By Abdul Aziz Samura
After almost two years of a protracted process and constant adjournment, Magistrate Hannah Bonnie of Court No.1 in Freetown on Wednesday 9th December, 2020, discharged the matter involving seventeen citizens of Malen Chiefdom, including Member of Parliament, Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama.
The seventeen accused were all members of the Malen Affected Land Owners and Users Association (MALOA), a Community Based Organization, advocating for the land rights of their members in the face of the operations of the large-scale palm oil producer company, SOCFIN.
“This matter ceased to proceed’” and that the accused are all ‘discharged,” said the Magistrate Hannah Bonnie.
They had been charged with incitement, riotous conduct, conspiracy to commit a felony, and malicious damage, following the demonstrations and skirmishes between local security forces and the Poro Society on the 21st of January 2019 at Jao Junction, which led to the deaths of two citizens, Mohamed Ansumana and a man named Mustapha. The arrest of solely members of MALOA was perceived as arbitrary by Civil Society Organizations.
According to a press release issued by Green Scenery on Thursday 10th December, 2020, the decision of the court implies that MALOA was not involved in the violent incidents of the 21st of January 2019. It also makes the land owners and users of Malen Chiefdom confident that the land disagreements in Sahn Malen will soon be resolved in a peaceful manner.
“Green Scenery would like to extend its thanks to the Government of Sierra Leone and development partners for their contribution in resolving the issue and deliver justice to the innocent MALOA members. We also take this opportunity to humbly appeal to his Excellency President Julius Maada Bio and the Government of Sierra Leone to speedily address the Malen Dispute and initiate the mediation process, involving all stakeholders in a dialogue. Green Scenery will continue to support a peace process in Malen Chiefdom and calls on all parties concerned to show their commitment,” the release stated.
Speaking to this medium on the ruling so far, MALOA Chairlady, Hannah Deen, thanked the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and the Government of Sierra Leone for tampering justice to MALOA and the people of Malen Chiefdom. She continued by commending Green Scenery for their unremitting effort in making sure that they derive benefit from their land.
“Attending court hearing from Pujehun District is very challenging. We would not have succeeded without the intervention of Green Scenery that provides transportation and feeding during these two years Court hearings,” she disclosed.
She ended by calling on His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio for a speedy disclosure of the report headed by the Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh.