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Mama Salone Laments 48 Years of Freedom and Independence
By Abdul Rashid Thomas, Leeds, UK
Apr 30, 2009, 17:24
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Doctor I am feeling so tired, all that celebrations and partying!! My back, my shoulders and all my joints are aching Doctor. My children have just celebrated my 48th Anniversary of FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE. But if you should ask me how old I feel, Doctor, I would say 98. In two years they will celebrate my 50th. The children say they are going to have a much grander celebration, but I dont think they can afford it Doctor.

The Author: A.R.Thomas


Things are bad enough for the poorest of the poor amongst my children, and also, I am not sure I could survive another two years, if my eldest son the Prezo does not pull his socks up. I know he has a big job to do, but he is the one elected in 2007 by the majority of my children. Doctor, I really dont want my Big Son Prezo to use my 50th Anniversary as his pre-election campaign rally, because it will cause dissent in my family, which could lead to further political violence.  But I really cannot see exactly what the celebrations are all about. Big Brother Prezos 48th Independence Anniversary speech to the family did not inspire much confidence or hope. I remember Doctor, when he used to tell his brother former Prezo Kabbah, that his performance was so bad it was nothing to write home about. Hoom.Politics is a right old funny business Doctor.


Doctor, the World Bank has been telling us to expect difficult times ahead, for the next two years at least. But I dont understand why Big Brother Prezo did not say anything about that in his speech, so as to give some comfort to his brothers and sisters.  Instead, he continues to talk about attitudinal and behavioural change, when every independent report is telling him that poverty is caused by poor leadership, corruption and bad governance.  


Doctor, with a family of 5 million children, I am beginning to feel the heavy legacy of chronic strain and stress, left behind by my father (the British) and my deceased mother (Pa Margai, Pa Shaki and others), and now President Koromas lack of vision, or fear of taking the bold steps necessary to turn around the familys fortunes.


The children celebrated my 48th Birthday with pomp and pageantry, but Doctor I have seen it all before; celebrations today, suck air tomorrow.  I cannot afford to feed, educate, and provide affordable medical care for my children without the help and support of the international community, yet my children keeps telling me that we are independent.


Doctor, Big Brother Prezo said in his speech that we must celebrate our religious tolerance; our tribal tolerance; our political tolerance. But Doctor, has he forgotten that these are the core values that make my family what it is today? These values are time honoured, irrespective of party politics, with the exception of political tolerance established by former Prezo Kabbah, which I am not so sure whether Prezo Koroma could be trusted to safeguard and honour.  Doctor after 48 years of self-rule, my poor children wants to celebrate economic independence and progress; they want to celebrate social and educational advancements.   


Doctor, I understand that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has come to Town, to see Big Brother Prezo. Well, I do hope that good old cousin Tony will teach my son a lesson or two, otherwise he himself will be accused of being accessory to the poor governance being inflicted on my family; including any pain and suffering my children will suffer as a result of this terrible global economic downturn. 


Over 3 million of my children cannot find work; 50% of them expect their lives to be cut short before they reached their 40th birthday; 80% of them live in very poor housing; most of my children do not have access to regular supply of clean and safe drinking water; 70% of them cannot read and write. But thank God one of my children is a psychiatrist but Doctor he is the only one in the family looking after the mental wellbeing of all 5 million of his siblings, including himself. I am surprised he hasnt developed mental illness himself with all that stress. 


So please Cousin Tony, I am appealing to you as a God fearing Christian, to lead my family away from the path of self-annihilation, by strongly pointing out to the Prezo that the attitude of my children (your dearest Cousins), is not responsible for their poverty, but poor leadership and corruption. But Doctor, I really dont want Cousin Tony to know that Prezo has told all of my children to seek Divine intervention though nationwide fasting, in order to relieve them from poverty.


Oh Doctor, let me think. There is also the heavy Debt burden. My children have borrowed, and borrowed, and borrowed from the rich countries, the IMF and the World Bank. The IMF wrote me a nice letter the other day to inform me that they have wiped off some of my Debt, but Doctor that burden hangs on my shoulders for generations to come. Doctor, do you think my son Prezo could speak with Cousin Tony about that?


Doc..I hope you dont mind me calling you Doc!! My children are spending money like the Leone will soon become extinct, and I really cannot show you what they are spending all those Trillions of Leones on. But yet, the international community keep reminding me, that my family is at the bottom of the Worlds Human Development Index. Doctor please. Pass me some tissue let me wipe away my tears!! In 1961 my mother would never have thought that this was going to happen to me and the grand children.


Doctor, on this my forty-eighth birthday, I cannot believe my son the Prezo telephoned me to tell me that his brothers and sisters are poor because of their attitude and sinful behaviour. Doc, how can he ask his siblings to pray and fast for three months so that God can redeem them from poverty? Does that mean that the Prezo will not receive a salary during those three months, whiles God does his job for him? Oh Doctordo you know what I told the Prezohoom?


Oh Doctor I was so upset. I told him that if he does not have confidence in his siblings, then why should he expect foreign investors to have confidence in them? I told him that if only he can show good leadership; have a good development plan not the current miss-mash project based approach but a good integrated National Development Plan; appoint only those brothers and sisters that are competent to run his government ministries; fight corruption; invest in indigenous private sector development; and work in partnership with JOB and Charles to put a new Constitution in place, that will devolve power down to a new system of Regional Government; poverty will surely be no more in my family.


Doctor I told him that as the President he cannot sub-contract his job of providing for his siblings to the Almighty God.  I reminded him that God has a contract with him, to lead and improve the condition of his people. I told him also Doctor that his pride alone should be sufficient to move him to clean up the mess, if nothing else does. I told him that he should not eat, if his siblings cannot afford to feed themselves; he should not sleep, if his siblings are awake because of poverty; and Doctor he should not be jetting off to India for medical check-up, if his siblings cannot all travel to India with him; Doctor where is India? Oh my son!!       


Doctor my wealth, which they told me is called Gross Domestic Product, is valued at about Six Trillion Leones. It sounds like a lot of money but most of my children are living on less than One thousand Leones a day.  How can that be Doctor? This cannot sustain me and my children. All my riches; Diamonds, Gold, Bauxite, Rutile, Iron Ore, you name it - I have got it. My soil used to be very rich, but my children are not taking care of the environment, so soil erosion has become a problem. Most of my children that used to till the land and grow food have gone to live with their Big Brother Prezo in Freetown.


Doctor, do you know what I think? They should relocate the Parliament to somewhere more central on my map, which will be accessible to all of my children; wan mammy wan daddy. Doctor what do you think of Masiaka? This could become the new Capital City?  Infact Doctor, I would even go further by suggesting that each of my Regions should have a Regional Assembly. Because Doctor if you devolve power down to the lowest common denominator, you will reduce bureaucracy, improve accountability and governance, and most especially you will reduce corruption. I will talk to you more about that when I come for my next appointment Doctor, hopefully before my 50th birthday, if I live that long.

Doc.This idea of having Devolved Regional Assemblies with regionally elected Honourable Members is a very good one. But you know my big son; if I suggest that to him he might want to send me over to my other son the Psychiatrist for strong medication.  Doctor I am not mad you know. Nah angry en poverty de kill me and my children.  Doctor back to my wealth; my children will spend over One Trillion Leones this year. My son, the former Finance Minister, the one that Big Brother Prezo shuffled out of Office, struggled to balance the Accounts in 2008.  Only 10% of my wealth is generated through Domestic Trade, with 90% coming from export of mainly minerals.


And now that the Global economic downturn is severely affecting consumption in the overseas markets, Doctor I dont know what will happen to our income from exports. The next three years looks very bleak for my children Doctor.  But I dont see any sense of urgency or desperation from Big Brother Prezo in preparing my children for what is to come. Doctor I dont understand.  My children are too reliant on mining exports for their living. I am not an Economist, but I dont think that the economy is diverse enough.  Inflation is now running at 14%, even though Global oil prices have come down significantly.  


Doctor some of my children told me that they would like to start their own business, but cannot afford to borrow. Do you know Doctor that the Commercial Banks are charging over 30% Interest Rates? Doctor even those that are already in business, cannot afford to borrow money to expand and create jobs for their siblings, because of the 30% Interest Rates. Can you now see why my children are so poor on this my blessed 48th birthday?


Doctor, over forty percent of what my children spends annually, comes from International Donors. That cannot be right. I taught those children that independence means standing on your own two feet. But my father (the British) who left us when my mother divorced him 48 years ago gives me Family Maintenance Grant of about Forty Million Pounds annually, to help towards stabilising the economy. Doctor is this independence? Prezo needs to give my children real opportunity to create wealth, using their own God given skills and talents.  The budget Deficit for 2009, I understand is Five Hundred and Forty Billion Leones. Doctor, some of my children are playing with money like sand.


My Grandma used to say; money like sugar money like dust.  But my Grandma worked very hard and spent wisely. She always put some money aside for a rainy day. God bless her soul Doctor. But Doctor, let me whisper something in your ear; the International Donors say that they are fed up of giving Aid to my family, because of CORRUPTION, POOR LEADERSHIP and INCOMPETENCE.

Doctor I thank God that my children meets every five years to elect a new government. They call it democracy. It is better than that one party communist state of madness my children had for over ten years, which alienated and repressed the majority of my children, causing untold suffering and poverty. But Doctor, how can I ever forget 1996 2001? Over Fifty Thousand of my children were killed, thousands displaced, thousands amputated, thousands of properties destroyed. Look at me Doctor; I am malnourished, under weight, and anaemic. Ten years of senseless brutality. What madness got into my children Doctor?


But I do hope that the children have learned their lessons and the errors of their ways.  The only prayer I have for them on this my 48th birthday, is for God to teach them to be ever mindful of each others needs; wan mammy wan daddy.    

I also hope that my children have learned to be tolerant, fairer, equitable and merciful towards one another, irrespective of tribe or religion. Doctor they are all from the same belleh; wan mammy wan daddy!!!  That is why Doctor I was so disappointed to see the supporters of their Big Brother Prezo, waged such violence against the opposition; Doctor, wan mammy wan daddy. Can you believe that?


Doctor when I think of 27th April 1961, the day I was born, I feel eternally grateful that when my mother divorced my father, the divorce settlement was not a violent affair as in other African countries that had to shed blood to gain their freedom. But Doctor, looking back at where we have come from and where we are now, I am not sure if my mother had divorced my father too soon. Because it seems my mother was not prepared for independence. And now Doc, my children have not handled independence and democracy very well.  My heart is heavy Doctor. How can I be hopeful after listening to that speech by the Prezo? Doc, please give me some more tissues, let me wipe away my tears. 


Anyway Doctor, sorry to take up so much of your precious time, but I needed to talk to someone. My son the Psychiatrist said I should go and speak to him whenever I feel stressed. But Doctor I am so scared he might put me on those strong medication he gives to his patients.  You know Doctor; I am looking forward to my 50th birthday celebrations on 27th April 2011, if Prezo does not let me and my children down.


Good bye Doctor. I am hoping to see you again before my 50th birthday, if I survive that long. Poverty nor good Doctor.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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