COMMENTARY: Shenge Road construction: Until we see it, we won’t believe it

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President Bio has promised to construct Shenge Road if elected for a second term

By Alfred Koroma

In addition to issues reported on this Paper today, we are picking from President Bio’s tour in the interior of Sierra Leone, in particular, his promise to pave Moyamba-Shenge road.

In what looks like a campaign tour over a week ago, the President visited many remote parts of the country, some of which, he never visited before, showcasing developmental strides his government has made and encouraging the people to give him a second chance. His visit to Shenge and the promise to construct its road is one issue that captures our attention.

Often, the word Shenge is used to refer to all communities within Kargboro Chiefdom, Moyamba District, Southern Sierra Leone. The town itself is a coastal fishing community along the Atlantic Ocean and the administrative seat of the chiefdom.

Shenge has the reputation of being one of the biggest fish producers in Sierra Leone with fishing being the main occupation for its ethnically very diverse people.

Despite its economic viability, Shenge lags far behind in terms of national development. The road leading to the town from Moyamba is one of the worst traffic roads in Sierra Leone.

As a young boy growing up in the community, I could still, vividly recalled how  we used to stand by the road and wave to travellers in vehicles loaded with fish, mangoes and other goods travelling to Freetown, Bo, Kenema and many other parts of the country. In turn, they could throw us biscuits, sweet with other items attractive to us. Fishery by then was a thriving business.

Gone are those days. Hardly had vehicles travelled along Shenge Road these days due to bad road network, especially during the rains. Thanks to rise of commercial motor bike riding, the road should be useless.

Bad road network has made commuting to Shenge in vehicle unattractive.  Many residents travelling outside the Chiefdom prefer doing so by locally made boats, known as ‘Pampas’ as the only easy option. This has proven deadly due to lack of monitoring the operators of those boats.

In 2009, ‘Cheche,’ a passenger boat carrying people from many parts of Shenge capsized, killing hundreds of Sierra Leoneans.

Shenge road problem is decades old and is a conundrum well recognized by authorities. Governments have in the past made promises to construct the road, but not any has ever been fulfilled.

On his thank you visit to Moyamba after winning 2007 election, former President Ernest Bai Koroma made a flamboyant promise that his government will construct the road between Moyamba and Shenge. It was almost two years later, in the first term of his governance that the most deadly boat accident happened between Shenge and Tombo.  

The blame was focussed on over loading, but poor traffic road which forced many of the people to on-board the boat was a key factor that led to the ugly incident. Many residents of Shenge had hoped the incident will urged the then government to see the need for the construction of the road.   

Yet until he left office in 2018, not a single stone was dropped on the road in the name of construction. One of the stillborn promises the former President could be remembered of is his promise to build Shenge-Moyamba Road.   

 Again, another President, his successor, has stated the need to tar the road and also promised to do so, citing its economic potentials.

What makes Shenge and other places in Kargboro and all the chiefdoms have not progressed is because of the road, President Bio acknowledged after travelling along the road upon his recent visit to the community.  “I have known this road from long and it has not improved.”

If we put a road here fishery will thrive, he added. By the Grace of God, this road:  Moyamba – Shenge Road, we will not only grade it and fix it; we will ensure we tar it.  I’m sure if we do that, it will open up opportunities.

“Paopa, we go make the road from Moyamba to Shenge.”

The difference between both Presidents’ promises to the people of shenge is the timing. While Koroma made promised to build the road on a thank you tour as a newly elected President, Bio made his few months into seeking re-election.

Critical minds could interpret President Bio’s recent visit to the community political gimmick to woo its voters. But if he is elected again and works to prove Critics wrong, he would become an unforgettable legacy in hearts and minds of the Shenge People.

Although past failed promises linger in our minds, we don’t want to distrust the vigour in the President’s recent pronouncement in Shenge, but until we see it, we won’t believe it.     

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