From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

A Diaspora Based Sierra Leonean Gives an Assessment following a recent trip back home
By Writer on Leonenet-TAMU
May 9, 2009, 18:18

I recently went to Sierra Leone to see what changes had been enacted on the ground by the Ďnew APCí. Well I guess it should be no surprise if I say that itís the same old same old -- we are back to square one. I think I can quite confidently now assess Ernest Bai Koroma (EBK) as this is my second trip since the start of his presidency. I was one of those who were hoping for better. EBK had an incredible amount of goodwill riding on his shoulders -- however it seems that he has really squandered it due to his lacklustre performance.


Before I start my assessment I need to mention how disappointed I was with BMI. Check in of baggage was at about eleven in the morning, take off at about one fifteen and passengers did not get fed a meal till well after six in the evening. As for check in at Lungi airport if check in took that long anywhere else, people heads would be rolling. You are literally hours in the queue just for a plane load of passengers.


Now to EBKís gateway: Why do we have to enter the country on that death trap of a tin pot ferry? Also, when going back from the country, do you know if you want to cross with the ferry for a midnight departure you have to take the 2:30pm ferry and go and sit in Lungi till midnight. What country in the world can afford such a waste of time? Where is the new NASSIT ferry? I saw no sign of it; letís hope it is not another piece of scrap to clog up the waterways at the Sierra Leone peopleís expense while someone licks the crŤme off their whiskers.


Where is the light that has cost thirty two million? I donít think I saw government light more than three times in the three weeks in the neighbourhood I resided in Freetown proper.


I must say I was not particularly surprised to see that the peninsula road has remained at the same point I left it at last Easter. I did wonder if there would be any incentive to continue when I heard EBK had moved up to the classier neighbourhoods. To be quite honest I must say I found it quite astounding -- the total disrespect that has been shown towards those who live between Juba and Goderich.


Residents of these neighbourhoods had their water cut off last year for road building purposes and are now celebrating the first year anniversary of being without piped water in their houses and no sign of an end as there is no road building. As for the peninsula it seems like it is business as usual. Lands are still being stolen and sold, government forest reserves are still being cleared and built on and illegal sand mining is still in full force.


Red crosses have been put on illegal structures in government forest reserves through areas of the peninsula, this looks promising but lets hope they have the intention of removing the offenders and that they are not giving coded messages for Ďput putí.


As for the designated beach for tippers to collect sand that is an environmental disaster about to happen as over the years the rotation of beaches for sand-mining has stopped and the same beach is used continuously.


Sand tippers are being run almost on a twenty four hour basis even though this is not supposed to happen. With no more sand to stop the waters, the beaches have now receded so far inland that the salt waters will soon be entering the swamps where local villagers cultivate and earn a living.


Talk about short sighted because once the livelihood from the sand is gone, so is the tourism potential as well as the means to cultivate leaving the villagers with no other option of earning an income except from selling peninsula land that they donít own and killing off government forest reserves.


Traffic Ė this is another area that needs a lot of improvement. In all my travels I must say SL is the only place where roads are consistently closed off to the public with no regards to the impact on people and enterprise. Surely there has to be a better way of maintaining security at the Pademba road prison than closing off this road. This has been happening since I was a child. Now this contagion has spread to the Law Courts with all its tributaries. In fact I understand it was far worse and I was lucky only suffering two days of this nightmare at the end of the cocaine trial where all pedestrians and cars had to divert otherwise.


Lumley Ė I donít know where the environmental officers are, a large hole has been dug beside the road at Lumley and this is full of green dangerous looking water. Traffic looks like it has become quite used to this divert that is going on here. It meanders from a dual carriageway to a single carriage way with cars in both directions with numerous death traps positioned on the road. Some traffic taming has occurred at Lumley, poda podaís are stopped at the Police Station at peak periods so they donít clog up the Lumley area. This is definitely an improvement.


A curious trend was noted Ė Lebanese with Philipino nannies. Is this not against the labour laws of Sierra Leone? Surely a few hungry SLís could be employed to carry out these tasks. Dustbins are somewhat of an improvement in the fact that they are emptied but I have noted some curious looking cement structures that are being built as receptacles some have some very strange designs and it needs quite a vivid imagination to picture the sorts of containers that will fit into these for easy emptying access. I understand it was a contract so no doubt the recipient had no idea of receptacle design.


It was noted that Freetown has serious land issues. Finding untainted land is like finding a needle in a hay stack. I wonder if the government is serious in getting to grips with solving the land dilemmas such as fast tracking court cases to do with encroachment and cracking down on the general lawlessness. How can the government expect Diasporeans to return if they cannot find genuine land to build a house and what investors will come if they are not guaranteed genuine land to conduct their businesses?


As for corruption and increasing poverty, well I wonít even begin to tell that story as it needs no scientist to tell you that with increasing poverty comes increasing corruption.


A Sierra Leonean Writer @ Leonenet-TAMU

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.