From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

FEATURES
The People Of Kono Endorse The New Koidu Holdings Agreement
By
Nov 10, 2010, 17:12

Following a review process that lasted for almost two years, the government of Sierra Leone and Koidu Holdings S.A signed a new agreement for the Koidu Kimberlite Project mining lease area on the 6th September 2010. As the said Agreement now awaits ratification from Parliament, the Honourable Member of Parliament representing Constituency 21 in the Kono District, Honourable Emmanuel Tommy in the company of members of the civil society, took the Agreement to his people on Saturday, 6th November, 2010. The intention was to acquaint them with its contents and seek their views on the terms therein.

In a consultative session held at the Tankoro Native Administration court barray in Kono, Albert Victor Kamara ESQ painstakingly took the people through each page of the Agreement. Abu Brima of the NMJD complemented him with a commentary on each clause; an approach which proved every bit laborious for some people as they left the hall midway into the session. Despite this ‘negative commentary’, when all was said and done, the general consensus, albeit tacit, was that the new Agreement represents a massive leap forward. With 0.25% of the value of Koidu Holdings annual exports going to community development, 0.15 % more than the new Mines and Minerals Act is asking for, a $100,000 provision for educational support, and an annual contribution to an Agricultural Development Fund, the people of Kono felt that there was enough reason for them to believe that they stand to benefit significantly more from this new Agreement.

Speaking to this reporter at the end of the programme, Mohamed Moripeh, a trader, expressed his delight over the new Agreement as he believes it promises a lot of good thing, which if implemented will improve the lives of the people of Kono district. Kadiatu Menjor on the other hand erred on the side of caution. Noting that having a good agreement is one thing, implementing it is another entirely. "All we want now is development for our district," She added. Komba Yomba, a farmer, was thankful to the organisers of the session because the knowledge gained, according to him, gives them an idea of what to and what not to expect from the Company, whilst at the same time it empowers them to monitor the implementation of the terms of the Agreement. More than the people, it was Mr. Abu Brima who seemed to have qualms with aspects of the Agreement. Among other things, Mr. Brima holds the view that the 0.25 allocated to community development in the Agreement is not enough, that the Agreement was silent on the resettlement programme and that there should be a community development agreement between the Company and the Koidu community.

Throughout the session, the Paramount Chief of Tankoro Chiefdom, P.C Paul Ngaba Saquee V was conspicuously absent as were all other Paramount Chiefs. When contacted by this reporter, the Chief said that was the case because he wanted to give the people the opportunity to discuss the Agreement freely without fear or favour. Paramount Chief Saquee lamented how over the years people have been quick to blame Chiefs for just about everything that has gone wrong in the district, which is why he wanted his people to have the opportunity to interact with their representative and discuss everything pertaining the Agreement, including its stakeholders such as himself with no hesitation.

On the Agreement, the Chief said it is one of the best things that have happened to Kono District for a very long time. He thanked the government and the Company for brokering a deal that has ensured that his people are going to benefit even more from the operations of Koidu Holdings. "My position has always been that we should encourage credible foreign investors and support them to achieve their investment objectives. Because when they do, the benefits will trickle down to everyone in this district either in the form of employment, scholarships, agricultural development or infrastructural development," P.C Saquee explained.

Commenting on the disclosure of the terms of their Agreement to the people of Kono by Honourable Emmanuel Tommy, the Chief Communications Officer of Koidu Holdings S.A, Ibrahim Sorie Kamara, said his Company were pleased to hear that because as far as they are concerned it is important for the people to know what is in the Agreement for them, and that there is no better person to do that than their representative in Parliament. Mr. Kamara said there is no doubt that they are going to do everything in their power to meet their obligations as stipulated in the Agreement. He therefore implored all parties concerned to do the same as he said it is the only way the very many good things the Agreement promises to all stakeholders will be realised. "We are proud of our agreement because we know we have given the people of this country a fair deal and it will stand the test of time," the Company’s Spokesman posited.

The Agreement which was declared the most thoroughly negotiated mining agreement ever in Sierra Leone by the leader of the government negotiating team, Frank Kargbo, has been receiving rave reviews from many quarters since it was signed. And it is now regarded by government as the blue print of all future mining agreements. But for now, it remains locked within the four walls of the house of Parliament. Whenever the process of its ratification is going to commence, your guess is as good as mine.

Murphy Kamara



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