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SIERRA LEONE: “CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME OUT OF NAZARETH?”

February 21, 2020

BY Andrew Keili

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Torah and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

John 1:45-46

How many of us enjoy being cynical, on occasion? Well I do sometimes. Some of us are cynicism addicts, often addicted to asking cynical questions about our country like the one Nathanael asked about Jesus: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Sierra Leone?  The era in which we live is defined by cynical questions, particularly if you read too many social media news articles about our country. Our age delights in discovering scandals and ulterior motives, and the secret double lives of famous people. And there’s nothing better than a scandal involving a major political figure. The media throws out this cynicism and we scarf it down until we’re sick at our stomachs and depressed.

In a way, we can argue that depressed Sierra Leone is like Nazareth of old.  Nazareth was a very small village. It fact according to archeological conclusions it boasted no more than 150 residents. Jesus’ hometown was located in the region of Galilee, which was a particularly mischievous hotbed for radicals such as Judas of Galilee who led an armed uprising against the same Roman census that forced Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem. Fake messiahs would organize protests that were quickly and brutally repressed by the Roman soldiers. Rome wasn’t big on the whole “freedom of speech” thing. Would this Jesus son of Joseph be another fake messiah? Would he try to start something that would get Philip and Nathanael in trouble with the Roman authorities or even killed? What good could come out of Nazareth?

Well, before you answer the question –“Can anything good come out of Sierra Leone”, let me answer in the affirmative-“Yes”. Despite the negativity we spew out we have had some good news over the past few weeks. Let me give you my take on a few:

The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) paid the total sum of Le 24.4m to two female sports Journalists working for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) as compensation for the ordeal they went through after they were attacked and mercilessly beaten by Presidential Guards at a Football match in September 2019. Following the event and a huge public outcry, a committee made up of members representing SWASAL, SLAJ, WIMSAL, MIC and other Civil Society Organisations was set up to investigate the incident and further recommend actions to the Government of Sierra Leone. Also in December 2019, the President H.E Bio, during a cocktail dinner with the press, apologised on his guards’ behalf and promised to compensate the journalists for properties they lost and their medical expenditure. Kudos to the Minister of Information and the government. For the government to do such a thing is unheard of in recent memory. How one hopes that other cases of brutality by our forces would always be handled in the same way. Also the matter of the President hobnobbing with the press and showing off his lighthearted side is a good thing. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

Superintendent Salieu Suliaman Turay, Officer-in Charge of the Makeni correctional Centre said the University of Makeni (Unimak) confirmed that they are currently conducting examinations for inmates at the center. He said that in August 2019 Unimak and the Sierra Leone Correctional Service (SLCS) signed an MOU which enabled Unimak to commence certificate courses for Correctional Facility, adding that the causes included information Technology, Development Studies, Psychosocial Counselling and Entrepreneurship each of the courses lasts for six (6) months and at the end of their exams graduation ceremony will be held. Congratulations to Superintendent Turay and Unimak. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

The Minister of Trade and Industry Dr. Edward Hinga Sandi got the cement companies to reduce the cost of clearing cement by 30% at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, disclosing that a total of 2.5 million bags of cement was in the country awaiting distribution. Dr. Sandi said that the reason for the increase in the cost of building materials was due to new taxes imposed on manufacturers and importers of cement, but that as a ministry they were able to engage the private sector on the recent increase on the cost of cement per bag, which was due to some technical challenge faced by the Leocem Cement Factory and Dangote. He further disclosed that Leocem Cement Factory was having problems with both their grinding machines and electricity, while Dangote had problems with shipment. Government he reiterated is really concerned about the increased cost in the price of cement and other goods, adding that Leocem Factory will now sell 50kg of 32.5 grade cement at Le60,000, the 42.5 grade cement at Le63,000 and that Dangote which is bringing cement in bulk and doing the packaging in Sierra Leone are to sell at Le57,000. The Minister also revealed that plans are currently underway for the removal of the Service Destination Inspection Fee which he said is making life for importers very uncomfortable. I do not know whether all went as planned but it is good that the Trade Minister, unlike other Ministers got off his high horse to dialogue with stakeholders on these issues and initiate decisive action for the benefit of Sierra Leoneans. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

The new Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education MBSSE, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh in a move to have effective work done in that Ministry and to control corruption relocated  20 Deputy Directors of Education to various Districts all over the country. Some Deputy Directors  are now Officers in Charges (OIC) in various areas in the provinces. Dr Sengeh’s innovative and consultative style of management also out to be commended in various areas of his work. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

Vice-President Jalloh has officiated over the ground-breaking ceremony of the construction of phases two (2) and three (3) of the ECOWAS logistics deport as well as handing  over of the  project sites to the  contractor, SOGEFEL, at the Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom in Lungi. The phase 2&3 of the ECOWAS logistics base of which the ECOWAS Commission has allocated a budget of Eight Million, Four Hundred and Twelve Thousand, Nine Hundred and Seventy Nine USD ($8,412,979) will provide support to ECOWAS peace keeping operations to effectively combat violent extremism and terrorist activities in the West African sub-region. Thanks Dr. Jalloh. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

Sierra Leone played host to one of the world’s largest rallies the Budapest-Bamako-Freetown Rally. The event was an opportunity to showcase the country and help sell our culture and tourism potentials to 700 Tourists from over 80 countries. The event started the 31st of February 2020 in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities Budapest. By all indications, the event was a success and the peripatetic Minister, Memunata Pratt was very much on hand with her team. Many thanks for the recent efforts she has been making to promote tourism. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

Having connected 1,170 new localities in 2019, the well-established telecommunications company Orange SL has gained widespread recognition for effective service delivery, is better positioned to continue giving its numerous customers. Thank you Orange for improving communications in the hinterland. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

Veteran journalist Umaru Fofana raised some concern about two destitute deportees who, in a mix up were wrongly sent to Sierra Leone. They had been in prison here and later sent to a hotel and when they could not pay their bills were thrown out. Thanks to Umaru’s  concern aired out, an anonymous donor forked out $2,500 to assist them pay their bills and they are now back in the hotel whilst attempts are being made to address their plight. Thank you Umaru. Something good can come out of Nazareth!

As a postscript to the story, it is worth noting what happened to Nathaniel’s life. “Come and see,” said Nathanael’s friend Philip. Come and see. Three words that would change Nathanael’s life. Three words that shatter cynicism. “Come and see” is something that children say a lot. “Come and see, Daddy,” it kills whatever cynical thoughts you might have had in your head. Can we also say “Come and see’ as relates to Sierra Leone’s problems? Can we at least once in a while give honour and praise where they are due. Can the government do a lot more of these “do good feeds” so that they can proudly say “Come and see”? or will they also wallow in negativity and see every single critic as someone who wants Rome to burn?

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”. Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Let us hope for the day when Sierra Leoneans will say to their Ministers, Can anything good come out of Sierra Leone?” and Government Ministers will say to them, “Come and see.”

Ponder my thoughts