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Letís Start with a Kissi Bendu Local Council in Sierra Leone
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Dec 18, 2012, 16:50
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President Ernest Bai Koroma in his Speech marking the State Opening of Parliament on 14th December 2012 stated, ďWe shall reform the structure of municipal governance by the creation of new area councils within the City of Freetown, with appropriate functional assignments, and revenue assignment between the area councils and the greater Freetown City Council. Similarly, growing peri-urban towns exhibiting incoherent growth will be upgraded to town councils to prepare them for city status in the medium term.¬† Consequently, all existing Local Council boundaries shall be reviewed and criteria will be set for the establishment of new Town CouncilsĒ.


Although the Presidentís focus was more on the peri-urban towns, the reality as so well espoused, is that the countryís provincial local council demarcations are questionable. There will continue to be inappropriate distribution of funds for local provincial areas because of such unbalanced council demarcations. Take Bonthe and Koinadugu for example. A tiny district like Bonthe has two local councils representing it whilst the massive swathe of land covering Koinadugu has only one local council representing it. Strange logic!


In this regard, I want to make a short but poignant call today for the people of Kissi Kingdom of the Kailahun District to have their own local council representing the three Kissi Chiefdoms with the headquarters in Koindu. Since the RUF war broke out, the Kissi people have suffered tremendous neglect.


According to records, the three Kissi chiefdoms, (Kissi Teng, Kissi Kama & Kissi Tongi) lie in a fertile land near the Guinean and Liberian borders. The area is an international trading spot and an agricultural oasis, and in the good old days, they supplied the capital city of Freetown with edibles like yams, rice, plantains, bananas, and cash crops such as cacao, coffee, and more.


A year ago, was my first visit to the Kissi area. I walked all around Koindu, the formerly booming rich international trade town. The people are so hospitable and warm. Many of them had heard about me and they gave me such a hospitable welcome! One of the local chiefs, even gave me his two years old son as a ďhusbandĒ.¬†


One man followed me as I strolled around Koindu, loudly telling the people to tell their girls to come out and see a woman they should emulate. It was embarrassing to be so acclaimed like that along the streets but what could I do? There was no way I could shoo him away from behind me as he was so enthusiastic. I understand the area has one of the lowest literacy rates for girls. Something we will have to improve upon.


A lone girl child walks along an abandoned road in Koindu. The Kissi areas of Sierra Leone have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies and lowest rates of girl child education in the entire subregion.


One of the local chiefs along the road from Koindu to Yenga. His two year old son was offered to me as a "husband". Sorry but my "husband" is too shy to show his face. SMILE


Despite the warmth, sheer admiration and acclaim, I physically shed tears to see once-beautiful Koindu mansions razed to nothing with green leafy vegetation growing all over them. There were literally hundreds of beautiful cement houses burnt down by the RUF rebels. One such mansion, still with its beautiful handcrafted stonework, had a huge tree growing right from within what was obviously a previously foyer area.


One of the beautiful stonework mansions of Koindu town, Kissi Kingdom, which were razed during RUF rebellion. This one shows a huge tree growing right out of the foyer area of the mansion. The stonework is still intact but the foundation has burst open from the earth over the last 21 years popping out huge trees; Time to rebuild Koindu is NOW!


Another house which has been overcome by the forest. After 20 odd years of neglect, nature has taken over and is growing huge trees within what used to be habitats for human beings.


Our people of Kissi Kingdom suffer tremendously from having Kailahun District Local Council oversea their interests in a skewed manner. Last week, I hosted four of the five recently-elected APC councilors from Kissi land at my residence in Freetown. They visited me alongside the new MP of Constituency 03 in Kissi land, Hon. Sahr Patrick Tengbeh.


What came out clearly during discussions with these honourable fine Kissi gentlemen is that they are in fear that the SLPP dominated Kailahun Local Council will deliberately slight the Kissi area for voting against SLPP in the just concluded elections.


