Less than a week after government lifted the ban on Koidu Holdings’ operations, there have been whimpers by civil society groups, the press and affected people in Kono district particularly those in Koidu town about this action.
Yesterday at the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) in Freetown, the Association of Journalists on Mining and Extractives (AJME) viewed with shock the surprise the lifting of the suspension of the operations of Koidu Holdings and at the same time considered it an insult to the dignity of the people affected by the operations of the company that it had been “cleared of all charges and allegations”.
Reading a press statement on behalf of the association, the organizing secretary Diana Coker said, “AJME is not totally averse to the lifting of the suspension because the company is registered and legally a recognized mining company operating in the country”
She added that, “our concern hinges on the fact that the very act of waving the charges and allegations against the company and the immediate lifting of the suspension without due reference to the people in whose interest the government claimed to be acting when it temporarily halted the operations of Koidu Holdings demonstrates the government’s lack of commitment to properly addressing the problem”.
Ms. Coker noted that this recent action by government was an indication that their hopes for a racial transformation in the mining sector to enhance community benefits had been seriously undermined.
By taking the decision to immediately lift the suspension of the operations of Koidu Holdings without first making sure that the concerns of the aggrieved persons are properly addressed, the government has not only betrayed their confidence but place them yet again at the mercy of the company, whose failure to meet its corporate social responsibilities to the people was the reason why they staged an uprising that later left two dead and eight others seriously wounded, stated Ms. Coker.
She emphasized that, “the government’s inability to maintain a firm stance on the issue as was expected by the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans, points to the fact that it finds itself in a vulnerable situation in which acting against the wishes of the keen actors behind the operations of Koidu Holdings would tantamount to losing much needed foreign aid”.
Ms Coker disclosed that what was extremely worrying were vital aspects of the government’s White Paper that was issued in response to the recommendations of the commission, such as the one dealing with the issues of resettlement and compensation had been out rightly compromised.
The Executive Director of Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) said the lifting of the ban was a serious blunder on the part of the government.
He added that the decision of the government had to be in the interest of the people, adding that it showed that the government lacked what it took to take decision on its own.