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NGOs Selfishness: Chasing Investors out of Sierra Leone

Sheka Turay

A recent case report by a Belgian International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO), FIAN International and its surrogate local NGOs in the country on the State of Sierra Leone with specific reference to Sahn Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun District, Southern Province where Socfin Agricultural Company has invested millions of United States Dollars has left many concerned Sierra Leoneans wondering whether the foreign organization and its surrogate NGOs acting like sheep in wolves clothing have the effrontery to dictate to the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) as to the outcome of the lease agreement with the agricultural company on behalf of the people of Sahn Malen Chiefdom in particular and the country in general.

In their recent case report, FIAN International, amongst other things, called on the Government of Sierra Leone to take necessary measures, as soon as possible, to prevent cases of land grabbing and resolve existing cases, while securing access to land for the vulnerable indigenes in the chiefdom for small-scale food production in line with their so-called ‘human rights obligations of states under international human rights law, and in line with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible

Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forests specifically (hereafter the Tenure guidelines), and based on the demands of the Malen communities.

Speaking on behalf of the people of Sahn Malen Chiefdom, FIAN International, which is spoon-fed by local NGOs with chequered backgrounds and often work against the interest of the Government and people of Sierra Leone, also called on the GoSL and competent state institutions to disclose all relevant information with regards to the land lease agreements, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the actions and obligations arising there from such as head-and sub-land lease agreements, maps identifying each leased plot of land, lists of affected landowners, of payments and of compensation made, procedures for payment of compensation, corporate social responsibility program and budget, environmental impact studies and reports emanating from government Ministries on compliance by SOCFIN with national laws and to facilitate the obtaining of additional information from other State and Non-State actors; undertake an urgent investigation into the recent violent incidents that caused the killing of two persons and the allegedly excessive use of force by the police and military; immediately release the community people who are under arrest, including members of one of their surrogate NGOs, MALOA unless there is clear evidence that they committed a crime; stop the arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment against MALOA members.

The thoroughly obnoxious Belgian International NGO gave several other stiff conditions to the Government of Sierra Leone which, I conjecture, may have emanated from its Sierra Leonean surrogates in order to hold the country, including the Government and stakeholders in Pujehun District that endorsed the lease agreements, to ransom.

The incessant incitement of the people of Sahn Malen by local NGOs working in line with the Belgian INGO culminated in the recent unrest in Sahn Malen that led to death of two persons.
The obduracy of the head of one of these local NGOs inciting the people against Socfin Agricultural Company – MALOA, Independent Member of Parliament, Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama, who incited members of the ‘Poro’ society to disrupt the operations of the agricultural company, led to the recent riot in Sahn Malen. As Sierra Leone is a country of law and order, the MP and his henchmen were arrested, detained and charged to court for various offences ranging from riotous conduct to disorderly behavior.

The crux of the matter is that the notoriety of Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama, Joseph Rahall of the Green Scenery and other so-called human rights and environmental activists in inciting the people of Sahn Malen against Socfin Agricultural Company was a harbinger to the recent riot in the chiefdom that was aimed at disrupting the operations of the agricultural company in spite of the fact that its operations in the chiefdom was legally endorsed by the Government of Sierra Leone with the consent of stakeholders in the district and landowners.

What is more nauseating about these trouble makers and their foreign backer is their brazen attempt to dictate to the Government of Sierra Leone with regards to the recent Sahn Malen incident that they fuelled through incitement.

Prior to the recent incident at Sahn Malen, the Bio administration was in the process of bringing the various stakeholders involved with the land issue in the chiefdom to the table, including the agricultural company Socfin, landowning families, the Paramount Chief, amongst others in order to ensure the issue was amicably resolved.
The Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh started the process, however, the desperate human rights and environmental activists threw a monkey wrench in the works by inciting members of the ‘Poro’ society in Sahn Malen to rise against Socfin Agricultural Company thereby culminating in the death of two people.

Whilst their incitement led to the riot, these economic saboteurs ostensibly parading as human rights and environmental activists with the backing of some unscrupulous Belgian citizens now have the brazen temerity to tell the Government what it should do to find an everlasting solution to the Sahn Malen land issue.

As far as well-meaning Sierra Leoneans are concerned, FIAN International and its surrogate local NGOs are part of the protracted problem in Sahn Malen.

Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama, for instance, allegedly told landowning families in Sahn Malen during the March, 2018 national election campaign that if they elected him to Parliament, he would ensure that their lease fees are doubled.
Upon winning the parliamentary seat, he soon realized that he lacked the lobbying power to deliver on what he promised the electorates of his constituency, he and his cohorts have resorted to using the same tactics of incitement against Socfin agricultural company and at the same time undermining Government’s genuine intention to amicably resolve the dispute over the leased lands in Sahn Malen on which the agricultural company operates.
Unlike Socfin Agricultural Company that has brought much improvement in the lives of people in Sahn Malen by building schools, hospital, constructing boreholes in various villages, creating job opportunities for locals amongst many other things, FIAN International and its surrogates have nothing to offer them except empty promises. These organizations and the unscrupulous individuals behind them deserve to be treated as Fifth Columnists whose trade is to work in concert with foreigners to betray their own motherland.
Prior to the Sahn Malen incident, for instance, they blocked a substantial bank loan that was to be approved for Socfin Agricultural Company in Belgium to expand its operations thereby creating more jobs and increasing the country’s economy.

Their false campaign against the agricultural company has the potential to scare away genuine investors and this would cost our country a great deal.
The Government has said on numerous occasions that they are very serious about diversifying the national economy through many sectors including agriculture. The speedy resolve of this impasse between Socfin Agricultural Company and the landowners will give potential investors the reassurance and confidence that their investment will be secure at all cost when they come to Sierra Leone.

Despite the non-facts which the International NGO and its surrogates in the country are trading about Socfin Agricultural Company, it is no gainsaying that their operations in Sierra Leone are legal and genuine.

Socfin Agricultural Company acquired the land in Sahn Malen through an agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone and stakeholders in Pujehun District, to this end, the calumnious campaign against the company by FIAN International, MALOA, Green Scenery, MADAM and other pseudo-NGOs should not be taken serious by the Government and people of Sierra Leone.