Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 October 2018:
Report sent by the Police Local Unit Commander in Pujehun – Gibril M. Turay to the Police Regional Commander about the deteriorating security situation in some villages in the Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun district paints a dismal picture. The Chiefdom plays host to a major European investor in the agro-business industry – Socfin Agricultural Company.
Socfin Agricultural Company has, since its inception in Pujehun, suffered continuous thieving and vandalization of the company’s assets.
Recently, the Police in Sahn Malen received report that a group of villagers had stolen huge quantities of palm fruits from Socfin Agricultural Company. When the Police attempted to arrest the suspects, the villagers attacked and repelled the Police and stopped them from arresting the suspects.
Socfin has invested hundreds of Millions of United States dollars in Sierra Leone, especially in a remote area like Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district; and has provided jobs for hundreds of young Sierra Leoneans.
When President Julius Maada Bio was sworn-in on 4th April, 2018 he committed himself and his government to attracting direct foreign investment into Sierra Leone. As a matter of fact, the President has travelled to several parts of the world and has assured foreign investors that Sierra Leone is open for business.
The question many people have been asking is: What is the Government of Sierra Leone doing to protect foreign investors and their investments? The incident in Pujehun over the weekend leaves much to be desired.
If the Government does not make sure that foreign investments are protected, many foreign investors will curtail their activities and eventually pack out of the country.
This will be bad for the country and it will undermine the President’s determination to convince foreign investors to invest their money in Sierra Leone.
President Bio is expected to address investors in Brussels next week. To all intents and purposes, President Bio is a man who is determined to take this country to a new direction. He has to take the bull by the horns and ensure that the ceaseless threats to life and property in the Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun district comes to an end now.
How can the President convince investors to come to the country and invest their money when some people are attacking investors and destroying their properties in the Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun district?
The call now is for President Bio to quickly and adequately address the security situation in the Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun district before he leaves for Brussels next week, says Sorie Fofanah of Global Times.
The Minister of Information and Communication in an interview with local media said his government is concerned about the ugly development in Sahn-Malen Chiefdom, and they will try as a government in bringing sanity to the chiefdom.
According to Abdul Rahman Rado Swarray the New Direction government wanted to preside over a stable, peaceful and tranquil country, were the government can attract investments and also create jobs for Sierra Leoneans.
“We will spare all efforts for peace and tranquility to return to Sahn-Malen Chiefdom Pujehun District,” the Minister is quoted saying.
According to information, irate youths mobilized and mounted illegal road blocks both at the entry and exit points of the road and became practically violent, using insulting language against the company security contractor and the police.
The police according to information retreated because the standoff lasted for a very long time, as irate youths continued to pelt police officers with missiles.
The Police were called upon for restraint by locals including the town headman who paradoxically is believed to be a part of the conundrum.
The Irate youth threatened to kill any person who stops them from harvesting the palm trees on what they say is their land.
All agricultural activities of the company came to a halt for two days due to lawlessness from the youths who have placed blockades and also threatening workers with machetes.
A source close to the company said that one of the Managing Shareholders has already arrived in town assess the situation, which is now said to be critical.
Many are calling on the government to swiftly intervene before the situation breakdown further.
Over 4000 people both direct and indirect will lose their jobs should the company stop operations.
Socfin CEO will be meeting President Bio in Belgium next week to discuss investment in Sierra Leone and the implications of the ongoing disturbance in Pujehun.
These stories seem to be one sided and almost threatening our sovereignty. SOCFIN seems to have issues all over the place, not only in Pujehun; e.g. https://www.chron.com/news/media/Environmentalists-accuse-ING-of-greenwashing-at-1369279.php
On another note, a deal or contract perceived as bad by one party should be revisited – we are seeing this happening all over the place today- Iran/US, NAFTA, Russian/US Nuclear deal, trade tariffs.
People were stripped of their ancestral inheritance in dubious circumstances. Where were you when the said foreign investors entered into agreements with people who do not represent the interest of the villagers?
I am not in favour of any of the two parties. The question I want to ask is: Before the company was installed was there any talk between the local people and the company shareholders? If the answer is no, then the government must work to know the real problems and try to treat it without any other problems. The local people will work hard to frustrate any use of their lands.
Pujehun has always been a peaceful area of the country. The government must talk with the local farmers to know their plight and help to solve it.
Much as I condemn the alleged violence by some community people against Socfin, I will want to see the writer tell the reason for the tension between the community people and the Company. It is in the best interest of Socfin to push for a frank and open dialogue with its host community people.
Just so we know, a good number of foreign companies have successful relationship with community people in other places across the country – the dutch company in Gbonkelenkeh chiefdom for example. The question is what is different with Socfin?
Current and ongoing pervasive lawlessness in Sierra Leone stems from the top. Has President Bio disbanded his illegal PAO-PA regiment; have the Police made any arrests emanating from their previous activities?