Sierra Leone Telegraph: 06 March 2021:
A Lands Dispute Resolution Complaints Committee was last Thursday appointed by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning to look into land disputes between April 2018 to January 2021, after many years of poor management in the ministry, injustice, and sometimes violent confrontation involving armed men, police and soldiers.
The new Lands Minister – Dr. Turad Senesie, whom many are describing as a reformer compared to his controversial predecessor Sandy, made this announcement last Thursday at the government press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information and Communication.
“The Committee will receive and look into complaints from persons who feel disadvantaged in land allocation issues between April 2018 and January 2021,” the Minister said.
The Committee has been mandated to start receiving complaints from members of the public on Tuesday March 9 2021 at the Bank Complex in Kingtom.
Complaints will be received in the form of hard copies at the Bank Complex Venue and electronically through email to the address: firstname.lastname@example.org
According to Dr. Senesie, the Committee will report its findings and recommendations to the government for appropriate action.
The Committee which is led by Alhaji Murtada Sesay, includes Mr. Moses Sellu Mambu, Mr. Jacob Campbell, Mr. Jabez Rogers Wright, Mrs. Toma Jabbie, Mrs. Josephine Buck, Mr. Hassan Samba Yaja, Mr. Boakari Sannoh and Mr. Ambrose T. Rogers as Committee Secretary.
A week ago, Dr. Turad Senesie said that his first priority in his new job as Lands Minister, is to reform the Ministry of Lands. This reformation seems now to have started in earnest, with much hope of a welcome break from the disastrous past actions of his predecessor – Dr. Dennis Sandy.
What’s the lifespan of this committee? Whem will their work end? Or are they there permanent to be solving land disputes?
The minister needs a grid-system to plot every land in a database, so that no one would ever interfere with another person’s plot of land. This database can be kept secured by an expert so that nobody can interfere with any grid-land, not even staff of the ministry of lands can access or deface any grid. The minister can also work on a permanent land policy, which parliament can approve.
Until the country comes up with a comprehensive land policy, all these ad hoc committees will not stop land grabbing and by extension land problems in the country especially in the Western Area where land is equivalent to or even more than diamonds in Kono.
What is at play is that every occupant at the land ministry comes up with his or her own policy. As soon as another occupant comes in, a new approach is taken. Meanwhile the hyenas keep grabbing more and more without any satisfaction.
Sierra Leone is the only country where you can lay claim to prime land in the Western Area for as little as $3 (fifty thousand Leones) and the next day sell it for $15000 or more. How would land problems stop when the profit far surpasses the risks.
If we are serious as a nation we should stop this accepted corruption and banditory by putting into law a comprehensive land policy, that would discourage all the predators that have laid siege on the lands in the Western Area. The latest move by Dr. Turad Senessie is all about politics and not to solve the root cause of the problem, which by all indications will be there after his tenure in that office.
This new initiative by Dr. Senesie to appoint this committee to look at land dispute resolution in the western area, Freetown in particular is a welcome development. It is a clear departure from the heavy handed approach of Dr Sandy’s way of tackling this sensitive land issue. Whether we call it a land commission, or a dispute resolution consultative body, one thing that is apparent, this new lands minister is willing and ready to listen to people’s concerns, that for far too long being ignored.
A clear and transparent approach of sorting out this toxic land issues, like the illegal allocation of land, or occupation of land by internally displaced people from the RUF war years. And the legacy of overlapping claims of land ownership between government and private citizens that have been around for generations, cannot be resolved by hiring thugs to enforce your wish just because you happen to be a government minister. The growth of the urban population, and the demand for land is always going to be a hard balancing act to over come.
Reconfiguration of the land rights, like who owns what, and resettling people who illegally occupy these lands, should be the main thrust of this commission. My contribution will be, government should provide funds for housing, and starting small businesses for these internally displaced people and encourage them to go back to the provinces, where they came from. I think given the choice a lot of people will take up the offer. That will ease the over population in Freetown.
It’s a good idea to put things right as a land dispute will involve deaths; and the rich will have advantage over the poor. I hope the committee will be able to help and provide information to the rightful owners.