Government of Sierra Leone taken to court over Provinces Lands Act

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 September 2020:

Last Friday, 28th August 2020, the Krio Descendants Yunion in collaboration with the Krio Community organisation – representing millions of people of Krio ancestry and heritage – both in Sierra Leone and overseas,  filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, challenging the country’s discriminatory Provinces Lands Act of 1960, which deliberately and systematically excludes people of Krio origin from owning land and property outside of Freetown. (Photo above – Ptesident Bio meets representatives of Krio Descendants Union in 2019 at State House).

According to the plaintiffs, who also include one of the Krio families in Freetown – the Renner family that have suffered such discrimination, the Provinces Lands Act, Cap. 122 along with other specific definitional statutes, are inconsistent with the country’s 1991 Constitution.

The Provinces Lands Act of 1960 they say is a discriminatory colonial law inherited from the British, to which successive governments of Sierra Leone have turned a blind eye and resisted calls for an end to inter-generational discrimination – specifically against the Krios, whose place of origin is in the Western Area of Sierra Leone since 1787 when their ancestors – freed slaves, arrived in what became known as Freetown.  (Photo: President Bio meeting the leadership of the Krio Descendants Union in 2019). 

This discriminatory law precludes Krios from acquiring any customary land rights or freehold title in the Provinces, restricting them to acquiring only leasehold interest of a specific duration.

The plaintiffs contend that this is in violation of Section 27 (1) of the Sierra Leone Constitution which prohibits discrimination on the basis of tribe or place of origin.

The Krios are classified by the Provinces Lands Act as “non-natives” which includes those persons of European or Asiatic origin. No other tribes in Sierra Leone are subject to such statutory restrictions.

The Supreme Court suit also argues that Cap. 122 violates the right of ciitizens of Krio orign to freedom of movement guaranteed by Section 18 (1) of the Constitution, as they cannot reside or settle freely in the Provinces unless the consent of a tribal chief is secured.

It contends that the law unduly impacts on the freedom of Krios to assemble and associate in violation of Section 26 (1) of the constitution, as the Plaintiffs’ ability to live with, associate or spend time with their brothers and sisters from the Provinces is constrained.

The Plaintiffs are seeking a declaration from the Supreme Court that those portions of the Provinces Lands Act that impact upon Krios be declared unconstitutional, stricken, and rendered null and void.

They also seek substantial damages against the Government of Sierra Leone for failing to repeal this statute since independence and retaining those blatantly offending laws of Sierra Leone for the last 59 years, despite their patently discriminatory effect on Krios.

Alternatively, the Plaintiffs seek reparations from the Government and an allocation of 100 hectares of land in each of the 12 Districts in the Provinces as compensation.

The Supreme Court case was filed by the law firms of Garber & Co and Campbell & Co based in Freetown, on behalf of the Krio Descendants Yunion in collaboration with the Krio Community, and the Renner family.

1 Comment

  1. Patricia, Hatred is not part of my DNA, but my above comment is based on my personal opinion and observations. As you stated, the Krio people are one of the most GENEROUS and INTELLIGENT people not only in Sierra Leone but the entire Africa. I sometimes refer to the Krio as the “ Jews of West Africa”. I have vast experience about the Krio because I have been traveling from Freetown to the whole of the peninsula starting from Waterloo to Kent Village and even to the Banana Island as far back as the late 60’s.

    When I visited Sierra Leone lately, I had the opportunity to drive around this same route , I even took the route from Juba through Sussex and York villages and all I noticed was infrastructural decay and deterioration. Most of the affluent and Educated Krios living in the diaspora and Freetown in my personal opinion are COMPLACENT with their lives and are reluctant to improve their villages through investment like Agriculture, Hotels or Tourist resorts which will create jobs for their families back home.

    I hope and pray that they will follow the example of the “ Jews from Israel” because regardless where they live, there primary focus is always the development of their homeland starting from their villages.

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