If you tell me that the current Freetown population could be anything around 2.5 million, I will definitely not argue much with you. When you look around and see the number of people that occupy houses in the city, then you know how serious this whole housing business is. It is now very common for people to build houses or shacks even under bridges and water ways with all the attendant risks. We keep crying about lawlessness and recklessness but yet people continue to be just that. People want to stay in this city at all cost never mind if they live beastly lives.
The collapse of the King Jimmy Bridge along the Wallace Johnson Street trapping and killing some people is indeed a sad event that could have been prevented. I say so because casualty could have been reduced if people were not leaving in shacks built under the bridge. What I cannot understand is why authorities sit by and do nothing about people building in prohibited areas and lives are lost. I can remember in the days of the National Provisional ruling Council (NPRC), the Khaki Boys succeeded in removing people from dangerous areas. In particular houses were broken along the Hill Cut Road. No sooner than the NPRC handed over power, than people returned to that area and rebuilt their houses and it was business as usual.
King Fisher is indeed a Genius for his political sire music Politics Put we behen. We all know that all the recklessness and lawlessness which has been most manifest in latter days has its roots in politics. No doubt it is the Freetown voters that determine the winners of our national elections. So every government seems to condone non compliance to the rules of ordered society becase of votes. I am sure you remember the vexed issue of Commercial Bikes when they invaded our city and the rising spate of accidents. Many people cried loud and clear for them to be regulated. This never happened until after elections. Even there is no marked difference.
I talk here of both the Kabbah and Koroma administrations. Operation WID came to curb indiscipline and bring sanity to the traffic. This is now a failed move. Take the right hand drive situation in the country. The police Spokesman in around mid 2012 went on radio and boasted that come October 2012 no right hand vehicles will ply the routs in the country. After a couple of weeks he was on air again to clarify that all poda-podas on right hand drive should transfer their passenger doors to the right on the off traffic side. Nothing was heard again until recently again we are told come September 2013, no right hand drive vehicle will be allowed in the country. Well you can easily judge if we are serious in this country. Has our governments ever followed anything through successfully for the benefit of the people suffer from bad governance. It is unfortunate that those who live on tax payers’ sweat hardly think they should be accountable to them. It is also unfortunate that many people if not all go into politics in order to line their pockets. The gag between the rich and the poor keeps widening of course.
Let us go to Bormeh and Kroo Bay. Years back when these places were not too crowded, they should have been moved to other sites. People will argue that every city all over the world have slums. This is true but I think the places ours are situated are making them vulnerable to all sorts of diseases. In both Bomeh and Kroo bay the shacks are wall to wall and they have little space to move around. If you are in a vehicle passing by these areas, what you easily notice are the antennas popping off the roofs indicating that these communities have televisions and other entertainment gadgets. Some even have satellite dishes indicating some amount of affluence. We are told that a lot of the people there are ok with their situation.
When the idea of relocating the people living in the slums was abandoned, NGOs and Civil society organizations decided to support the communities to live better lives. What these bodies forgot was that the locations are not ideal and will never be. Let us don’t forget that houses have collapsed in areas close to the sea. Oh if from the colonial times they have forbade people building along the coast line. It could have been so beautiful to see a big stretch of land along our coast line. Well all that seems too late now you will say.
Another sore sight in the city is the cottage end of Fourah Bay Road where cassava leaves and other greens are put on the ground where all sorts of dirt is including dog shit and even human shit which is washed from various compounds and distributed along the various areas. Come on how we can be so careless about the food eat and yet we get annoyed when we are said to be among the poorest. We cannot get rid of disease if we continue to be careless about how we handle our food. In his address to Parliament on the occasion of the state opening of the first session of the Fourth parliament of the Second republic of Sierra Leone, the President had this to say, “We will reintroduce the sanitary Inspectors and review and modernise our sanitation laws.” Mr President these are good ideas but we are yet to see them at work. Down in the east of the city our cassava leaves and others are sold right on the bare ground on the street sides. I can remember in those good old days the Sanitary Teams moving round the city ensuring compliance to sanitary regulations and also disinfecting gutters and spraying chemicals to prevent rodents and all sorts of household pests like cockroaches.
There was a time in the Ugandan City of Kampala when if you see any driver moving in a straight line, then you are sure that driver is drunk. Can you imagine? Well it is no exaggeration. The city then had so many potholes that only a drunk driver will go straight bumping into those gaping graves. Well we are almost close to describing Kissy road in like manner. High authorities ply this road with their four wheel drives with brand new absorbers and heavy traction new tire and even dare to wave to people who walk along with screwed faces.
This African politics! They will ask you for their votes saying vote me in and I will help you out. Yes, they really help you out of their mind and you actually go out into oblivion. To borrow from Clare Short, sometimes we beg so much that we beg for the papers to write the begging letters.
By Ben Cambayma
August 16, 2013