Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 May 2019:
After several weeks of anger and frustration felt across the Krio community in Freetown over accusations of forceful land grabbing by the ministry of lands, president Julius Maada Bio yesterday met with representatives of the Krio Descendant Union (KDU) at State House.
According to State House report, this meeting was also scheduled as part of the president’s continuous engagements with stakeholders across the country.
Speaking at the meeting, Special Adviser to the President and Ambassador at Large, Dr Kona C. Koroma, recalled that in his first meeting with the Krio Descendant Union after his inauguration, President Bio promised to have periodic engagements with KDU about governance of the state. (Photo above: President Bio and Deputy President of KDU, Ambassador Haja Alari Cole).
She said over the past few days, there have been debates about land issues which have prompted the President to call KDU “for a family dialogue”.
Deputy President of KDU, Ambassador Haja Alari Cole said they are thankful to President Bio for meeting with the KDU representatives, despite his busy schedule.
She added that the meeting demonstrates a true manifestation of a leader who cared for his people. She said as an Association, they are pleased with the gains made so far by the New Direction Government – citing the free quality education and the clearing of Lumley, which she said has eased the traffic burden in that part of the city.
Samuel Valcarcel of KDU said that as an Association, they are faced with challenges which they would like to discuss and resolve amicably with the government.
‘’Last week, we had a general meeting as an Association where we spoke about many of the things affecting us especially the one dealing with land. In the past weeks, we have all been discussing land issue because the Lands Ministry issued a statement challenging the legitimacy of our land documents and that has left us worried.
“Another worrying issue for us is the Land Tenure System which barred Krios from acquiring lands outside Freetown. So we are happy to be here because we believe such an engagement will help resolve these issues,’’ Samuel Valcarcel told the president.
Leader of the Unity Party, Femi Claudius Cole, who also attended the meeting, said she was impressed with President Bio’s timely intervention in the land row, and welcomed discussions with the president, especially at a time the country is preparing for the Bintumani 3 peace and reconciliation conference.
She said that the land issue is creating mixed feelings among people – especially in Freetown, and welcomed government’s move to start finding a way forward for a sustainable solution.
In his response, President Bio said he decided to call the meeting because he knew some members of the Krio community are not happy about land issues in the Western Area. He said he has decided to engage with KDU because dialogue is the best means of finding sustainable solution to the problem.
‘’Our country is one of Rule of Law and that must be accepted by all of us. I have decided to call you all here to let you know that I take your concerns very seriously and that government will look into them.
“We will be developing a framework to put to an end all the land related issues across the country. We want this meeting to be the start of a dialogue process because that is the only way of arriving at the best solutions, as we need a united society that will allow development to thrive,’’ he said.
Concluding his response, President Bio instructed Vice President Dr Juldeh Jalloh to preside over all the concerns expressed by KDU, in relation to disputes over land ownership between the Krio community and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Environment, for amicable and speedy resolution.