Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 May 2021:
After several weeks of media attention on allegations of the government of Sierra Leone having sold precious seaside land to the Chinese for the construction of a fish feed factory that critics say will destroy the environment and cause massive suffering on the local community, officials of the Chinese government say that the allegations are not only untrue, but malicious and designed to destroy China’s relationship with Africa in general and Sierra Leone in particular.
This is what the Economic and Commercial Officer at the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, Mr Du Zijun said in a statement published yesterday:
“I, Du Zijun, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Sierra Leone have noted that some local and foreign media have recently published some false reports on the China-aid Fish Harbour Project for Sierra Leone on the basis of some unfounded social media news.
“I find it difficult to understand this kind of groundless speculations, attacks and smear. I wish to make the following points: First, it is an assistance project that the government of Sierra Leone has requested the Chinese government to help construct for the purpose of promoting the development of Sierra Leone’s own fishery sector.
“The content of the project is to build a fish harbour rather than a “fish meat mill”. It is a Sierra Leonean project rather than a Chinese one. The accusation about Sierra Leonean side selling 250 acres of land to China is totally groundless.
“Second, the site selection and environmental impact assessment of the project are determined or conducted by the government of Sierra Leone in accordance with its own laws and administrative procedures. The Chinese side will decide on the establishment and implementation of the project after the Sierra Leonean side completes its relevant work.
“The accusations of not paying attention to environmental protection and destroying the ecological environment are completely sensational and hypothetical. It is an insult to the government and people of Sierra Leone to claim that the Sierra Leonean government is incapable of doing relevant work or does not consider the interests of the Sierra Leonean people.
“Third, some people make relevant remarks about the project in the name of environmental protection, but their real intention may not be to protect the environment, but to hinder the implementation of the project and thus hinder the economic and social development of Sierra Leone.
“Fourth, some people indulge in criticizing and accusing China- Sierra Leone and China-Africa cooperation for one reason or another, but they are unwilling to contribute in a substantiated way to the economic and social development of Sierra Leone and other African countries. The Sierra Leonean people and the African people can see it through very easily.
“The China-Sierra Leone and China-Africa friendly cooperation will not be detracted by such groundless accusations.”
Although Sierra Leone’s Fisheries Minister – Mrs Kowa, issued a statement last week denying the allegations, critics say that the government must publish all documents relating to the Chinese funded Fish Harbour project, including feasibility study report, the business case, and environmental impact study report.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has been informed that requests for these documents to be made public as provided for under the country’s Freedom of Information laws, have not been responded to by the Rights to Access Information Commission.
These alleagtions go to the heart of president Bio’s mantra about transparency, probity, open government, and his fight against corruption in Sierra Leone.