The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in Sierra Leone (MRD- SL) has on Saturday 27th September, 2008 peacefully resolved a long standing dispute between P.C Alhaji Amara Goway Sama, the Paramount Chief of Gorahun Chiefdom and the Gola Forest Programme.
The reconciliation meeting took place at the Gorahun Court Bari in the Tunkia Chiefdom, with Chiefdom Authorities, Youths and the Gola Forest Management all taking part in the deliberations.
It was revealed that Tunkia Chiefdom is one of the seven Chiefdoms in the East and South of the country that signed an agreement to protect and preserve the Gola Forest.
Giving an overview of the meeting, the Regional Coordinator of MRD-SL Patrick Adu admonished participants that the meeting was to address the long-standing Press war between the Paramount Chief and the Gola Forest Programme which has resulted to the publication of several articles from both sides; with each accusing the other, leading to divisions within the Chiefdom. The issue is the supposed mining at Bangra Hill as against the preservation of the Gola Forest.
It was alleged that P.C Alhaji Sama had signed a mining agreement to mine at Bangra Hill, which is part of the Gola Forest Reserve. The Paramount Chief denied the allegations, noting that his Chiefdom is benefiting a lot from the Gola Forest Program, as such he sees on reason why he should alter the program in place of mining. He maintained that he would always support the preserving of the Gola Forest, not only for the benefit of Tunkia Chiefdom but for the country as a whole.
As a leader, he promised to embrace all and sundry in and out of his Chiefdom in the interest of total peace and development.
Chief Sama commended the MRD for the initiative, pointing out that peace would be achieved this time round.
The Area Protection Manager, Gola Forest Programme, John Moriba said that he is happy that the issues have finally been laid to rest. He lauded the efforts of the Civil Society for bridging the gap between the two parties with the spirit of peace and reconciliation. John Moriba said that the team would now work together in fostering development in the Chiefdom irrespective of what people perceive with regard the activities of the Gola Forest Programme.
The Member of Parliament for Constituency 19, Hon. Marcus Kallon pointed out that other countries in the world are benefiting from Forest Management and it would be an advantage to his people if they resolve to embrace the Gola forest programme. He disclosed that mining could only benefit the present generation but would leave behind extreme poverty and destruction for future generation; citing instances in Tongo field in the Lower Bambara Chiefdom, Kono District and Sierra Rutile in the South of the country as typical examples.
The Chiefdom Speaker, Alhaji Sheku Kinney, appealed to the Gola Forest Programme Management to increase the number of scholarship award for their children and also create job opportunities for the youths.
At the end of the day meeting a Joint communiqué was signed between the three parties; PC Alhaji Amara Goway Sama V signed on behalf of the Tunkia Chiefdom; while John Moriba signed on behalf of the Gola Forest Programme and witnessed by the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy Sierra Leone (MRD-SL). Extracts from the communiqué are as follows:
Members of the Gola Forest Management and the people of Tunkia Chiefdom in the Kenema District met together on 27th September 2008 to resolve issues of conflict relating to the proposed mining of the Bangra hills in the Gola Forest Reserve.
The Gola Forest Programme and the Tunkia Community resolved to move ahead with the continued protection of the Gola Forest, and to respect President Koroma’s decision that no mining would take place in the Gola Forests.
The people of Tunkia had amicably resolved issues of conflict within sections of the community and would work together in open and friendly brotherhood.
The Gola Forest Programme and the People of the Tunkia Chiefdom deplore recent attempts to discredit the Gola Forest Programme, and welcome the resolution of issues opening the way to the resumption of the friendly and cooperative partnership between the Chiefdom people of Tunkia.
All parties agreed to be in support of preserving the forest instead of mining.