Hannah Deen

Hannah Deen, Sahn Malen

Pujehun District, Sierra Leone.

Violation: verbal and physical abuse, threats, sexual assault and jailed along with 18 male activists in her community.

Hannah Deen is a land rights activist and the women’s leader of Malen Landowners Association (MALOA) in Southern Sierra Leone. In 2011, SOCFIN Agricultural, a Luxembourg based company with  a vast network of holdings and operational companies which controls about 400,000 hectares of land concessions in ten countries, was leased land by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food security on behalf of the Central Government. 

The lease was signed by the paramount chief and 28 landowners and was later sub-leased to the company SOCFIN on the same day, without any agreement with the community and landowners. This has led to a land conflict between local communities, represented by MALOA, and SOCFIN. 

The failure to consult and obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the area’s indigenous people, allegations of coercion in the land transfer process, alleged improper land surveys and a reportedly inadequate compensation have all led to serious, and legitimate, grievances. MALOA was thus formed as a pressure group by dissatisfied landowners in October 2011.

Since 2011, Hannah has been fighting to regain her land or be included in all negotiations regarding the land that was illegally grabbed by SOCFIN. Hannah, along with 18 men from her village, was detained in February 2019 for allegedly killing two people during an altercation between MALOA and the company. The accused firmly maintain that these are false charges and the real basis for their arrests is that they are standing up to SOCFIN and fighting for their land. 

When they were eventually released, their case had been transferred to a court that is in the capital city even though there is a court in a town close to the village.* Hannah and her co-accused are forced to meet their own transport costs to-and-from the capital, which has been prohibitively expensive and drained them. At the time of her arrest, Hannah was subjected to a body search, where she stripped to her underwear. The body search was conducted by a male police officer.

Many women in the community who are working for SOCFIN have developed health complications because of hard labour and distances they are forced to walk on the plantations. Regardless of the work they do, women in this community are considered secondary citizens. If you own land and you are a woman, it is taken away from you. For Hannah, the fight for her land is about survival. 

 

Since SOCFIN came, the people in her community are no longer able to produce their food without land, and instead have to buy at exorbitant prices. “As of now we cannot eat palm oil or its nuts from the place we call home. We want our land back. The bush is our office. I will keep fighting as long as I have breath in me.”

*On the launch of www.riseagainstrepression.org, December 10 2020, Human Rights Day – we received an update on Hannah and MALOA comrades through allies in Sierra Leone. The charges have officially been dropped – a cause for celebration in the midst of their ongoing struggle for justice against SOCFIN.

Source of testimony and images: Hannah Deen, Informal Alliance Against Industrial Oil Palm Plantations in West and Central Africa and GRAIN.org.

“As of now we cannot eat palm oil or its nuts from the place we call home. We want our land back. The bush is our office. I will keep fighting as long as I have breath in me.”

Hannah Deen testimony – Malen Land Owners Association (MALOA), Sahn Malen, Sierra Leone

 Hannah Deen is a land rights activist and the women’s leader of Malen Landowners Association (MALOA) in southern Sierra Leone. In 2011, SOCFIN Agricultural, a Luxembourg based company with a vast network of holdings and operational companies which controls about 400,000 hectares of land concessions in ten countries, was leased land by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food security on behalf of the Central Government. The lease was signed by the paramount chief and 28 landowners and was later sub-leased to the company SOCFIN on the same day, without any agreement with the community and landowners. Since 2011, Hannah has been fighting to regain her land or be included in all negotiations regarding the land that was illegally grabbed by SOCFIN.

The brutal slaying of 'Bazooka' Rhadebe

Eastern Cape, South Africa

The Khelcom Women

Senegal

Read powerful testimonies reflecting the experience and resistance of activists and communities from across the African continent.