Koina Caste System Land Dispute Results in Deadlock

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By Lamin Fatty

A land case involving a man who belongs to the so-called slave class and man said to be from the so-called freeborn class is at a standstill as the high court overturned the group tribunal’s verdict but has not ruled on the ownership of the land.

The Upper River Region Group Tribunal on 7 August 2021 decided in favor of the freeborn while the high court on 20 February 2024 overturned that decision. However, the court did not decide on who owns the land.

Musa Sanneh, plaintiff from the so-called slave class, appealed against the decision of the Group Tribunal comprising six (6) district chiefs who held that he did not own the land.

Justice Landing M. Sanneh of the Basse High Court said the appeal was filed on 14 October 2021. The initial respondent was Alhagie Abdoulie Trawally who died after the Upper River Region Group Tribunal delivered the judgment. The court allowed the change of applicant from Alhagie Abdoulie Trawally to Alhagie Saja Trawally.

In the first ground of appeal, the applicants claimed that the President of the Group Tribunal erred in law and fact when they proceeded to pass judgment for Alhagie Abdoulie Trawally without establishing the title of the said land.

“The error was that the Group Tribunal was biased in its decision which is based on the ancient and unlawful culture of slavery. Also, all the chiefs that presided over the case are from the so-called noble class while Musa Sanneh is from the so-called Slave Class,” the respondent argued in his appeal.

The appellant also argues that the Group Tribunal lacked power to hear the case because it was statute-barred. Sanneh said he had been using the suit land for the past 37 years and that Alhagie Abdoulie Trawally has never claimed possession of the land until the time he (Musa) decided not to be called a slave anymore.

Musa alleges the Group Tribunal failed to properly evaluate the evidence adduced before them before delivering Judgment in favor of Alhagie Abdoulie Trawally. He stated that the evidence adduced by Alhagie Abdoulie Trawally was insufficient for the tribunal to pass Judgment in his favor. He added that the evidence was so scanty for a reasonable Tribunal to believe or act on it or pass Judgment in favor of Trawally. He submitted that the Tribunal failed to consider the evidence that he has been continuously making use of the land for 37 years as it is his possession.

In his judgment, Justice Sanneh set aside the decision of the Group Tribunal and held that any of the parties may file a suit at the High Court for the proper determination of the true ownership of the said suit land.

“All parties are ordered to maintain the status quo,” he said.