Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 March 2021:
Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Lands yesterday announced, “It has observed that while the Ministry is in the process of establishing a dispute resolution committee to address the overwhelming concerns raised by the public over the manner in which lands were administered or allocated, certain individuals have embarked on massive unauthorised construction and forest degradation activities.”
In its public statement published, the Ministry said that it “has also noticed with dismay the recent deforestation and forest degradation along the Western Area Peninsula National Park (WAPNP) and other Protected Areas. These activities have damaging effects on the surrounding environment. The Ministry hereby entreats the general public to desist from any of these unlawful activities as defaulters will face the full force of the law,” it warns.
“In view of this, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning is deploying State Land Guards along the WAPNP, Wetlands, Waterways, Bridges and Hilltops. The public is hereby encouraged to cooperate with these guards and report any illegal activity to the local authorities in the respective communities for prompt action.”
The ministry reminds the public that “an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Lands and Water Catchment was constituted with a view to protect the Forest Reserves and Water Catchment Areas within the Western Area. These areas have been mapped out and collectively protected by the Committee headed by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning.
“The Ministry appreciates the efforts and collaboration of the local authorities around these various communities and assures all of utmost cooperation, fairness, accountability and transparency in the administration and management of the land sector.”
This statement comes following the appointment of a Lands Dispute and Complaints Committee by minister Senessie last week. Ina separate statement published yesterday about the committee, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning said that it “wishes to inform the general public that a Complaints Committee has been constituted to look into land disputes in the Western Area between April 2018 and January 2021.
“The Nine-Man Committee is hosting its sessions at the Bank Complex in Kingtom, Freetown starting Tuesday March 9, 2021. The Committee shall be receiving formal complaints from the general public at the Bank Complex Venue and through Email to the address: email@example.com
“All those who feel aggrieved on land allocation issues over the aforementioned period under review should forward their official complaints to the Committee with photocopies of all relevant documents to substantiate their claims.
“The Committee has been mandated to look into these land grievances and to submit its findings and recommendations to the Government for appropriate actions”.
For more information on this, please contact the Public Relations Office via Mobile +232 (79) 031317 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Good, just that it could be better if the committee can work parallel with the normal ministry operations than stopping key operations just to look into issues created by the past administration. This is also a potential for arising issues that could be difficult to manage.
My recommendations: Let the institution work as normal; The committee to continue for at least 6 months; The public relations to regularly update the general populace on the ministry activities; Provide opportunity for suggestions and contributions from the public, etc.
Whoever understands that every person he sees around him is separate only in appearance, and appears so only through the unexamined working of his mind, becomes ripe for realization. But very few have come to such understanding. Lands Minister Dr.Senessie before acquiring the position as a serving minister was just a Sierra Leonean like us. He is aware of the numerous problems citizens are facing on Land issues. His approach to addressing the issues surrounding land in Sierra Leone is something to note as a strategy in the right direction. However,when it comes to land issue in our country people are always prepared to take the awkward paths to achieve their goals. Therefore, in as much as he is using the diplomatic approach, he should also consider strategic options to get his plan right. I have observed his handwork in the past job as deputy minister. The reforms he made through his own efforts. I am sure he will do more in his new office.
Sierra Leone needs a reform in our land tenure system that is preventing people to cultivate lands for agricultural purposes. So many people may want land to work on for food production, but their efforts are however deterred because of the poor availability of land. Please sir, if Sierra Leone is to have sufficient food, where every household living around the areas or communities that have lands for such purposes, I ask that you step in again. You see people especially women living in villages are often deprived of acquiring lands for agriculture. When you look at the shortage of pepper in the market, which is an essential goods for us all you begin to note that there is error somewhere. Other areas to note are the vegetables.
In my opinion I believe that if government is to put in place strategy as to the right to access lands by 80% of women living in the rural communities for the purpose of agriculture, Sierra Leone will be self sufficient with the majority of vegetable goods and rice which serves as our staple food. Let there be government support given to them. Women constitute 75% of the workforce in all agricultural fields. When men brush the fields, it is the women who clear the fields, help dig the soil, plant the seeds or seedlings, remove the weeds, drive birds, harvest the fruits, turn it into finish goods and make sure it reaches the final consumers. Think of it, if only a large population of women in Sierra Leone are accorded the right to lands for agricultural purposes there will be food saturation and not food shortage. Their efforts in the agriculture sector is something very important to note.
Seems like the new land minister is in line to be an OUTLIER when compared to the host of inept, resources siphoning ministers in the current PAOPA regime. Alas, a sigh of relief in the ministry of lands. We will continue to monitor progress!!
Bottom line, “The judicial system in Sierra Leone does not meet adequate standards of independence and neutrality”. The best way forward on this land issue is for the courts to sort out the loads of lands cases in their archives. Will this minister succeed where others have failed? God help the new minister achieve his goals.