There has been dramatic increase in rural-urban migration since the All Peoples’ Congress won last year’s elections that gave the party the legitimate mandate to govern our nation, at least for the next five years. Though this phenomenon is not new to developing countries, especially for impoverished Sierra Leone, the incidence has made a tenfold catapult.
The disturbing aspect of it all is that most of these ‘economic migrants’ are unskilled, and throng in mostly from northern axis of the country (APC bastion). Let’s say proximity necessitates, but for a people to abandon their farms to engage in begging sprees in this already congested city is seriously alarming.
We had for the past several years known legitimate beggars, mostly the physically challenged (the blind, the paralyzed etc) to be sharing this city with us. Later however, more northerners got attracted for reason of petty trading. This invariably brought its attendant problems of overcrowding, lawlessness, filth and the erection of makeshift structures serving as dwellings.
A new crop of ‘beggars has emerged of late which started from pre-election period that galvanized at inauguration time last year. This mass exodus, initially a welcome agenda by APC Politicians in the name of solidarity, has turned out to be an embarrassment to most of them. Now that the election fever subsides, our APC brothers want to shelve this menace but with little success. A little walk around town and down to our ministries and departments portrays an ugly scenario. Hangers-on proliferate everywhere! Recently an independent survey was undertaken that proved me right. The survey took me first to Guma Building where Minister Serry Kamal is officed. Day in day out, our minister’s office is crowded with visitors.
These are in no way official visitors but people who feel that their being in this town is the financial responsibility of the minister. It was here I overheard an old woman who was expressing her disappointment with Serry Kamal as having no pity for them. “In fact I came with a concoction for him to further protect him against enemies, but anytime I come, he brushes me like a stranger.” She in fact said the transport fare that brought her to town was borrowed from a kind ‘kortor’ in the neighbourhood. I started to wonder why this woman would not have contended keeping herself busy in her garden back upcountry, like what SLPP supporters do; ignoring vain political fanfare.
I further stretched my legs to the Ministerial Building, George Street, same story. A press officer told me they were really fed off with this influx. Most of the people that come here have no fixed agenda,” he told me. They keep on telling them so and so minister is away but the beggars reappear with resilience.
At Youyi Building, I met a further embarrassing episode; the Minister of Mineral Resourses was openly exasperated with these ‘beggars.’ I met him in a meeting with Ambassador Dauda Kamara, Minister of Internal Affairs, in an adjacent room. After the meeting, he was surprised to see those he had earlier dismissed still waiting to see him. “I am not going to see anybody today. You can not keep on doing this for the coming years,” he retorted angrily. All what the idle visitors could do was to burst into a shamefaced attempt at laughing to pacify their angry king. After some minutes, he returned from his office and distributed wads of five thousand leones individually with strong warning to desist from frequenting the office. Ambassador Dauda on his part was nearly besieged. I saw dozens of people anxiously following to be seen and spoken to. He was however, rather smart to briskly walk away, ignoring a bulk of them.
At APC party offices, the story is pathetic. I never knew that promises were made to people to leave the hinterland for jobs until I visited the APC Party Offices. One Pa Turay, who walks the long distance from Wellington to Brookfields and back every day, is still with hope.
“They told us to be always at hand for jobs. I know they will give us jobs but the list is long,” he stated. When I enquired why he abandoned his village in Kambia, he replied thus: “My friend, when your party is in power, you must be closer for consideration.” The only unfortunate thing is that Pa Turay is unskilled, so I wonder how he would be assisted with the office job he craves.
Every where you go the story is the same. State House for example has become the newest APC party office with both beggars and criminals thronging in and out on daily basis. I however understand that President Koroma recently issued an order to block all these covert and overt beggars from State House. Will he however be able to permanently ward them off and send them to tractorise their areas? I wonder! Because APC support base upcountry is emptier than before; all Jack & Jill are in town to ‘dine’ from Ernest’s APC table in Freetown!
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.