…Big demo planned against Tongoma Holdings
By Mohamed Massaquoi from Tongo
The Bonya and Sei Land Owning Families in the Lower Bambara Chiefdom, Kenema district, have forwarded a protest letter to President Ernest Bai Koroma and the Minister of Mineral Resources, Minkailu Mansaray, over the operations of Tongoma Holdings Limited, formally Koidu Holdings. The land owning families accuse the company of grabbing their lands without compensation, adding that if appropriate actions are not immediately taken by the government, they will be left with no option but to demonstrate against the company.
Section Speaker of Sei Section, Chief Mohamed M. Gandi, Councilor Maurice J. Momoh, and Town Chief Ahmed M. Foday are among more than twenty family members protesting against the said abuse of their rights, referencing the lease agreement signed with the company as retrogressive.
Residents claimed that communities are not benefiting from Kimberlite mining activity undertaken by Tongoma Holdings, adding that the company has continued to demonstrate a blatant disregard for their cultural practices and norms by entering into secret society bush to mining without being granted permission by local authorities.
“This is a gross violation of the Mines and Mineral Act of 2009. We have observed that the three concession areas including Bonya, Nyawa and Sei sections which Koidu Holdings selfishly grabbed are too big for them to meet all their corporate social responsibilities. Because of this therefore, their concentration is on the Nyawa Section which play host to them. This was done without the consent of lands owners. These concerns were raised before now but we were advised to wait and see if the company can reform some of it policies specifically those dealing with our communities,” Town Speaker of Panguma, Chief Bockarie Samai told Concord Times.
Some residents of Tongo, Panguma and Lalehun also claimed that although Tongoma Holdings has been engage in exploration in their communities for nine years, yet the company has only paid surface rent for three years.
“In fact the way this one year surface rent payment was shared among the three sections which are one of the major reasons we took this action. We are calling on the president to take serious action against this company,” Ibrahim Saffa Bonya, Youth Leader, urged.
Public Relations Manager of Koidu Holdings, Ibrahim Sorie, said the company has been informed about the development, but they are yet to receive any statement from the Minister of Mines.
“They are protesting that the mining concession should be taking from us because they have got new investors though the agreement is legitimate.
“Only recently we paid the surface rent to the land owning families. What we are not responsible for is how the said money can be distributed.
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We are open to any discussion to ensure that we have common understanding,” he said.
It could be recalled that Network Movement for Justice and Development, NMJD, Medico International–Germany, Campaign for Just Mining, CJM, and the Association of Journalists on Mining and Extractives (AJME) strongly reacted to a riot that broke out in Koidu City, Kono District, on December 17-18, 2012, which led to the death of two people.
‘‘In our view, there was a complete mismanagement of the situation by the police who in line with community policing had the obligation of calming down the protesters without necessarily resorting to the firing of tear gas canisters and live ammunition. The riot suddenly spread across the entire Koidu City, thereby warranting the imposition of a curfew order that lasted three days.
The fact that the two persons were killed and the majority of those who sustained gunshot wounds had nothing absolutely to do with the protest action and the fact that military reinforcement had to be called in, is in itself an indication that the police to a large extent were not able to manage the situation,“ the civil sociaty groups had said.