Hundreds of villagers, including women and children, are currently in Kenema city with their belongings. They walked over twenty miles from Dawabu village in the Koya chiefdom in the Kenema district to Kenema city.
Speaking to the group at the regional police headquarters, one of the affected persons, Alieu Ibrahim Kemokai, told Awoko that they were in Kenema because of a long standing bush dispute between them at Dawabu and the next village.
He said they were requesting the government to immediately send a team to Koya chiefdom to investigate the bush palaver and give it to the rightful village or provide them space in Kenema for them to stay permanently.
Explaining further about the palaver, he said there was a vast land of bush between Dawabu and Mamboma with a hill called Gonjie and that their great ground parents had been working in that bush for over 50 years.
Alieu Kemokai said they had acres of plantation of palm trees; cocoa and coffee in the bush while residents of Mamboma also had some plantations on the other side.
He said when the late paramount chief PC Momoh Kanneh III was alive, a dispute broke out about that bush between the two settlements and that after investigation the ownership of the bush went to Dawabu village.
He added that when the paramount chief election came after the death of PC Kanneh III, the people of Dawabu did not support the current paramount chief Al-Amin Mustapha Kanneh.
Continuing he noted that, “when Al-Amin Mustapha Kanneh won the election we the people of Dawabu pledged our loyalty to him by hunting, fishing and doing other work for him, with the intention that he will not victimize us. But it is the opposite that is now happening”.
Another dispute erupted again concerning the same bush, the current paramount chief then asked his chiefdom speaker, Bockarie Tenaleh, to look into the matter, but he retrieved the bush from Dawabu and gave it to Mamboma village.
“We the people of Dawabu then went to the paramount chief and appealed the verdict since then nothing fruitful has come out of it. There was another chieftaincy contest where in we the people of Dawabu did not throw our weight behind the paramount chief but supported one Mohamed Vandi from Kenema, a brother of chief Brima Swaray. In addition, in the past presidential and parliamentary elections we were not on the same frequency with the paramount chief in terms of political party,” he narrated further.
“After the election and the APC won, one Bockarie Hakawa of Gofor village in the Dama chiefdom Kenema district together with some APC supporters paid us a visit and told us that the country was now operating under the APC and wanted the support of every one for the development of the country,” he stated.
But the quarrel about the bush continued. And last week the people of Mamboma, armed with cutlasses and other weapons, went to the bush and started using threatening remarks against the people of Dawabu village. Tension mounted between the two settlements.
“Because of peace, we decided to pull out with all our families and some property to Kenema to formerly complain to authorities here. In addition, we are not ready to return until the bush is returned to the rightful owners,” he concluded. The paramount chief of Koya chiefdom cannot be reach for his comment.
By Saffa Moriba in Kenema