Oswald Hanciles


Summary: Oswald Hanciles is an environmentalist and journalist who is renowned for environmental advocacy and media outreach. For over three decades in Sierra Leone and throughout Africa he has raised awareness on politics, economy, education, welfare, and the debilitating impact of climate change. He has been continually rebuked by government officials, corporate leaders, and others, but he continues his crusade to save his country from environmental disaster.

Profile: Oswald Hanciles is a Sierra Leonean environmental and climate activist. He started cutting his journalistic teeth back in 1981 as a reporter and cartoonist in the Liberian newspaper, The Daily Observer. Coming from a coastal region of Bonthe that has for decades been adversely affected by change in climate and is an area marred by sea-level rise, Hanciles knows very well the importance of engaging the government of Sierra Leone and the general public to protect the environment. He has argued that Sierra Leone and the rest of Africa will face severe environmental consequences unless steps are taken. He has been urging a two-trillion annual investment from the wealthy Western nations to combat African climate change.

For a time, Hanciles worked as media adviser to the former President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. But his views on the environment as well as on other social and political issues across Sierra Leone led to his dismissal after only two years.

In February 2022, Hanciles wrote in his “Oswald Hanciles Column” that he fears for the future of Sierra Leone children, saying that they have been born into a country that has squandered its enormous wealth, generating poverty for about 70% of its people and, according to the 2019-2023 National Medium Term Development Plan, “multidimensional poverty” for 10% of the populace. Hanciles criticises both the ruling and opposition parties as selfish. He says that “Both parties fight to sustain political power and further empower the 1% bureaucratic and political elite who steal their money and ensure the teachers who teach their children get low pay . . . which would result in only 1% of their children ever becoming doctors or engineers. Or escaping from poverty.”

Hanciles has written over 500 pieces questioning both public and private policies and practices; he rarely gets answers. He has called out all political establishments for lacking the courage and wherewithal to deal with the issues of poverty, inadequate education systems, economic hardship, and climate change. He has also claimed that government officials and political heads need more accountability and transparency. As might be expected, many of those government officials and political heads have labeled his views as “misplaced and partisan”. Hanciles has faced harassment and threats—on-line, from local media platforms, and in person. In March 2023, Hanciles was verbally attacked as being “unstable”; he replied that “Thank God I am stable in standing up for what is right for the majority of Sierra Leone and development.”

After all these years, Oswald Hanciles clearly recognizes what he is up against: “I have taken it upon myself to help raise awareness on the mass annihilation of people that climate change will cause if nothing is done to reverse the rapid changes in the environment. If we fail to do so as a government and people, we will be exposed to the scorching impact of climate change. It has been difficult, especially in soliciting the attention of government and the west, to mobilize resources, since we are viewed as regime change elements . . . I will not be forced to refrain from voicing the message of climate change, political injustice, neglect, and under-investment in education until my last breath. We have a responsibility to take this country forward. Otherwise, we will continue to sink.”