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PEN of THE VOICELESS

August 28, 2017 With Elkass Sannoh Email: superilsannoh5@gmail.com

elkass

FROM EBOLA TO  LANDSLIDE…

What Next For Sierra Leone?

Patrick Musa-head of Climatology at the Sierra Leone’s Meteorological Department has revealed that they were unable to predict the twin disaster of landslide and flooding due to the poor internet connectivity problem hosted by Africell Telecommunications Company. He stressed that their entire weather forecast system went off at the various transmission sites.

The Meteorological Department has been contending with a lot of challenges, including lack of equipment and poor internet facility. No immediate action was taken by the Government to demonstrate care and responsibility. Even the demand that was made through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation to secure a fibre optic internet facility was neglected.

Indeed this irresponsibility by our authorities abruptly led to the death of more than 300 compatriots on Monday 14th August 2017. This insensitivity has left over 1000 homeless and many more maimed.

Before the devastating effect of the Ebola Virus Disease, (May 2014) which crippled the country’s staggering economy and killed more than 3000 people with hundreds of survivors still wallowing in abject poverty due to neglect, many alarmed were raised by journalists and other medical professionals including the Centers for Disease Control. Nothing was seriously done!

The inept Minister of Health and Sanitation at that time-Miatta Kargbo downplayed it and even lied to Sierra Leoneans whilst addressing our Members of Parliament on her Ministry’s preparedness. The ruling Government acted irresponsibly and the effect is still unimaginable with untold sorrow. The Ebola virus did not only kill APC members, but killed members of the SLPP and other political parties.

The decade civil war (March 1990-2002) which still lingers on our mind had been blamed on the All Peoples Congress (APC) led Government. Signs of the senseless war were written on the walls and President Joseph Saidu Momoh was not bothered thinking that he would not be affected. To show how reckless our leaders have been, the state army was using “chakabulas” and other guns like AK47 whilst the rebels were using German Propelled Machine Guns, Rocket Propel Gun and better artilleries to win the war in their favour.

Truth be told, we have leadership problem. Governance hinges on the lives of people and those in position of trust should know that the most precious asset of any state is the citizens.

A Blind and Deaf Governments

During the SLPP led Government (August 2009 to be exact), President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s administration experienced another mudslide around Kissy, east end of Freetown and swept away many properties and killed about seven persons.  With a blind and a deaf Government, nothing was put in place to start the planning process of the country’s capital city.

According to Oumar Farouk Sesay, the death toll rose to twenty including a three day old baby who was swept away. In his article titled: “Flood of Flaws,” he called those unnecessary deaths as a human sacrifice. He said we don’t need donors to tell us that we are dying a senseless death!

Similarly, like the lightning of a thunder, we were suddenly gripped by another flooding (September 2015) and thousands were and are still homeless. The ruling Government was unable to provide better care for the survivors/victims who were at the National Stadium before being relocated to around Waterloo axis. Despite this destruction in Freetown and parts of Bo City, our blind and deaf authorities took no remedial action.

In his article titled: “Father of the Nation and Crocodile Tears” the SLPP’s former Information Minister-Dr . Julius Spencer aptly said, “I was Minister of Information, sometime in 1998 or 2000, the issue of deforestation was raised in Cabinet by Dr. Sama Banya because we had noticed that whenever it rained, a lot of soil clogged the gutters and was costing quite a bit of money to remove. A committee was set up to address the problem and I was a member of that Committee….we came up with a plan which included significant planting of trees.” Dr. Spencer admitted that the budget was quite huge but the entire environmental management stalled because President Kabbah was unwilling to spend money on the project.

Our Ailing Environmental Management

To be forewarned is to be fore armed but our age-old environmental problem has been treated recklessly. To take a cue from Farouk Sesay, when would an official from the Ministry of Works, Housing and Country Planning issue a building permit in a disaster prone area and be culpable of Manslaughter? When is a father who bore a hole under a rock to build a shanty home be charged with a Murder? When are we going to stop blaming God for our irresponsibility and sheer neglect of our problem?

In the words of the Executive Director of Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL)-Ibrahim Tommy, until we stop faulting God for our repeated failures and put accountability at the center of governance, our collective story won’t change for the better. From the aforesaid, one would agree with The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans that we have not been lucky to have a listening and responsible Government that puts the needs and welfare of its citizens as primus inter pares. This is why we are carelessly mourning our loved ones year in year out!

One of our vibrant lawyers and human rights advocate-Francis Ben Kaifala said the ruling “Government has failed to have any plan for the city even though building permits are paid for and obtained; and there is an entire Country-Planning Department in the Ministry of Lands. They allocated most of the lands in that area to themselves and their stalwarts and supporters and their caretakers and families were likely the ones worse hit (poor innocent souls).”

According to him, the Landslide at Regent-Morteme community “is neither the fault of Nature nor the people but evidence of a total failure of leadership. It is inexcusable homicide by wicked leaderships that have held the country to ransom under the cover of democracy with little happening in terms of progress.”

Like The Ebola Money Like The Landslide Aid

The Chinese Government and the European Union have thrown in their support to the victims/survivors. The Israel, Ghanaian, Guinean, Liberian and UK Governments have come out strongly to console and provide aid. The list of donors is long but the irony is that the targeted beneficiaries are still crying in pain for poor care from the authorities concerned. This is why we have not been able to flee from the vestige of God’s wrath. As citizens, we are not only wicked but insensitive to each other.

Where is the Auditor General’s Report on the Ebola funds? The Report shows blatant violation of the public procurement regulations, which led to the misuse of 14 million United States Dollars Ebola funds. Nothing will happen when you have a blind and deaf leadership.

The International Organization for Migration has doled out $150,000 whilst contingency plans are being put in place to mitigate any potential outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhea.

In Sierra Leone, flooding, storms and torrential rains are common in August and September but we yearly wait for disaster to occur. The unanswered question is: after this Landslide and Flooding what next?

Recommendations

  • Upgrade the Meteorological Department and provide the required equipment for effective weather forecasting.
  • Create a Council for Environmental Management headed by the President which meets on quarterly basis. If this is effected, Office of National Security which has already failed should not be at the helm of our disaster management. This Council will only be represented by experts in environmental management with a clearly defined mandates. Such experts should always know the environment of the area especially the rock types or soil profile before issuing a certificate for any construction work. To overcome this, every contractors need expertise certification from Council for Environmental Management.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency should be directly supervised by the Ministry of Lands, Environment and Country Planning for effective quality environmental management. Like the National Minerals Agency being supervised by the Mines Ministry, there is no need to have an Environmental Planning department at the Lands’ Ministry which conflicts with the EPA’s. EPA should purely be left for experts in environmental management and not to be led by Madam Jatou Jallow who has woefully failed.
  • All the victims/survivors and those being previously relocated should be well catered for. This includes building a mud house around Waterloo area and free education for their children.