From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
Sierra Leone Lands Minister Ignites Leicester RiotÖ Residents Allege
By Aruna Turay
May 13, 2009, 17:38

Residents of Leicester Village have accused the newly appointed Minister of Lands and the Environment, Hon. Denis Sandy, of igniting a recent riot at Leicester Village that left millions of leones worth of properties stolen and several houses damaged.

Speaking to Awareness Times, the wife of the Village Headman, Ethel Decker, said the community reserved a piece of land for community development purposes.

The said land, Madam Decker went on, was intended to be used for the construction of a market, hospital, playing field and a police station for community use.

After the construction of the market, the community center and the field, she continued, a portion of the land was allocated to the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) for the construction of a police station, adding that when the SLP was contacted to start the construction, they were told that the required funds was yet to be raised.

Since then, she said the piece of land had remains idle. Mrs. Decker further stated that in early April 2009, the Councilor for Ward 326, Constituency 92, Mountain Rural District, Leicester Village, Councilor Margaret Kargbo, started constructing an illegal structure on the said land. "When we noticed this development, the community quickly set up a committee that made a formal complaint to the Inspector General of Police, Brima Acha Kamara, who took up the matter with the Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Dr. Denis Sandy.

She further explained that the minister then gave the Councilor a 21 ultimatum to present all necessary documents asserting her ownership of the contested land.

Accordingly, the councilor deliberately refused to comply by the ministerís ultimatum, leading to the issuance of a notice stopping her from proceeding with the construction with immediate effect.

This was followed by a 14¬≠day demolition notice, which was received and signed for by the councilorís husband.

The ministry eventually executed the demolition of the illegal structure on 24th April 2009, despite stiff resistance by the councilor.

Since then, thugs allegedly hired by the councilor started harassing certain people in the village believed to have had a hand in warranting the demolition.

Accordingly, a formal complaint was forwarded to the police, but no action was taken to salvage the situation.

Madam Decker further informed that on 26th April 2009, while the community was busy celebrating the villageís 200 years anniversary, the councilor and her alleged thugs stormed the community and started molesting people and making grave threats.

Accordingly, the Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment later held a meeting between the councilor and community members, during which he reportedly made statements that seemed supportive of the actions of the councilor.

This resulted in a verbal confrontation between the councilor and one Victoria Thomosia Akabie During, who was later asked out of the hall on orders of the minister.

Whilst stepping out of the hall, the alleged thugs of the councilor chased her outside the building and treated her to a thorough beating.

This further aggravated the situation as the youths in the village quickly mobilized themselves and went on the rampage.

The minister who according to reports did nothing to coil the riot down, jumped into his waiting vehicle and speeded off, leaving behind a volatile situation.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.