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Pujehun District land dispute…Information Minister, others on the spotlight

By Mohamed M. Sesay

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communications has come under serious criticism for allegedly helping to fuel the ten years land dispute between Longo and Sawula Village in the Pujehun district.

Mohamed Rahman Swaray together with Paramount Chief Member of Parliament for Y.K.K Chiefdom; Matilda Yayu Minnah, and an American based Sierra Leonean; Bintu Conteh are allege to be the key financiers and engineers of the ongoing dispute.

Residents of Baoma and Longo village in Kpanga Chiefdom, Pujehun District have called for the immediate intervention of President Julius Maada Bio so that they could have a permanent peace and settlement of the decade long land dispute in that part of the country.

They stated that there have been sporadic civil unrests between Longo and Sawula village allegedly sponsored by Minister Swarray and others, which resulted in the death of one person and the destruction of Longo township.

They allege that the information minister, PC Matilda Minnah and others have been bribing and given ‘’orders from above’’ to police officers to effect unlawful arrests in Longo and Baoma village.

Town Chief of Boama Village, Brima Massaquoi told this medium that some authorities in Pujehun, including the Sierra Leone Police have been very selective and bias in their response to the land dispute.

He accused the Minister of Information of siding with one of the parties of the said dispute and added, “Myself and other people from Baoma and Longo villages have been occasionally arrested and detained at the Bo police division on the orders of the Minister.”

He explained furthered that on December 22, 2020, police officers, acting on ‘orders from above’, raided Baoma Village and arrested him and other youths.

“Since this land dispute started ten years ago, we have faced an unbearable punishments and pains. Authorities in the district including the Sierra Leone police in Pujehun are siding with one party in the conflict. People of Sawula village vandalized and burnt Longo village but no arrest was made. The people of Longo are now seeking shelter at nearby villages,” he stated.

An indigene of Longo Village, Sheikh Sulaiman Kpukumu said: “We have faced persistent attacks in previous years which led to the burning down of two houses in 2013. Those involved in the incident were arrested and charged to court in 2017 but nothing came out of the case.”

He explained that on May 9, 2020, the village was brutally attacked and burnt down by residents of Sawula Village with properties including livestock carted away.

He added that the matter was reported to the police in Pujehun and later transferred to the regional CID headquarters in Bo but no arrest has been made.

One of the youths in Longo village, Mustapha Feika said the land dispute between the two villages has existed for ten years and that successive Paramount Chiefs including Patrick Jaiah Kamara made series of attempts to settle it but to no avail.

He allege that Minister Swaray has made a commitment to use his power, wealth and influence in ensuring that Longo village is denied of justice.

He urged President Bio to intervene by sending independent mediators to settle the land dispute since their authorities have failed to address the ten years conflict.

When contacted, Information Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swaray refuted the allegation of him sponsoring the ongoing land dispute

He also denied ordering police officers to effect arrest and added, “I did not even know the police officers in charge of the case. I have not visited Sawula for a very long time not to talk of me inflaming the conflict.”

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