NMJD LAUNCHES REPORT ON KOIDU HOLDINGS OPERATIONS
The Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) and its local partners has launched the first of a series of reports on the operations of corporate mining companies working in Sierra Leone. The report titled: “Diamonds, Blood and Tears: The Relationship Between Koidu Holdings Limited and the Affected Property Owners of Kono” was launched on Tuesday 22 June 2010 at the Atlantic Hall of the National Stadium in Freetown by Commissioner Edward Sam, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.
The report focuses on the general operations of Koidu Holdings Ltd (KHL) and its relationship with the affected people of Kono. The relationship between KHL and the residents of Tankoro chiefdom, where the company operates, has always been a thorny issue for the company, the government and civil society campaigners, as well as a potential source of conflicts.
A cross-section of people at the launching of the report
Describing the launching, the Executive Director of the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Abu Brima, said it was a moment of reflection for the government of Sierra Leone, which has the sole responsibility to protect and promote the rights of all its citizens; the international community who’ve done so much to bring peace and economic development to the country; and the citizens who’re daily experiencing hardship and frustration.
“It’s also a wake-up call to all of us, including mining companies, citizens, the government and its development partners, to do something to not only increase mining activities in the country, but that things are done within the realm of established international standards. This is the only way we can reverse the resource curse, which has caused tremendous havoc on the poor people of Sierra Leone, particularly residents of mining communities,” Brima said.
The report is a follow-up to the ugly incidents of 13 December 2007 in Kono, which resulted in the shooting to death by state security deployed at KHL mining site in Tankoro of two peaceful and unarmed protesters. Ten others sustained serious gun shots wounds.
Deputy Executive Director, Josephine Koroma, welcoming guests to the launching
The Government of Sierra Leone swiftly suspended the operations of the company and set up the Jenkins-Johnston Commission of Inquiry to look into the causes of the protestations of the people and other related matters that were responsible for the poor relationship between residents of Kono and corporate mining companies.
The Commission came up with a wide range of recommendations that were addressed to both the government and KHL. The government endorsed all the recommendations of the Commission in the White Paper that they issued after the report was presented to President Ernest Bai Koroma.
“NMJD and its partners are keen on seeing that the recommendations of the Jenkins-Johnston Commission of Inquiry are fully implemented. We’ve, therefore, been following and monitoring the situation with a keen eye. This is a report card of how far the government and KHL have gone to implement the recommendations of the Commission.
“The objective of this exercise is to put a stop to the bad practices that have characterized the extractives sector in Sierra Leone before we start the exploitation of oil and gas, which are more complex and highly technological,” Brima said.
Commenting on the report at the launching ceremony, the public relations officer of KHL, Ibrahim Sorie Kamara, said even though they welcomed the report, it didn’t reflect the several developments that have taken place since the government’s White Paper on the recommendations of the Jenkins-Johnston Commission of Inquiry was released.
“I’ll tell you here that we’ve moved significantly in strengthening our relationship with the local communities where we operate. But the report fails to appreciate the several good things that we’ve so far done.
“Even the title of the report is disturbing. How can they liken the relationship between KHL and the people of Tankoro chiefdom to blood and tears? But we’ll take a further look at the report and then respond to it accordingly,” Kamara said.
Responding to Kamara’s claims, both the public relations officer of the Affected Property Owners Association, Sahr Samuel Nguajah, and the national chairman of the Campaign for Just Mining, Leslie Mboka, said that the sufferings of people in mining communities, including the people of Tankoro chiefdom, continued without any letup. They unequivocally blamed corporate mining companies such as KHL and the complicity of government for the hardship and deplorable living conditions of the people.
“According to the Resettlement Action Plan, KHL are to construct 12 houses every month for the relocation of the displaced people. But from November 2009 to date, they’ve only constructed 48 houses. And we’re now in the rainy season; our people are really suffering,” Nguajah said.
The lead researcher and author of the report, Dr Lansana Gberie, couldn’t agree more with Sahr Samuel Nguajah and Leslie Mboka. He said the twin issues of compensation and relocation of the affected people have been dragging for far too long. He blamed both the government and KHL for the snail’s pace the relocation process was going, particularly the construction of the resettlement houses.
“KHL only require US$50,000 to build all the houses needed for the resettlement of the affected people. US50,000 is very meagre to KHL. I don’t see any reason why they should allow this issue to degenerate to a level where innocent people would have to lose their lives. It’s really a shame.
“The government too is not doing much to protect its citizens from powerful foreign mining corporations such as KHL. But of course, what can one expects from a government that violates its own very laws just so that they would satisfy foreign interests? Such a government cannot be relied on to protect its citizens,” Gberie said.
Commissioner Edward Sam delivering the keynote statement
In his keynote address before launching the report, Edward Sam commended NMJD and its partners for producing the report, which he described as “a call for action on the part of government, in this particular case to address the issues in Tankoro chiefdom as a result of the mining activities of KHL”.
“The government is to ensure that the mining activities of companies not only benefit the national interest, but also the community affected by the mining activities and their operations do not violate the rights of the people.
“Granted that the right to mine was given by the Government to mining companies (investors), but there is also the realization that people have a right to live. How do you balance mining rights to companies and the right to livelihoods by the people?” Sam asked.
The report was researched by Dr Lansana Gberie who has a wealth of experience writing and researching on the diamond/extractives sector for a period spanning over a decade.
The Mining and Extractives programme of NMJD produced the report in collaboration with the Campaign for Just Mining and the Association of Journalists on Mining. The project was funded by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.
The launch was attended by people from different walks of life including parliamentarians, chiefs, women’s and youth groups, CSO activists, school going children, NGO executives, civil servants and government ministries, departments and agencies.
The ceremony was chaired by the National Coordinator of Campaign for Good Governance, Ms Valnora Edwin, whilst the Deputy Executive Director of NMJD, Mrs. Josephine Koroma, delivered the welcome statement.
The series will next focus on African Minerals, which is exploiting the huge iron ore deposits in Tonkolili district in the northern region.