Speaking to a cross-section of media professionals on Sunday 17th March, 2019 at Charlotte Village in the presence of numerous residents and affected landowners, the Secretary General of Charlotte Development Association, Mr. Denis Valcarcel said the manner in which the Lands Minister entered the village that fateful day accompanied by truckloads of armed military and OSD personnel caused pandemonium resulting to patients and medical workers and school children fleeing the village in fear for their lives.
According to Mr. Valcarcel, the minister did not consult them, nor inform them before storming their ‘home.’ He described the Lands Minister’s action as “undemocratic and demonic,” adding that he is calling on each and every Sierra Leone to denounce the action of the Lands Minister because “it is wrong and undemocratic and as indigenes we condemn this act because he did not act within the ambit of the law” Valcarcel said. He claimed that the structures demolished by the Lands Minister are not illegal as claimed by the minister but are private properties for which the owners have all the correct documents in their possession. He added that the description of the area in question by the minister as it being a water catchment area; a protected area or above the Green Belt are untrue statements, according to Valcarcel.
A very senior citizen of Charlotte Village, Reverend Matthew Hughes spoke on the historic importance of Charlotte Village, citing that, it was the original site where the Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School for Girls was founded. He added that Charlotte Village is over three hundred years old and that this is the first time they suffered such brutality and willful destruction perpetrated by a state functionaries without going through the due process and without consulting the indigenous residents before demolishing their structures.
“I was not expecting the minister to behave in the manner he did. If he had come and consulted first with us, the situation would have been much better because we would have sat together and dialogued so that at the end of the day, nobody’s rights would be trampled as we are all one big family in Sierra Leone. But he did not consult anyone. He came on his own with police and soldiers and started demolishing structures. The areas he destroyed structures are comprised of four streets namely, Bottom Shekeh, Mamy Yoko, Oku Town and further up we have Wellington Road. Over the years governments have come and gone but they cared less for Charlotte and even the road into the village was a self-help project by an indigene,” Rev. Hughes said almost in tears. He used the opportunity to prevail on President Julius Maada Bio and other authorities to visit Charlotte Village to assess for themselves, the damage done by the Lands Minister and his delegation.
Other speakers and affected land owners and family members that spoke openly of their disgust and shock over the action of the Lands Minister were Mr. Charles Taylor, Mr. Moses Sandy, Mr. Anthony Tucker, Madam Katherine Harding, former Headwoman of Charlotte Village and elderly citizen Simeon Ayodele Showers, among several others.
It could be recalled that on February 28th March, 2019, Minister of Lands Dr. Denis Sandy with logistical support from armed military and OSD personnel in collaboration with environmental activists and conservationists stormed Charlotte Village where the minister and officials from the Lands Ministry systematically demolished zinc structures, and perimeter fences on land the minister claimed was “protected state land” which is not for habitation, but rather should be left alone for environmental and climatic reasons. The demolition team also destroyed mud and concrete blocks and scattered piles of sand they met on the land in question.
The affected residents have however sworn to take this matter to the farthest and highest place for adjudication if the government fails to address their plight.