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Guidance Note: Paralegal Intervention in Defending Community Rights in Land Acquisition Cases

By: Namati

NAMATI prepared this curriculum in response to a request for more guidance on the role that paralegals can play in defending and asserting the rights of communities in land acquisition cases, beyond the crucial task of fact-finding.

There is a great need for paralegal involvement in land acquisition cases in Sierra Leone. Nearly one-fifth of Sierra Leone’s arable land is now covered by or under negotiation for large-scale lease agreements, aiming to extract deposits of iron ore, platinum, gold, diamonds, bauxite, and rutile and to utilize the fertile land to produce ethanol, rubber, oil palm, and other agricultural products. The Government of Sierra Leone points to the burgeoning minerals and agribusiness industries as holding the potential to lift Sierra Leone to a middle-income country, in addition to bringing jobs, health clinics, and schools.

On the one hand, Sierra Leone boasted an economic growth of 20.1% last year; On the other hand, its Human Development Index remains one of the lowest in the world. This disparity shows that the growth in the economy is not actually benefiting many of the communities most affected by the large-scale land acquisitions. In fact, in Namati’s experience, many of the communities whose land has been acquired or who live next to a large-scale land acquisition by a mining or agribusiness company suffer negative impacts.

To create more equitable land agreements that benefit holders of large-scale land licenses and communities in a “win-win” situation, paralegals can strive to preventatively meet with communities to inform them of their rights, work with the communities to decide the best option for them given a potential land lease, and work with communities already affected by a lease to advocate for better environmental policies or to renegotiate the contract.

Table of Contents:

Introduction 1

Overview of Sierra Leone Land Law and Policy 2

  1. A) Introduction 2
  2. B) Provinces Land Act, Cap. 122 3
  3. C) Draft National Land Policy 4

Advocating for Land Rights of Communities 4

  1. A) Pre-Land Lease: Advice for Communities Considering Leasing Land to a Foreign Company 4
  2. B) Post-Land Lease: Working with Communities Who Are Already Subject to a Land Lease 6
  3. C) Pre OR Post-Land Lease: Negotiating or Re-negotiating a Land Lease 7