Inhabitants of Malambay, in the Western Area Rural District, are currently at war with children of the late President Siaka Stevens, after the latter recently lay claim to a large portion of land in the village.
The development has caused sleepless nights for the headman of Malambay village, residents and authorities of the district as children of the late former President reportedly hired some 200 men, armed with machetes, pickaxes, hoes, shovels, among other items, backed by military officers, to brush a large swath of land the villagers insist belong to them.
According to Alie Koroma, the village head, inhabitants of the village are the owners of all the lands. He said he was born and bred in Malambay village and that no one told them the late President Siaka Steven owned any piece of land in the village.
He accused former Minister of Finance in the reign of the late President, Hon. Hassan Gbessay Kanu, of inciting and meddling into the matter.
“It was Hon. Hassan Gbessay Kanu who called and told us that he was the one that bought the land for the late President Stevens in the 70s. He also told us that he was given the document of the land for safe keeping and that he should pass it over to President Stevens’s children when he [Stevens] has passed away,” he said.
“When we saw the situation, we did not stop them because they would have overpowered us. So I decided to report to the Local Unit Commander of Waterloo Police Division,” he told our reporter.
He said the main means of livelihood of inhabitants of the village is farming and that lands the children of the late President lay claim to was used for that purpose. He added that some residents had their plantations destroyed by the men hired to brush the land.
Councilor of Ward 343, which includes Malambay village, Hassan A. Koroma, said they last Saturday called the aggrieved parties and alleged land grabbers, including Hon. Hassan Gbessay Kanu, to a meeting.
“In the meeting, the inhabitants of Malambay village said they felt insecure when they saw hundreds of men going into the village to brush their land. The chairman of the meeting, Hon. Claude D.M. Kamanda, whose constituency covers the village, handed over the matter to the godfather of this area, Hon. Hassan Gbessay Kanu, to settle it,” he explained.
Asked if both parties were able to present documents to substantiate their claims, Councilor Koroma said it was only the Stevens that produced a document of the land in question, adding that they have been asked to stop brushing the land until further notice.
When quizzed about the allegation that the Stevens went to brush the land in the village with military personnel, he said the latter told him that the military personnel are members of their family and were not there to harm anyone in the village.
According to James, inhabitants of Malambay, including the headman, had encroached into their land so much that when they went to repossess it, they became frightened.
“Hon. Hassan Gbessay Kanu is a living witness to that property. To be honest with you, we never knew about that property but Hon. Kanu, who was the one that was given the money to buy the land and given the document for safe keeping, told us about it,” he disclosed.
He said they went to the village peacefully with no intent to cause harm to anybody, and that even when they were called to a meeting inhabitants of Malambay did not attend.
“We did not grab anybody’s land in Malambay, and we did not fight or harm anyone. The village headman is passing on the wrong information about us. The document with us is dated back in the 70s and the document bears the name of the late President Siaka Stevens,” he said.
He confirmed that military personnel that accompanied them to the village are members of his family.
Hon. Claude D.M. Kamanda said they have met with all parties and the discussion was successful, adding that all parties have some amount of right and wrong.
“The inhabitants of Malambay village have some wrong because they sold the land and the Stevens have some wrong because they went and brush areas that do not belong to them. However, they notified the people of the village through several meetings before they started to brush the land,” said the ruling party lawmaker, who represents the area in Parliament.
He disclosed that inhabitants of Malambay were called to a meeting with Hon. Gbessay Kanu but they refused to attend.
He claimed that some elders were aware of the transaction between the late Siaka Steven and those who sold the land. He said they have decided to have another meeting with both parties in order to resolve the issue amicably.
Hon. Hassan Gbessay Kanu confirmed that the late President Siaka Stevens left a document with him for safe keeping, adding that he was told to give it to his children after his [Stevens] death, adding that he did as he was instructed.
“I don’t have any portion of the land, it is owned by the Stevens. This is not the only document that I have, there are many others that secured their documents with me and I have them. When the time comes to hand them over, I will do without hesitation,” concludes the retired politician.