Monday 26th Sept. 2016: The Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board yesterday, Tuesday 27th September 2016, brought together cattle herders on one hand and landowners and farmers on the other in the Port Loko District to a meeting in Masiaka in an attempt to mediate a long standing conflict between the two groups.
That was the first time the Board was mediating a dispute involving such a matter under its Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism (ADR). It is also the first time it is mediating between very large groups with those affected running into the thousands.
The Board’s intervention is in response to reports from the Legal Aid Board lawyer, Mohamed Korie regarding the large number of cases of stealing and killing of cattle in the courts in the Port Loko District. These incidents are common in the Buya Romende, Marampa, Koya and Masimra chiefdoms in the district. “The Magistrate Court in Masiaka Town has over 25 cases involving stealing and killing of cattle,” Korie said.
Explaining the complex relationship between the two groups, Lawyer Korie said the cattle herders and landowners have been trading accusations and counter- accusations for quite some time now. While the landowners accuse the cattle herders of occupying their land illegal, the herders on the other refute this claim. They maintain the Paramount Chiefs approved their use of the land. The Landowners say they are not aware of any such arrangement and accused the cattle herders of conniving with the Paramount Chiefs to occupy their land illegally.
Also, the farmers accused the cattle herders of destroying their crops. They blame the cattle herders for failing to prevent their cattle from straying into their farms. On the other hand the cattle herders accuse the farmers of stealing and killing their cattle.
“We have also invited the Magistrates in the Port Loko District through the Honourable Chief Justice,” the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said.
“We expect them to attend as observers and they will not be required to make any statement. I must emphasize this is a pilot case after which we will come up with a comprehensive strategy to mediate such cases around the country.”
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.