Flood victims accused government of ‘discrimination’ …as thousands left stranded protest


November 18, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Over one thousand flood victims yesterday (16 November) stormed the streets of Freetown as they protested against alleged neglect and discrimination by government to relocate them to a new settlement.

Heavy rains in September caused flooding in Freetown, leaving a humanitarian disaster as more than 5,000 became homeless, while properties worth millions of Leones were destroyed. The government temporarily relocated the victims, mostly from slum areas in Freetown, at the National Stadium and the Brima Attouga Mini-Stadium respectively

The government also promised to permanently relocate all the victims to a location outside the capital.

Almost two months after the humanitarian disaster, government on Sunday (15 November) started relocating some of the victims to makeshift houses at six mile, just outside Freetown.

But it appears not all of those who had sought refuge in the two stadia are happy with how the relocation process was planned and executed.

Speaking to this medium, Ramatu Sesay, a displaced who had sought refuge at the National Stadium, said she used to reside at the country’s biggest slum – Kroo Bay – before the flood forced her and family to relocate. She said they were registered by agents of government.

She said trucks arrived at the stadium on Sunday and officials started calling out names they had earmarked for relocation, adding that to their greatest surprise their names were not on the list. She said officials told them they have a package for them, which is a bag of rice and the sum of Le400, 000 to each of the displaced persons.

“After they had taken those who names were on the list, the security guards asked us out of the stadium and they closed it; some of us had to pass the night in the street because we have nowhere to go since they asked us not to go back to the slums areas,” narrated Ramatu Sesay.

Aminata K. Bangura, from the Attouga Mini-Stadium, said she used to live at Colbot community, east of Freetown. She told our reporter that the flood destroyed her home and forced her to seek refuge at mini stadium which is also located in the east of capital, for the past over two months.

“All they told us is that we should go and collect the sum of Le.400,000 and use it to pay rent; but where are we going to get a place [to sleep] and even if we get [one] would that money be enough to pay for rent? It is for that reason we are here this morning to tell the president that we are not pleased in the way and manner we have been treated,” said Aminata K. Bangura as they protested around the Cotton Tree in central Freetown.

Aminata Sesay, a level two senior secondary pupil at the Methodist Girls High School in Freetown, also expressed dissatisfaction about the relocation process which she contended was discriminatory. She expressed doubt as to whether she would be able to return to school as she is homeless after being sent out of the stadium.

Special Executive Adviser to President Ernest Bai Koroma, Sheka Sahid Kamara, spoke to the protesters around the Cotton Tree. He urged them to be calm as they have met with representatives of the aggrieved flood victims, adding that their grievances would be passed on the president.

He also told the protesters to return to the National Stadium and the Brima Attouga Mini-Stadium until they hear from government.