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.