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  • Inspector General of Police Francis Alieu Munu

Prior to the eleven years brutal rebel war in Sierra Leone, Pujehun District was notoriously known for its ‘Ndogbowusui’ incident, when a man called Sullay emerged with mystic powers and set the entire district on fire in the name of avenging the death of his uncle Kemokai, who was brutally murdered by some APC thugs immediately after the 1982 General Elections. Consequently, the invisible Sullay killed scores of people for over a year before the Government of the APC regime of the late Siaka Probyn Stevens mounted a vigorous search for him and was eventually apprehended by an army of personnel from the then Sierra Leone Army (SLA). It was a nasty experience that haunted Pujehun District and the entire southeast, and was even made a reference point during the rebel incursions in 1991. People from other regions in the country recklessly remarked during the incursions that all rebellions started from the southeast.

Indeed, both the ‘Ndogbowusui’ incident and the rebel incursions started from the southeast, but should rebellions continue coming from the southeast at a time when Sierra Leoneans are busy fighting the deadliest disease ever known to them?

The sad news that police have confirmed the apprehension and detention of thirteen suspects following fire and shooting incidents at the plantation of Socfin Agricultural Company in Sahn Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun District, smacked of the protracted recalcitrance and militancy of certain obstinate indigenes of the chiefdom to put spanner in the good works of the Government and well-meaning stakeholders of Pujehun District that reached an agreement for Socfin Agricultural Company to be established in that part of the country. Suffice it to say that those that were vehemently opposed to that agreement are the same destructive and unprogressive simpletons trying to discourage the company from embarking on more development in that penury-stricken district.

According to report, the suspects are helping the police in their investigation into allegations that the Plantation Manager of Socfin Agricultural Company, Gordon Paterson, was shot in the arm following a mob attack in the village of Bamba. Gordon Paterson and Tanguy Denis - both expatriate staff - had reportedly gone to Zone ‘A’ plantation to put out a mysterious fire that had been set to it by some unscrupulous unknown arsonists in Bamba on 15th January, 2015. Whilst the expatriate workers were trying to extinguish the inferno, they were attacked by unknown persons. Gun shots were heard and a company vehicle damaged by the assailants.

Though the police have said they would investigate the incident until the cows come home, it only takes an intelligence to read between the lines and unravel the paradox of the incident. The fact of the matter is that despite Government and authorities in Pujehun District officially agreed on an amicable establishment of Socfin Agricultural Company in that district in the spirit of attracting more foreign investment in the country for economic growth, Sahn Malen Chiefdom still has a dissenting group that is vehemently opposed to the operation of the company in that chiefdom. They are doing everything devilishly possible to undermine the multi-million investment in that chiefdom.

It could be recalled that this is not the first time dissenters of Sahn Malen Chiefdom have allegedly attacked or destroyed company staff or property belonging to Socfin Agricultural Company. At present, the ringleader of the dissenters, former PMDC Member of Parliament, Hon. Shaka Sama, and five others are standing trial in the Bo High Court for allegedly destroying property belonging to the company. The same rebellious group polluted the main river that provides source of protein for the chiefdom and purported that it was done by the company. It was an attempt by the rebels to bring the company’s name into disrepute and scorn so that the people of Sahn Malen Chiefdom would rebel against its operation in the chiefdom.

These attacks on the Zone ‘A’ plantation and two expatriate staff could not be unconnected with the rebellious tendencies which Hon. Shaka Sama and his bunch of hoodlums in Sahn Malen Chiefdom have been openly manifesting with the ostensible reason of protecting their people’s land. The former PMDC Member of Parliament and his so-called led ‘Maloa’ (meaning we should not be afraid) group have become real thorns in the flesh of Socfin Agricultural Company because of greed and selfishness. They feign to be fighting for the Sahn Malen people, who have already benefited immensely from the operation of the company, including job opportunities, fulfillment of corporate social responsibility, construction of feeder roads and other felt needs of the people, payment of royalty fees to landowning families, district authorities and the Central Government, which are contributing largely to poverty alleviation among the indigenes and economic growth. Only unpatriotic and backward elements would loathe such development in their areas especially at a time when right-thinking Sierra Leoneans are yearning for more foreign investments for job opportunities and economic growth.

As the Public Relations Officer of Socfin rightly put it, the behaviour of the unknown arsonists and assailants was “callous and completely inhuman.” Why should anyone have the devilish intention to destroy a plantation that is benefiting the indigenes of Sahn Malen or to kill foreigner workers that would send the wrong signal to the outside world that this country is unsafe for foreign workers? This group of economic destroyers must be pursued and taught a stern lesson that would serve as deterrent to potential dissenters who do not mean well for their people and country.

It is fact that the land tenure system in the country is not without some headaches, but as law-abiding citizens, we should have absolute respect for whatever decision the Central Government and the local authorities have taken on behalf of the country and the people. Our rural people need arable lands to farm but we should also equally understand that national interest always supersedes self-interest. And it was against the backdrop of national interest that an official agreement was reached for Socfin to establish in Sahn Malen Chiefdom just as other agricultural companies have established in other parts of the country like ADDAX in the northern region. Therefore, challenging the operation of Socfin in Sahn Malen Chiefdom is tantamount to undermining the authority of the Central Government and the entire leadership of Pujehun District. The lawless and spineless dissenters should not be allowed to go scot-free with their callousness and heartlessness which are anathema to national development. The police should thoroughly investigate these latest incidents at Bamba village in order to fish out the true culprits and those orchestrating the destructive plan against the agricultural company. It is only when they are given stern custodian punishment that others would refrain from treading the destructive path.

Why should this utter rubbish continue abated in Sahn Malen Chiefdom when other parts of the country are praying to have multi-million investors like Socfin Agricultural Company?