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Serious Concerns Over Black Johnson's Future Demise in Sierra Leone

By Mohamed Kamara,

Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Black Johnson beach, a breaking-taking and naturally refreshing place found along West of  Freetown's Peninsula is set to be filled with toxic waste and pollution if government constructs a fishingharbour on its pristine coastlines as planned.

Sierra Leone Government has already received $55 million grant from People's Republic of China for the construction purpose.

About 252 acres space has been measured by the government, reclaiming it from private landowners who had previously bought it from community elders.

"Government had long wished to build a fishing harbour since the 70s. The facility will comprise a waste management component which will involve recycling of marine and other waste into useful products. The strategic relevance of the Fish Harbour doesn't include revenue generation and job creation, but it will also build the capacity of Sierra Leoneans in vessel repairs and maintenance" Emma Kowa Jalloh, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, confirmed at a press conference held on May 10, 2021.

Before her confirmation , there were wide spread rumours among Sierra Leoneans that the Chinese intended to build a fish meal factory on the shores, a situation which led to citizen's  concerns about the destruction of fish and the environment.

In a petition issued on May 9 this year, Black Johnson Landowners Group ( BJLOG) highlighted the impact the project will have on society and elsewhere.

"Part of the land earmarked is a lagoon in the dry season that opens as a river in the rainy season. The lagoon is a major breeding ground for many species of fish. The lagoon is the nursery. The young fish then move into the ocean when it opens into a river when the rains come. It flows into Whale Bay" the petition reads in part.

However, Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone has reacted to BJLOG's allegations, referring to it as baseless and unfounded.

"The accusations of not paying attention to environmental protection are completely sensational and hypothetical" says, Du Zijun, Economic Conselor at Chinese embassy, Sierra Leone.

But government has insisted that proper care would be taken to protect and preserve the environment. And the Ministry of Finance has pronounced a compensation package amounting to Le 13.76 billion for affected land owners at Black Johnson community.

Demanding explanation from authorities, on May  14, NAMATI Sierra Leone and Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy for Justice (ILRAJ), non-governmental organizations which focus on  land rights and environmental justice, have written to the Ministry of Lands, requesting clarification on land acquisition agreement between Sierra Leone and Chinese government.

As it stands, there are still ongoing discussions on the issue. Sierra Leoneans are waiting to see if government really lays more premium on eco-tourism or it is simply making bogus about the growth in tourism and the protection of the environment.

And the New Direction Government is also under serious public scrutiny on the agreement signed to construct a fishing harbour at Black Johnson beach.