The Kissi gentlemen tell me of how the newly elected SLPP-representing Kailahun Local Council Chairman Alex Bonapha Esq. had threatened during the campaigns that he would ďnot workĒ with any APC councillor elected in Kailahun.


I have known SLPPís Alex Bonapha for many years and I immediately picked up the phone and called Bonapha to discuss the matter with him. He was rather non-committal; only saying to me that he was not yet sworn in as Kailahun Council Chairman so he would not comment on the fears of the Kissi people.


Whilst Alex is circumspect, other Kissi voices are quite loud in their agitations for equity for the Kissi people. Michael Fayia Kallon, a Kissi writer living in America, is lucid as he says, ďKailahun district has been the same since colonial times. Money allocated for the development of the entire district does not reach the shores of the Kissi chiefdomsĒ.


Unbelievable but this is the Police Border Post which serves the border area. These are the three police officers assigned to man this "police post" in what used to be a thriving international trading spot. There is a Police Station (rebuilt with donor funds), inside the main township of Koindu but this is the actual Border Police presence serving the Guinea meeting point area


And this is the Immigration Department at Koindu; a place that used to be teeming with international trading from Liberia and Guinea is now reduced to having this structure as its "Immigration Department". The war might be over in Sierra Leone but the rebuilding of Koindu still remains a matter of unfinished business


A Close-up shot of the same photo above but with a zooming in to clearly show the words, IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT scribbled on the doorpost


I submit that these demands and fears of the Kissi people of Kailahun are very legitimate and should be looked into. They have voted overwhelmingly for the APC against the dominant SLPP of the rest of Kailahun. They do not deserve to be slighted or made to suffer for voting APC.


We should start by first having a Kissi Bendu Local Government Council cut out from the rest of Kailahun Local Government Council. Just like Bonthe has two local councils, Kailahun can also have two local councils.


This Kissi Bendu council will see to the interests of the people of Kissi Teng, Kissi Tongi and Kissi Kama. No need for fresh elections of councilors. We already have elected councilors. All we will need is an election of a Kissi Bendu Council Chairman.


Charity begins at home and the new APC-led Government must ensure it demarcates out a whole local council solely for the people of the Kissi Kingdom of Sierra Leone not because they voted for APC but because that is what they deserve.


If we are going to be reviewing and resetting criteria for establishment of local councils, the least the APC Government owes the people of Kissi Kingdom is a Kissi Bendu Local Council complete with their own Kissi Bendu Local Government Chairman distinct from the Kailahun District Council and Chairman.


The people of Kissi Kingdom have suffered neglect for too long. It is time to put sustained energy into the revitalization of Koindu and its environs; so the great Kissi people can reclaim their lost glory from years gone by.


Goats and Sheep graze around the green vegetation of damaged houses left bare without windows, doors or roofing.


Abandoned by its owner for 20 years now; totally over-run with green vegetation


Another beautiful Koindu home razed to nothing. In the distance is a rebuilt house.


Another beautiful Koindu home razed to nothing.


Another beautiful Koindu home razed to nothing. This one still has its metal window frames intact. I understand an RUF rebel commander had stayed in this house hence its windows were not carted off


Along the Central Street of the once booming and prosperous Koindu township. Three storied stores and shops all gutted out or boarded up. No more business boom in Koindu.


Another beautiful Koindu home razed to nothing.


Gutted out 3-storeyed structure in Koindu


Letís have a Kissi Bendu Local Council as soon as possible. Infact, let us go a step further and even have a Kissi Bendu District!


I know for sure that I am not alone in this call. Tens of thousands of the people of Kissi Kingdom share these sentiments.


About the size of the proposed Kissi Bendu distinct area, Michael Fayia Kallon is again eloquent in his lobbying language. He says, ďFoya airfield in Liberia is a district, and it has the same size as the Kissi chiefdoms of Sierra Leone. We hope that our ambition of a KISSI BENDU DISTRICT can become a dream come true within the next five years.Ē


Mr. Michael Fayia Kallon, I share your hopes and aspirations!

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

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