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24.05.2004 Regional News

Reclaim our lands for us- Chiefs appeal to Governement

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Accra, May 24, GNA - The chiefs, elders and people of Kwae and its surrounding towns on Monday appealed to the government to intervene on their behalf to reclaim their farm land which was being taken away by private investors.

They chiefs alleged that the diversified Ghana Oil Palm Development Company (GOPDC) was currently making situation difficult for them in their own land with threat of ejecting them from the land since it claimed it acquired those lands under the divestiture programme in 1995. The chiefs and people, clad in mourning cloths signifying their grievance and seriousness, made the passionate appeal at a press conference, attended by Barima Kwame Bomfi III Chief of Kwae, Barima Kwame Kwarteng II, Chief of Anweam, Obaapanyin Efia Kyamaa, Queen Mother of Kwae, farmers and representatives from Kwae, Asuom, Afunyaa, Koka, Atobriso, Akawani, Adokrom and Anweam, all in the Kwabibirem District of the Eastern Region.

The Solicitor and Spokesperson of the Chiefs, Mr Kwasi Danso-Acheampong, explained that the land was originally acquired by the state under the Supreme Military Council in 1976 for the oil palm project.

He said, though the people earlier raised an objection to the idea, the Military came up later with a convincing explanation and promises that the people would benefit immensely from the project.

Mr Danso-Acheampong said under the agreement, farmers in the areas were allotted 20 acres of land each to cultivate for a lease period of 25 years, while the chiefs were also paid some form of compensation and cocoa farmers given half of moneys promised to them.

He indicated that, apart from the "little compensation, none of the projects promised has been provided since and the people of Kwae and surrounding towns are worse of."

He said when the Corporation was diversified under the past government the chiefs and people were ignored in the new negotiations and that has empowered the new managers to think those lands belong to them.

He said the new managers has since August 2002, served the native farmers notice to vacate the 20-acre land allotted to each of them on the basis that the allotment was made as a lease for a period of 25 years, which has expired.

The Spokesperson indicated that though various petitions have been made, including one to the Office of the President to intervene on their behalf for a possible re-negotiation on the land between the investors and the chiefs but that has yielded no result.

"Presently, tension is seriously building up in the affected areas especially among the youths most of whom were not born when the obnoxious acquisition was carried out.

"It is in the consequence of the explosive situation building up in the affected areas that has compelled the chiefs and elders of the towns to rush to the court of the public opinion. Should the natives of the acquired lands who were made to forgo their land in the public interest continue to suffer for private interest?" Mr Danso-Acheampong asked. He therefore, urged President Kufuor to, as a matter of urgency, intervene for a possible re-arrangement since the Chiefs were prepared to enter into a new understanding that would adequately protect the legitimate interest of the natives of the acquired lands.

"The chiefs, elders and people of affected towns will use all, legitimate means at their disposal to resist the use of legislation to turn the natives of the acquired lands into refugees with no land to work and live on", the Spokesperson emphasized.

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