Manonkoh Village achieves partial victory with London Mining Company

In 2010, Manonkoh, a small Sierra Leonean farming village of about 35 households in an area close to the Marampa mining concession of London Mining Company began complaining about creeping flood waters.  A waterway, blocked by a damming, fell within the company’s concession area, causing over 350 hectares of arable swampland to become polluted over the course of two years, and destroying crops in the process.

During this time, community leaders repeatedly attempted to engage with company officials, only to be rebuffed or met with indifference.  While a senior official with the company promised at one point to work with the community to rectify the problem, he later reneged on that promise.  Residents were then presented with a Memorandum of Understanding promising 210 bags of rice in exchange for silence on the issue, which they refused to sign.

Building on two years of frustrations from diminished livelihoods, the village unanimously agreed to take the London Mining Company to court in July.  Working with the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food, Namati Sierra Leone director Sonkita Conteh represented the community as it sought legal recourse.  On December 17, the village and the company finally reached an agreement: under this MOU, the company will provide Manonkoh’s residents with humanitarian assistance, which includes 210 bags of rice, farm tools, and a water well with a hand pump.  While the company agreed to most of the conditions put forward by the villages, including removing the floodwater, it did not accept responsibility for the flooding, and it refused to provide monetary compensation to villagers for the two years their lands were un-arable.

Conteh acknowledged the partial victory for the villagers, and the precedent this MOU sets for enforcing corporate accountability in Sierra Leone, particularly with regard to natural resource exploitation.  The village maintains the right to seek redress notwithstanding of the MOU, and Conteh will continue to work with the village to ensure the full implementation of the MOU.

To learn more about this issue and about Namati’s work with the people of Manonkoh:

December 19, 2012 | Namati