SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 By Oswald Hanciles
You may be puzzled by the title of this piece!!! My scream is a FIVE HUNDRED YEARS ‘alla’. I go centuries back when my ancestors were captured along the coast of West Africa by their ‘brothers’ who lived in villages just ‘next door’ to them; chained, walked to the coast from forests; and sold into slavery to the white man !! ‘Ar dae alla…as ar memba way….’ My ancestors were packed inside the white man’s ship like sardines, and forced to ‘eat’ shit and vomit as they sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. It was a Protracted Holocaust; the worst systematic and systemic dehumanization of humanity ever on planet earth. Today, as we are embroiled in the Ebola War, I scream with all my might as I perceive tinges of the ‘thoughts’ of those Africans who sold us into slavery and the convoluted thoughts of those white men who bought us and kept us as slaves in the Americas…. What has precipitated another historic scream in me?
Yesterday, I read a posting by US-based Amadu Massaly in the Sierra Leone Policy Watch (SLPW) cyber forum; signed by the deputy political affairs minister, Karamoh Kabba: “I am pleased to introduce the Presidential Taskforce Media Communications Committee (PTMCC). ….This Committee was created by H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma with the mandate to develop a communications strategy that will handle and respond to all Ebola related media and communications issues….the Committee in collaboration with SLAJ has developed a comprehensive roadmap with clear benchmarks…..” I applaud the essence of this ‘Committee’. So, why should the ‘Release’ get me to ‘alla bad bad wan so’?
“The Good News about the Bad New….”
I am an inveterate user of the internet – spending an average of 14 hours daily in cyberspace. I got this information from the AWARENESSS TIMES website dated September 9, 2014. “Ebola Deaths are Under-Reported!”.
Read excerpts of the AWARENESS TIMES report closely: “Diplomat in charge of the American Embassy in Freetown… Madam Kathleen FitzGibbon….. stated: ‘The acting Minister of Health and Sanitation presented the Presidential Task Force with the grim reality of the statistics, but more importantly, the story of the data……The U.S. diplomat wrote of how ‘There is no doubt that the situation is deteriorating with tens of cases testing positive daily, but added, ‘The good news about the bad news is that the truth will set us free’”.
The AWARENESS TIMES story continues: “…..As confirmed by the U.S. diplomat, Dr. Abubakarr Fofanah, new Health Minister who is a highly qualified doctor, has critiqued method of calculating number of Sierra Leone deaths (CFR) in ongoing Ebola Outbreak……..As stated by the U.S. diplomat, the well-spoken gentleman was diplomatic as he told Presidential Task Force on Ebola that method used to get Sierra Leone CFR (death rate) under his predecessor Ms. Miatta Kargbo, was ‘correct but not correct’…. He carefully used hospital admission data to explain in simple terms as to why actual deaths of laboratory confirmed cases in Sierra Leone were much higher than those numbers being announced…… According to Dr Fofana, a low 38% CFR for Sierra Leone is misleading & counter-productive as against 70%”. I am, not a diplomat. I am not a doctor. I am a journalist; a generalist; a thinker. So, I now translate the words of the new health minister for the public to gets its stark significance: ‘Di minister say….nar bad bad Lie the former health minister bin dae lie but pepul dem way die with Ebola’!!! In English, that means: the former health minister was lying about Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone……
Far More Young People Have Died of Ebola!!!!!!!
Now, have that Big Lie in mind, and take a closer look at an excerpt from the Release by the new aforementioned communications committee on the Ebola: “Let me discuss some startling statistics you may not be privy to: We have almost equal infection cases across gender lines. But interestingly, it will amaze you to know that, by far, young people in the age bracket of 15-49 are the most affected by the EVD. More than 700 young people have contacted the Ebola out of the about 1000 infected persons between May 23 – August 27 2014. Reasons may be that young people are the most willing people in the bad business of running off with their sick parents. They are also the most socially charged people with increased chances of contacting the virus……”
Communications is NOT just about Talking…Talking…Talking…
Do not gloss over the “maybe” in the Release there. This is what Amadu Massaly wrote in the SLPW cyber forum on why we appear to be losing battles against the microscopic Ebola virus: “Clearly, this indicates that we are either not getting the right messages across to our people or we are just stubborn ..”
