Mohamed Lyrics Bangura
Summary: Mohamed Lyrics Bangura is a journalist, sports broadcaster, and activist from Sierra Leone who has been vocal in exposing sports corruption and land grabbing in the Western Area of Sierra Leone. Despite being arrested multiple times by the police and threatened with prosecution, Bangura has remained firm and resolute; his efforts have resulted in helping victimized communities understand the technicalities involved in acquiring land.
Profile: Western Rural District of Freetown is located in the Western Area of Sierra Leone and is mostly dominated by the Creole people. The Western Area constitutes more than one million inhabitants of the entire country’s population of seven million, yet understanding and going through the legal processes of acquiring land remains a challenge—a challenge that has resulted in many fights, mutilations, deaths, and court actions. Because of the system required to legally attain a piece of property, many poor land owners who have inherited these properties and do not have the financial muscle to have them registered have been left at the mercy of corrupt land surveyors, headmen, and other government land officials.
It is against this backdrop that Mohamed Lyrics Bangura, through his non-partisan radio program on Culture Radio 104.5 FM—“Wach Yusef, Wach Yu Environment”— channels information and awareness to the people within the Western Area on land grabbing, deforestation, and other issues.
“As you might have learnt,” he says, “Western Area has been badly affected by the present corrupt land deals . . . since the expansion of the city took a U-turn some 20 years ago with more people depleting the environment on a daily basis for the want of building houses. I realized that there is the uncontrolled issue of ‘ghost surveyors’—people who claim to work for the land ministry, but in actual fact, they are non-existent. I saw the enormous need to set up a platform to champion awareness on these issues with the aim of not only educating land owners, but harnessing answers to the many corrupt practices that marred the land sale space within the Western Area.”
Bangura describes his role in regard to these issues: “My duty as a community radio [host] is to ensure that the whole of Western Area gets adequate information in respect of land sales. Over the last six years I have continuously broadcasted and held open discussion on issues of land grabbing and timber logging as a product of deforestation within the Western Area and the entire country by extension.”
However, the work Bangura has been doing faces many challenges, including the risk of persecution by powerful politicians and other community stakeholders who accuse him of spreading misinformation. In 2018, in a local community known as Leicester Road, some stakeholders ganged up to grab a piece of land housing a borehole for the community. Bangura heard about the incident, investigated, and aired the impasse. Key community stakeholders approached his employer, the proprietor of Culture Radio, and requested that he be fired, saying that the disputed property is family owned rather than community owned. When that failed, they conspired with others and got Bangura arrested on trumped-up allegations of theft. It happened that during the COVID outbreak, Bangura had successfully advocated for Guma Valley Water Company to provide water within the Leicester Community. Bangura’s enemies, however, carted away the machines providing that water and framed Bangura for it. He was arrested and taken to State CID, but, upon thorough investigations, released for lack of evidence. Over the next four years, Bangura was arrested over a dozen times; some politicians see him as a threat, especially with his focus on exposing land grabbers and incessant deforestation.
“Some of my programs,” says Bangura, “have been disrupted by Police Officers, but that hasn’t stopped me from carrying on my work.”
Apart from his work within the environment, Bangura also discusses issues bordering on politics. In 2022, he investigated a story in respect of a border crossing point between Sierra Leone and Guinea named “YENGA”. After airing the story, Bangura was arrested, detained for a day, and later released. His queries into the arrest engendered the typical response: “When I inquired into the reasons for my arrest, I was told by the police that my arrest was precipitated by orders from above.”
Does all this stop Bangura from his advocacies?
“I believe it is my duty as an indigene of Sierra Leone to ensure the upliftment of my people, regardless of the risk of arrest and detention.”
Mohamed Lyrics Bangura is the recipient of the 2022 Environmental Reporter of the Year from the BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone.