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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

A.P.C DAY OR TRADERS DAY?
By
Mar 11, 2011, 17:59
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As if it was a public holiday, all the busy streets in Freetown yesterday were idle. In other words, there was a total standstill in various walks of life, especially within the countrys business sector street and shop trading was halted.


This happened in honour of a declaration made by the Freetown City Council (FCC) Mayor, His Lordship Herbert George Williams.

Ernest Koroma addressed the traders from the top gallery of State House


In a press release issued out on Wednesday 9th March 2011, the Mayor declared 10th March as Traders Day. This declaration, according to the release, was in recognition of the significant roles of the traders in the society. The FCC informed the general public that mass processions of various stakeholders, including the traders, were going to be held in the Freetown municipality to mark the day. The participants in the processions from the Attouga Mini Stadium and Aberdeen Road were to march through specific major streets in Freetown onto the National Stadium, where they were going to be addressed by President Ernest Bai Koroma, the FCC Press Release informed.


While emphasizing that the Traders Day was not a public holiday, FCC urged the traders to observe the day by abandoning their trade and join the mass processions from 8am to 2pm.


The Traders Day declaration of the Mayor was widely acclaimed as a step in the right direction, though the outcome turned out to be something else.


The traders fully cooperated with the initiative of the city father, as not a single trader was spotted doing business or displaying wares in the streets of Freetown before 2pm of yesterday. As they turned out for the processions in their numbers, a good number of them never returned to their business places even after the expiration of the six-hours period of commemoration (8am to 2pm).


The Mayors initiative was welcomed because the citizens had expected that the declaration was a genuine intention aimed at creating a forum wherein the traders will put their concerns across to the various authorities for speedy and appropriate actions. Since it is an open secret that street trading, which has plagued the Freetown municipality, is a major problem, it was expected that the traders will use this day as a God-given  opportunity to renew their calls to authorities concerned, including the President and Mayor, for the provision of market buildings in order for them to vacate the streets.

Everybody is frustrated over the street trading eyesore in Freetown and by extension its contribution to traffic congestion, and such a day (traders day) was expected to serve as the opportunity to commence major strides in ending street trading in Freetown.  


Disappointingly however, what was supposed to be a traders day event sadly turned out to be a political rally.


Majority of the traders who graced the occasion were claded in the red political party colour of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party. It never stopped there. Even the songs that were sang during the procession were a complete reverse of the expected reason for the commemoration of traders day. Instead of songs calling on the city council and central government to provide market buildings and create conducive business environment, the traders embarked on songs extolling President Koroma and calling for a second term for the APC among others.


This was the situation in the streets of Freetown yesterday dress and songs were all about APC and nothing, absolutely nothing about the numerous challenges faced by the traders.


Amid all of the aforementioned undertaking by the traders, plus the assurance of the FCC that President Koroma was going to address the traders at the National Stadium and formally launch the operation pick a plastic, His Excellency Our President was conspicuously absent at the National Stadium. The traders stood at the National Stadium for hours anxiously awaiting the arrival of the father of the nation but to no avail.


The traders were later told that President Koroma was now going to address them at State House and not the National Stadium. They again cooperated fully with the announcement and the abrupt change of program. From the National Stadium, the traders continued to sing and dance to pro-APC and pro-Ernest Koroma songs onto to the citadel of power, State House.


Their hopes to dance with the President, who had always mingled with them at their various business places, including Abacha Street, were again thwarted on their arrival at State House.


After the traders had converged at State House, the President materialized to address them, but he was at the top gallery of State House. The President was seemingly or even evidently not on the mood to mingle with his traders as usual and most of the traders left State House in a disappointed mood.


But the question that is widely being debated now is: Who let the traders down? Were they disappointed by their President or did they disappoint themselves?

During the entire commemoration, not a single forum was created for the traders to forward their burning concerns to the authorities. At State House, no forum was created for our traders to talk to the President.


Let me end this piece by asking this simple question: Was March 10 a traders day or an APC day in disguise?


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

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