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Void votes come from Abacha

-Paolo Conteh chides petty traders

July 15, 2016 By Patrick J. Kamara

Minister of Internal Affairs, Retired Major Palo Conteh, has told newsmen that government was not worried about losing popularity among street traders, especially those illegally occupying Abacha Street, as many post void votes during elections.

Retired Major Conteh was reacting to a question posed by our reporter on the political will or lack of it to remove traders from major streets in Freetown.

“Street trading is another war that Paolo Conteh will soon wage. But I will try to engage City Council and the Ministry of Trade. I’m not disturbed by the number of votes that come from those people that do not know how to vote. Most void votes come from them,” the minister said, adding “the fight with commercial bike riders is everlasting unless I leave the Ministry of Internal Affairs.”

When he was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs earlier this year, Conteh vowed to curb lawlessness and indiscipline in Freetown within 100 days by cracking down on commercial bike riders and street traders.

His crackdown on unruly bike rides has been largely successful in recent weeks, drawing praise from almost everyone in the capital city.

However, previous governments have failed or seemingly refused to remove traders from the Central Business District (CBD), apparently because of fear of losing votes.

The late former President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s government introduced ‘Operation Free-Flow’ which was implemented by the Freetown City Council to keep traders off the streets of Freetown and demolish makeshift structures, but woefully failed.

Also, in January 2013, President Ernest Bai Koroma set up a Presidential Task Force headed by then State House Chief of Staff, Dr Richard Konteh, to manage ‘Operation Waste Management, Improved Road Access and Decongestion’ (WID) in the city with the view to get rid of street trading. Again, the operation failed to achieve its goals.

It thus remains to be seen whether Minister Conteh will be successful to clear the streets of Freetown, including the infamous Abacha Street, of petty traders.

Meanwhile, the construction new market stalls at the Sewa Grounds in central Freetown, where the traders should relocate, has taken more than seven years to complete

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