Justice for the people of Sierra Leone

A Rainforest Rescue activist in the embassy of Sierra Leone A Rainforest Rescue activist at the Sierra Leonean embassy in Berlin (© Rettet den Regenwald)

Jun 16, 2016

The NGOs Green Scenery and Rainforest Rescue delivered a petition with 120,000 signatures to the government of Sierra Leone today in a coordinated action. The petition is protesting the government's complicity with major investors in wholesale land grabbing for industrial plantations and the imprisonment of smallholders standing up for their land rights.

In Sierra Leone, six people were sentenced to several months in prison in February 2016 for alleged conspiracy for protesting the loss of their livelihoods. Thanks to pressure from numerous international organizations, all six have since been released and allowed to return to their villages. Yet the struggle for land and resources continues.

Local leaders and politicians are going over the heads of small farmers by leasing their land to Socfin, a Belgian palm oil company registered in Luxembourg, for 50 years. Major investors have already turned nearly one-fifth of the total arable land of Sierra Leone into vast plantations of oil palms, sugar cane and rubber trees. The people, however, are struggling to reclaim their land.

In Sierra Leone, the NGO Green Scenery delivered the petition to the government following a press conference in the capital Freetown. Meanwhile in Germany, Rainforest Rescue delivered the signatures to the embassy of Sierra Leone in Berlin and called for justice for land rights defenders. Rainforest Rescue maintains that the rights of Sierra Leonean smallholders must be respected. Their land and resources must not be made an object of speculation for foreign investors and corporations.

In Brussels and Paris, several environmental and human rights organizations recently protested the land grabbing in Sierra Leone at the shareholder meetings of Socfin and the Bolloré Group, a major Socfin shareholder.