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Sierra Eye hosts maiden mayoral debate

January 23, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

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Host Umaru Fofanah and the five mayoral candidates during the debate at Lagoonda Hall

The Sierra Eye Magazine, in collaboration with Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), with support from Mercury International, has for the first time in the history of Sierra Leone hosted a debate for mayoral candidates in the March 7th election.

Speaking before the start of the debate, organised at Lagoonda Complex, Aberdeen, Sierra Eye Magazine boss Basita Michael said they decided to organise the event in order to create and trigger issues as to how change could take place.

“We do believe that change cannot be imposed by anyone, but from us the people and it is up to us to decide what kind of change we want. That’s why we thought that Sierra Eye should engage the public and our leaders to test their ability and quality of leadership and issues of national development,” she said.

The debate focused on issues of street trading, slum dwelling, filth and garbage collection, challenges, amongst a host of other issues.

Yvonne Aki Sawyer, the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) mayoral aspirant, said the country needs her expertise and that she has the right connections – both local and international -to improve the face of the Freetown municipality.

On the issue of people residing in slum communities, Madam Sawyer noted that that she wants to take the slum out of the people rather than taking the people out of the slum.

She promised to improve on systems for collecting, changing attitude and improving infrastructure for the proper functioning of the Freetown City Council (FCC) if elected as mayor come March 7th.

She noted that there are significant challenges to the work and management of the municipality, adding that there are hundreds of illegal dumpsites in the city.

“The comprehensive solution is end-to-end from public toilets, street bins, low revenue generation, and the need to strengthen metropolitan police to do their work effectively,” she said.

Ms. Sawyer reiterated that she has the expertise and international connections to make Freetown an enviable place to be, adding that she knows the city and is au fait with its challenges, having worked at the President’s Recovery Priorities, where according to her she did very well in the cleaning of the city.

For Bockarie Ensah of the Citizen’s Democratic Party (CDP), he told the audience that, those who are engaged in plastic business and manufacturing should be levied with additional taxes, adding that such would help tackle the issue of filth in the city.

“We should have pride in ourselves and contribute in cleaning the city,” he said.

He charged that systems have broken down, and that if elected Mayor he would remove and replace them with new systems.

“We want to implement new ideas to keep up with the challenges of bringing our city to a standard,” he said.

He promised to work for the people of Freetown and ensure a clean and beautiful capital, if elected mayor.

The CDP mayoral candidate said that on the area of garbage collection he would separate the city’s garbage from recyclable to non-recyclable ones, adding that he would enforce the law to ensure that defaulters are punished.

“We can only succeed if we plan properly by bringing in all the key players on board,” he said, adding that over the years everything has been centered on the central government.

Bockarie Ensah said he understands the challenges of traders and that they will not be left out in the process, stating that he would observe real devolution in the activities of the council.

“We will register the traders and the approach will be sustainable. We will invest in building a sincere platform.”

Raymond De Souza George of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) promised that he would embark on a comprehensive civic education that would  help people to be aware and committed to doing what is right .

The SLPP mayoral candidate said he would introduce what he termed ‘FUN’ – ‘Feel Uncomfortable Now’ – stating that every citizen has a duty and responsibility to make sure that they keep the city clean and safe.

He noted that the current Metropolitan Police is terribly underfunded, stating  that he would capacitate them.

On the issue of filth in the Freetown municipality, the university lecturer-cum-politician said people have a responsibility and should change their personal orientation, show patriotism and be conscious that they should not throw dirt on the streets.

Mayoral Candidate of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), Samuel Itam said if they equipped the systems and departments they would deliver well and that the Freetown City Council has no reason to be poor.

He stated that by just enforcing city rates in the municipality, such would boost revenue generation that would enhance the functionality of the council.

The NGC mayoral candidate said he has all the experience and expertise, having worked for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for decades, to lead the municipality.

He maintained that he would be able to generate enough revenue and create a lot of partnership, if elected mayor of Freetown City Council.

Mayoral Candidate for the Coalition for Change (C4C), Chief George Songu–King, observed that the FCC was seriously underfunded and that there was need for revenue generation.

The C4C mayoral candidate said he would enforce byelaws so that people would be punished when they break the laws of the municipality.

The enthralling debate, which was aired live on Star TV, Radio Mercury and Radio Democracy, was moderated by celebrated journalist Umaru Fofanah of the BBC.