Dear Amadu Massaly, the educated elite, the ‘governing elite’ especially, have the responsibility to communicate the right messages using the right medium to the ordinary people. In ways which the people would BELIEVE the educated elite!! When the elite in society fail to pass on vital messages to the people, especially with a ‘war’ like we are embroiled in today, it is the collective failure of the elite. The ordinary man may be illiterate or mal-educated. But, the natural impulse to SURVIVE would get him to listen – listen to CREDIBLE people. This is my SECOND article (written in my private capacity in this column) expressing my grouse against a communication committee that has failed to harness quality communication minds even among card-carrying members of the APC itself.
Quality APC media gurus excluded from Ebola Communications Committee
Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay, former BBC worker, with experience in print and electronic media in several African countries, is not on this ‘committee’. Mohamed Sankoh (a.k.a. ‘One Drop’) is probably the most fluid, most incisive, one of the most prolific pro-APC writers…. from 1968 to present time: he is not on this committee… Yet, the committee can come out with a rambling release – that would ungrammatically oscillate between the first person and third person – that includes injudicious lampoon of the ‘international committee’. Read this excerpt: “….This morning, I listened to the AU spokesman on BBC alleging that there are no borders to be closed in the affected region because the borders are imaginary. What is wrong with that statement? I asked myself; well, we are yet to see a full response from the AU that is sufficient enough to demonstrate that the Ebola attack on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is a continental attack….”. For goodness sake, this Column can deride the Africa Union Spokesman; but, it is undiplomatic for a release from the ‘State of Sierra Leone’ to do so!!!.
Tejan Kabbah’s Big Lie being repeated in the Ebola War Today!!!!
I kindly ask that we examine this other excerpt from the Release: “…..The fact of the matter is from our inexperience disposition to the Ebola compounded by our porous borders, no amount of preparedness was going to be enough to save us from the situation we are now in without an unwavering input from the international community….” Such words would get my blood boiling!!! It appears like an echo of late President Tejan Kabbah when the AFRC staged a coup against him on May 25, 1997; and when the RUF invaded Freetown on January 6, 1999. Kabbah peddled this Big Lie successfully: ‘There is nothing we could have done to prevent the RUF and AFRC taking over Freetown!!!’ (As if every RUF/AFRC boy soldier was like Superman; and the AFRC were like Obama’s Special Forces). Like the Big Lie about Ebola Deaths debunked by the new health minister, this is another Big Lie!!! The Ebola Outbreak was in Guinea in December, 2013. If our ambassador in Guinea was doing his job, he should have alerted us. The health ministry started talking…talking…talking…DOWN to people as early as April, 2014. That April, I wrote in this Column THREE different articles that the health minister should consult media experts. She didn’t!!!
Read these impolitic words again from the ‘Release’, lashing out at the United Nations World Health Organization: “….Many challenges were faced along the way including a failed technical advice from WHO about border protection and quarantining alongside a very slow paced response from the international community…..” ” It sound so much like Tejan Kabbah in his autobiography as he tried to exonerate himself from handing over his former defence minister, Hinga Norman, to be tried for War Crimes by the Special Court – with Kabbah BLAMING the international community for the decision. I wrote in this Column in April, 2014, that we need NOT adhere to the WHO – and even drew the parallel with Tejan Kabbah’s reign.
“The Truth Shall Set us Free!!!”
The ‘committee’ punches thus: “…..whereas we are very appreciative of our international partners in the fight against the Ebola, we will utilize this forum to air our own positions on matters bordering on global issues and positions, respond to blatant misinformation as well as challenge culturally insensitive and politically incorrect statements against us….” I do get indignantly amused when Africa’s governing elite take such postures. What is clear is that Africa governing elite would fail to harness the best and the brightest of their own people, and, when things go horribly wrong, they cry out to the ‘international community’ to help; and when they fail to respond as they expect them to, they cry foul.
For the records, ‘dis Krio Boy Oswald Hanciles nor dae forget how his forefathers were enslaved in the past’!!! The Ebola War we are embroiled in will only be won by harnessing the best of our human resources – here and in the Diaspora – as we confront the awesomely complex international forces. I don’t mind closing here with the words above of a descendant of the former ‘slave masters’, Kathleen FitzGibbon, “The truth shall set us free…” The “Truth” is that the descendants of the slave sellers and the descendant of the slave buyers and slave users are directly, or, unwittingly, conspiring against ‘us’ in this Ebola War!!! The Krio should – here and in the US/UK – play a leadership role in this Ebola War. ‘Nar for alla, O! If u nar alla, dem nar go yeri u!!!’