By Alfred Koroma
While we don’t know all that’s going to happen this year, let travel back a bit into 2022 and reflect our minds on some messy occurrences that happened during one month, last year. This is important. It helps determine how we shape the New Year, surrounded with so many global risks.
We are Sierra Leoneans. We have an eccentric resilience, but we are too quick to forget. So it’s good to remind ourselves. Yes, we are thinking back on August 2022. Hardly had the month gone by in a year, without Sierra Leone experiencing a casualty. The 2017 extreme landslide which killed about 1,141 people and left more than 3,000 homeless happened in August. Usually, the heaviest rain fall and Flooding and mudslide disasters in the country happen in this month.
2022 August was the most chaotic after 2017 August. The month was full of chaos caused not only by the rains but also by political madness. It began with a three-day sit-at-home strike action and eventually a fatal anti-government protest, planned and orchestrated through the world’s biggest new challenge, the social media by faceless political demagogues disguised under cost of living crisis to throw the country into chaos.
What happened in August 10 is too brutal to forget. The protesters in different parts of the country, attacked and killed police officers in uniforms, burned down police stations and destroyed other state properties. The police in turn retaliated badly, teargassing the protesters and firing life bullet, killing several civilians.
The chaos forced the President who was out of the country to cut short his trip abroad and returned at a time citizens were anticipating to hear from him.
Upon his return, President Bio condemned the violence in a speech delivered to the nation, promised crack down and heightened security presence in streets within the country.
Notice of the protest which could have been prevented had gone viral on social media reaching authorities days before it could take place. But there was a show of dereliction of duty on the side of the security sector, especially the military, although their presence in the streets coupled with Vice President’s declaration of state of emergency later halted the tension.
This led to major shakeup in the military. Immediately after President Bio finished delivering speech that Friday night, on 12 of August, he sacked three military officers and instantly promoted seven to new ranks. He later set up a special committee to investigative the saga. The Committee is expected to produce a report this year.
From the violent protest, August was also overshowed by series of flooding and mudslide disasters caused by heavy torrential rains. Low-lying communities in Freetown suffered the most of it.
In Looking Town Community, mudslide covered two houses and trapped residents in the rubble. Six people died and others badly injured, including a seven-year old child who was rushed to hospital.
Mudslides and flooding disasters are not new in Sierra Leone. That’s how we have seen Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone since 2016. The country has continuously experienced more torrential rain fall every year. And the common disasters caused during those rains are linked to environmental degradation, improper housing constructions and poor handling of drainages. Refuse dumped in drainages by people residing in the hills runs down to lowland communities during the rains, blocking drainages and leaving them vulnerable to flooding disasters.
Sierra Leone is still vulnerable to the messy moments that define August last year as their causing factors constantly linger around. Political tensions remain high and social media remain a perfect tool for disseminating hate speech and disinformation, positioning itself as a key challenge for the coming elections.
Flooding and mudslide are serious disasters the country has consistently faced in recent years, yet they haven’t been given the needed attention and no mechanism put in place to prevent them.