Nobody has the right to take it away in the name of whatever programme. Giving lands belonging to Sierra Leoneans to multinational companies is not a development programme whether they support agricultural development and economic growth.