Sierra Leone: Report on land conflict between Socfin and local communities finds a number of illegalities

The investigative phase of the conflict resolution process concerning the land conflict between the multinational palm oil company SOCFIN and communities in the Malen Chiefdom of Sierra Leone confirms was concluded and confirms a number of allegations raised by the communities amongst them that the land lease agreements are unlawful; that payments of lease rent and other land charges were or inadequate or paid to the wrong persons; that buffer zones between communities and SOCFIN plantations have not been respected and that this has negatively impinged upon the communities' capacity to live in dignity; that SOCFIN's development projects in the communities were inadequate; and that there are serious pollution concerns linked to the company's activities.  International coalition of civil society welcomed the report but noted that there are several key elements pertaining to the land conflict that are either absent from the report or, insufficiently addressed. Further says the report lack a human rights approach and reference to the relevant legal framework as well as  the working conditions on SOCFIN's plantations

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1 April 2020

Sierra Leone: CSO representatives raise concerns on a number of issues that the report is silent on

‘Open letter regarding the dialogue process set in motion for the land dispute in Sahn Malen, Pujehun district’ 30 March 2020

…We wish to bring to your notice that the Technical Committee report is now public and can be viewed at the link https://www.farmlandgrab.org/post/view/29529-report-of-thetechnical-comm.... There are a number of revelations in the report and we are truly very supportive of your move to resolving this long-standing fester in that Chiefdom, noting that it is the aspiration of the government to improve the investment sector in the country.

There are a lot more issues that the report is silence on but as CSOs prepared to support government’s efforts we take this in good faith given the time frame of the investigation. Hon. Vice President, we assure you of our support as you plan to chart out the next steps for the dialogue involving all stakeholders to the land dispute in the chiefdom. We continue to caution that in 2018 your government inherited a drawn-out conflict spanning 8 years. That conflict has graduated from mere dispute to a track 2 case, for which a lot of efforts may need to be applied for mutual resolution. Already this case has witnessed the death of two civilians from gunshots and 18 human rights defenders (one of whom is already dead) facing prolonged trials in Freetown rather than in Pujehun or Bo city the regional headquarter, South.

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Article
1 April 2020

Sierra Leone: International coalition of civil society pens open letter to the President on Socfin report

‘Open Letter to His Excellency, Dr Julius Maada Bio President of the Republic of Sierra Leone’ 30 March 2020

We, an international coalition of civil society organizations, welcome the finalization of the Investigation Report which concludes the investigative phase of the conflict resolution process concerning the land conflict between the multinational palm oil company SOCFIN and communities in the Malen Chiefdom of Sierra Leone. As organizations that have closely followed this case over the years, in close communication with the affected communities and our Sierra Leone civil society organisation partners, we view the completion of this report as an important step towards finding a resolution to the long-standing land dispute.

We are encouraged to see that the main findings of the Technical Committee highlight several of the allegations voiced by the affected communities since 2011. They confirm, among others, that the land lease agreements are unlawful; that payments of lease rent and other land charges were or inadequate or paid to the wrong persons; that the parcels of land were not properly surveyed and demarcated; that buffer zones between communities and SOCFIN plantations have not been respected and that this has negatively impinged upon the communities' capacity to live in dignity; that the Paramount Chief's conduct was inappropriate and potentially illegal; that SOCFIN's development projects in the communities were inadequate; and that there are serious pollution concerns linked to the company's activities.

While we welcome the important findings of the report, we note that there are several key elements pertaining to the land conflict that are either absent from the report or, in our view, insufficiently addressed in it. Are lacking: a human rights approach and the reference to the relevant legal framework; detailed information on the land acquisition process and the working conditions on SOCFIN's plantations; due attention to the criminalization of members of the communities and allied civil society organizations; mention of the significant gaps in the implementation of SOCFIN's corporate social responsibility action plan; a comprehensive investigation of all allegations of corruption (see the annex for an in-depth analysis of the report – information bellow).

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Article
1 April 2020

Sierra Leone: Investigative report fingers multinational company in illegal activities in a land dispute

The investigative phase of the conflict resolution process concerning the land conflict between the multinational palm oil company SOCFIN and communities in the Malen Chiefdom of Sierra Leone confirms was concluded and confirms a number of allegations raised by the communities amongst them that the land lease agreements are unlawful; that payments of lease rent and other land charges were or inadequate or paid to the wrong persons; that buffer zones between communities and SOCFIN plantations have not been respected and that this has negatively impinged upon the communities' capacity to live in dignity; that SOCFIN's development projects in the communities were inadequate; and that there are serious pollution concerns linked to the company's activities.  International coalition of civil society welcomed the report but that there are several key elements pertaining to the land conflict that are either absent from the report or, insufficiently addressed. Further says the report lack a human rights approach and reference to the relevant legal framework as well as  the working conditions on SOCFIN's plantations

Read the full post here