By Mohamed Massaquoi
Some residents of the eastern district town of Kailahun have blamed President Ernest Bai Koroma for what they referred to as the ‘cosmetic solar panels’ hurriedly installed by his government to woo support in that part of the country, pointing out that a good number of the solar panels mounted especially around the main lorry park and central business area of the township were no longer functioning.
The installation of over 250 solar street panels on 7th May was a remarkable day for the people of Kailahun who for years had been struggling with incessant blackout. The installation of the panels did not only bring life to Kailahun town but equally so changed the perception of most residents – predominantly opposition SLPP supporters – that the lights were installed not for any political gains but purely for developmental purposes.
However, recent developments have changed the mindset of most residents in the area about the solar project.
Though there are solar lights in some parts of the township, yet the main Kailahun roundabout leading to the police station and the district council office, as well as those installed along the main street leading to the First International Bank (FIB) and the Kailahun Central Mosque have developed some technical problems for the past three months, the residents complained.
While commissioning the facility some eight months ago, the Deputy Minister of Energy and Power, Martin Bash-Kamara, said the project was for the people and they must take it as their baby, adding: “This is the time to work and not for politics.”
“Nobody is here to maintenance the faulty panels. Some will come on at a particular time and go off the next minute or day,” lamented Alusine Fofanah, a bar and restaurant owner at the main Kailahun lorry park. “I consider this as cosmetic because we were expecting the solar project to be durable and serve the people of Kailahun for years. Every evening one solar light would go off and nobody cares to fit it.”
Another resident Sahr Saffa, a commercial bike rider, said they still feel insecure to ply certain areas at night. He said the installation of the solar panels was a laudable venture by the President but lack of maintenance now threatens to ruin the entire project.
“When we talk about development, we should put all other things aside because it concerns the people and the country,” said Mr. Saffa. “The ministry [of Energy] should have ensured that some locals are trained on the maintenance of the panels. Huge sums of state resources are being wasted on this solar project.”