Sierra Leone: China Defends Controversial Fishing Project


The Chinese government has defended a controversial fishing harbour project in Sierra Leone, accusing critics of engaging in a smear campaign.

The Chinese embassy in Freetown has also slammed local and foreign media reports on the proposal, claiming they were based on a false narrative designed to counter China-Sierra Leone cooperation.

The Chinese-funded project is for a 252-acre piece of land that encompasses a rainforest and a beach in a community called Black Johnson, a renowned ecotourism attraction situated outside the capital, Freetown.

With an estimated cost of $55million, the project entails a fish landing site and a waste management component, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR).

The MFMR says its objective is to centralise all fishing activities in order to increase the country’s capacity to export fish.

But campaigners say the project has the potential to cause a catastrophic impact on the environment, which would not only deprive residents of their main source of livelihood but also threaten the area’s tourism potential.

Compensation

The Sierra Leone government has earmarked over $1.3million to pay off landowning families which face forceful relocation to make way for the project.

An online petition, dubbed ‘Save Black Johnson Beach’, which was launched by the affected landowners, has been trending. It calls on the country’s President, Julius Maada Bio, to use his power and reverse the deal.