Sierra Leoneans seeking a better life in Europe are dying in the Mediterranean

Atomic Pen

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 July 2017

I listened to the BBC Focus on Africa programme yesterday in which Umaru Fofana gave a detailed report on Sierra Leoneans that have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, while trying to cross to Europe in search of a better life.

Tears ran down my cheeks as two mothers broke into tears during the interview with Fofana. One of them said she sold her personal assets worth $5000 (five thousand dollars), which she sent to her two sons for them to pay people smugglers to get them into Europe.

James and Alimamy who were in their 30s have ended up into the bellies of sharks and other hungry sea mammals. While crossing, the boat developed engine troubles and capsized. One survivor telephoned the old mum and informed her that her two sons had drowned. The two mothers remain heavily traumatized, whose tragic stories continue to exercise my mind since yesterday.

I have been thinking day and night about how I would feel if these tragedies befell my lovely sons, Junior and Hashim.

A lot of Sierra Leoneans are perishing in jails in Libya. Umaru Fofana also interviewed a Sierra Leonean youth who said he spent three months in jail in Libya and was only set free after paying $4000 to his captors who kept brutalizing him day and night while in prison. His poor mum did everything possible to raise the ransom to set her son free.

I am still seriously preoccupied by these horrendous stories about Sierra Leoneans dying in the Mediterranean Sea or being held into slavery in Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon and other Arab countries.

Blaming those young people for their desperation to flee their country of birth to go into modern day slavery is hypocritical and completely missing the point.

FILE – In this May 25, 2016 file photo made available by the Italian Navy, people try to jump in the water right before their boat overturns off the Libyan coast. Over 700 migrants are feared dead in three Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks south of Italy in the last few days as they tried desperately to reach Europe in unseaworthy smuggling boats, the U.N. refugee agency said Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Italian navy via AP Photo, file)

I have not been to the world beyond, but based on the descriptions I have read in both the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible, the prevailing deplorable conditions in Sierra Leone that have dehumanized our people are very close to hell.

Under normal circumstances, nobody would want to leave his people, his community, his place of birth, his friends and a familiar environment to undertake a perilous journey that would lead him into modern day slavery.

Sierra Leone is a dangerous prison from which everybody wants to flee upon getting the slightest opportunity. The stories of Sierra Leonean athletes seeking asylum during athletic competitions abroad are too numerous to mention all.

Sierra Leonean footballers had fled in London when they had the opportunity to do some test matches with English Premier Clubs. Our athletes fled in Finland during Olympic Games and sought refuge. Of the 18 athletes that went to Melbourne, Australia in 2005, only 4 returned to Sierra Leone after the Olympic Games.

My neighbour in my Wellington Suburb, Tha Ramatu was greatly disappointed that her daughter, Mariatu Kamara returned to the country whilst her team mates had fled in search of better life in Australia. The middle-aged lady cried bitterly, annoyed at her daughter for returning home.

Tha Ramatu is Chairlady for the APC in the Brima Lane area and doesn’t want to hear any criticisms against the ruling party, though she doesn’t want her children to stay in the country whose president she praises as the “World’s Best Leader.”

In effect, it is not only youths who are fleeing the country upon getting the slightest opportunity. When I was a student at FBC, all my professors who went to the USA and Europe as visiting professors on sabbatical leave never returned to Sierra Leone. Some of them have only returned to the country as dead bodies in coffins.

The dream of the bulk of the Sierra Leone population is to live abroad and do any kinds of menial jobs – including slavery, just to stay away from a country they regard as “jahanama” (hell) on earth.

The vast majority of Sierra Leoneans who have no access to state coffers face the risk of decaying in poverty. They are dying prematurely due to the insurmountable problems that have reduced our people to subhuman conditions.

Our authorities say the country is making progress – citing the bush roads being constructed by the Chinese on loan, to be repaid with high interest rates by generations yet unborn.

The fact needs not be overemphasized that Sierra Leoneans are not free. They are being held hostage by a vicious cycle of poverty and misery that is sending them into their early graves. Sierra Leoneans remain bereaved of every facet of development and social services.

Our workers earn starvation allowances styled as salaries that cannot take them even half way through the month. They are not sure of getting any appropriate treatment when they are sick, as our hospitals are nothing other than mortuaries where patients go to die.

The President says he has given a facelift to our hospitals, but he goes to India and Europe when he needs medical treatment.

The elitist class doesn’t drink the water Guma Valley supplies to the population because they know that the water is nothing but slow poison.

Those who lay hands on state coffers, transfer their loot abroad for safe keeping. They also send their children abroad for better education.

As a matter of fact, neither the people, nor the authorities have faith in our country. The ordinary masses want their children to flee from the hellish conditions back home and settle in the West in search of greener pastures.

The authorities keep their monies abroad “for man can’t tell” like both Bio and Strasser did during the NPRC era. Pathetically though, our starving people who can hardly afford a day’s meal keep lavishing praises on the ruling party for the current bush roads and other cosmetic changes being implemented here and there in the form of “haf haf baffas”.

In effect, if you have no guarantee to secure a job after graduation, and you have no opportunity to afford a decent life, and you have no guarantee to get a reliable treatment when you are sick, and your mind is constantly charged with the thinking of where the day’s meal will come from. You are not free. You are in bondage.

And if your security cannot be guaranteed by the state and you have to live in perpetual fear of being attacked by armed bandits, you are in total slavery. And if you have to live in a mountain of suffocating garbage with aggressive and life-threatening mosquitoes and other dangerous insects, you are not free.

Living in a safe and clean environment is a right and the citizens have the right to demand this. If the police cannot ensure your safety and you cannot rely on them when your human rights and security come under threat, you are not free.

If you cannot rely on the judiciary to protect your rights when your security is compromised or when your rights are violated, then you are not free.

Today in Sierra Leone, the police exist only in name. They cannot detect crimes. They can’t investigate matters and come up with tangible results.

If you are attacked by armed bandits or you are robbed of your property, and you report the matter to the police, its “buff case”.

And if you go to court, you will end up spending more money than the value of what was stolen from you. Is Sierra Leone really a country?

Our economy is upside down with a floating national currency – aggravated by a dysfunctional state in which only politicians are able to afford at most two square meals a day, while those killing one another in the name of stone age party politics are satisfied to receive tokens, weed and pega packs in compensation.

If 50 ships were to be brought to Sierra Leone to take all those who want to go to Europe and the US, only the World’s Best Leader and his band of politicians and their close relatives would stay in the country. What a pathetic country.

Sierra Leoneans are not free. Even the most educated people who know the depth of the abysmal state in which the country finds itself are not free to express themselves. They are afraid of losing their jobs. They don’t want to be blacklisted – since politics is a business and the only means of survival for most people.

Everybody wants to be in the good books of the president. So, even when the whole country is being driven to a perilous destination, the passengers and crew on board keep applauding the captain, even when they know they are heading towards their tragic end. We are not free.

Editor’s Note:
This article has been published courtesy of Atomic Pen

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