Condition of Sierra Leone’s road networks after spending hundreds of millions of dollars – A Report by Mamba TV

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 October 2016

kenema hangha road from capitol hotel view
One of Sierra Leone’s longstanding challenges is the deplorable state of the country’s road infrastructure. Successive governments have struggled to address this pressing need with mixed results. (Photo: Kenema – Hangha Road).

Movement across the country, especially during the rainy season becomes treacherous. As motorists risk their vehicles and motorbikes to navigate these roads, it comes with immense costs resulting from needed repair and maintenance of their vehicles.

These costs are in turn passed on to their passengers by way of increase in fare. This results in a fall in supply and increase in prices of basic commodities needed in remote parts of the country. In medical emergencies, getting to lifesaving care in time merely becomes a matter of luck.

Road construction has been promoted as a flagship infrastructural development project for the current government. And evidently, the administration has, over the years embarked on the construction of many roads across the country, and in cities and towns, including Freetown and several district headquarter towns.

While this development has been promoted as a pride and success story by proponents and supporters of the current administration, others have questioned the extent to which the road construction have been regionally balanced as well as the cost effectiveness of the underlying projects.

To help inform this debate, MambaTV embarked on a road tour across the country. The purpose of our road tour is to determine the current state of major district headquarter and border connecting roads in the country.

Our ireporters took over one 2,000 pictures and over 500 video clips of key areas of the roads.  They also interviewed a number of motorists and ordinary citizens they came across.

road construction - Moyamba 2014We then analyzed the results of data collected for the roads toured, including the number of miles paved and unpaved, the distribution of paved roads by district and region, and the percentage of paved roads in each region, and in select cases analyzed information substantiating the current state of ongoing or approved road construction projects.

This tour and analysis do not cover the state of roads in Freetown City, other towns in the Western Rural areas, and district headquarter towns.

Also, we did not perform any procedures that would allow us to report on the cost effectiveness of the road construction projects at this time. In subsequent engagements, we intend to determine the state of roads in the cities and major towns, as well as attempt to determine cost of some of the road projects.

Also worth noting is the fact that the procedures we performed were not intended to established which roads were constructed by which regime or government. The table below documents the roads we covered and destinations, including information about the region, number of miles paved and unpaved.

As depicted in the table attached below, the road tour took our ireporters across the country through 27 legs, and traveling over 1,160 miles, beginning in Freetown and connecting all major roads in the north, south, and east; visiting each of the twelve district headquarter towns and major towns in-between, including roads leading to border crossing points with Guinea and Liberia.

Of the 1, 168-mile tour, our ireporters travelled 380 miles in the north, 187 miles in the south, 257 miles in the east, and 344 miles which connect the three respective regions and the western area.

Since we could not establish with certainty the boundaries between the regions on these regional connecting roads, we are unable to assign the number of miles to each region. Accordingly, we included them in the regional connecting roads.

These regional connecting roads include Mile 91 to Bo, Bo to Kenema, Bo to Matotoka (via Yele), Kenema to Zimmi Makpele, and Koidu to Matotoka, and Masiaka to Freetown.

Of the 380 miles of roads toured in the north, 327 (or 86%) miles are paved while the remaining 53 miles is unpaved. The unpaved road is the leg between Mile 91 and Magboraka.

condition-of-sierra-leone-roads-2016Of the 187 miles of roads toured in the south, 32 miles (or 17%) are paved. Of the 257 miles of roads toured in the east, 78 (or 30%) miles are paved. Of the 344 miles of regional connecting roads toured, 207 (or 60%) miles are paved. Of the total of 1,168 miles of road toured, 642 (or 54%) is paved, while 522 (46%) miles are not paved.

Please note that these percentages may change if boundaries on the regional connecting roads are established. We believe that any changes resulting from the identification of regional boundaries will not significantly change the percentages and conclusions reached.

While the percentage of major paved roads country-wide is impressive, the statistics above shows that more roads are paved in the northern region as compared to the south and east. The southern region has the least percentage of paved roads.

Most of the unpaved roads noted, especially a number those identified in the south and east of the country of the country are extremely treacherous, with a number them not accessible by vehicles and even motor bikes at the time of the visits by our ireporters.

During our tour, we also discovered a couple of instances where, based on signboards, a number of road projects which had been fully funded contracted out lay abandoned.

A notable one is the 32-kilometer road between Koidu and Gandorhun, that lies on the road between Koidu and Kailahun road, in eastern Sierra Leone which had been funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and contracted out to a contractor named Nehban Construction and General Services, under the supervision of the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRA). According to the signboard, the construction was to start in December 2015, and expected to be completed in June 2016. The road lay abandoned as of the visit of our ireporters two weeks ago.

Another notable one is the 15-6-mile road between Bonumbu to Koilugieya, that lies on the road between Koidu and Kailahun road, also in eastern Sierra Leone which had been funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and contracted out to a contractor named Isabrim Enterprises, under the supervision of the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRA).

This road too has been abandoned as of the time of the visit of our ireporters in two weeks ago. We will bring you specific video documentary of both instances when we broadcast the state of roads in the eastern part of the country.

Due to the volume of data collected, MambaTV will be covering in details evidence (pictures and videos) substantiating our tour and conclusions reached in the above during a number of broadcasts scheduled beginning Saturday, October 22, 2016.

We will take you through the journey with us as our ireporters travel the 27-leg journey across Sierra Leone. Please join me in thanking our ireporters for such a marvelous job in collecting data that informs the analysis and conclusions reached in this piece and in our subsequent broadcasts on this topic.

Editor’s Note:

This article has been published courtesy of Mamba TV, USA

7 Comments

  1. I respectfully disagree with AY’s comment about the hatred for the Mende man by the APC, because it’s like giving more power to them and making yourself inferior; because your future should not be determined whether someone loves or hates you. The love for yourself should be paramount.

    APC, which also includes Mende people and south easterners and more than two Vice Presidents (Late Francis Minah, J.B. Dauda and currently Victor Foh) have been given the opportunity to spend their political capital on their districts to benefit their people but decided to turn their backs on them.

    As Dathan Jones also mentioned the name of the late president Tejan Kabba who happened to be the opposition leader of the SLPP which is a south eastern party, also spent his political capital doing the same as the current president. I also believe that the difference between the two parties is more IDEOLOGY than TRIBALISM.

    So my advice to the SLPP, is to focus on putting your house in order. First and foremost, love each other rather than putting too much pressure on someone else to love you.

  2. I am happy about this episode. This is a good investigation and well documented. I saw the team on my way to Bunumbu with a mounted camera in front of the car.

    I would like this team to now focus on the cities and see the discrimination done to the south-east especially Kenema city. Our city roads are like fish pond and swimming pools. Visit Makeni and compare the two.

    This is bad governance – concentrating development and resource in one district because of you hale from there.

  3. The Mamba TV did a good job. It is left with us to make inferences on their findings.
    For example, while some are pointing accusing fingers at the APC-led government of President Koroma for the neglect in the South and East, where a combined total of less than 30% of the roads have been paved or constructed, I would start the blame from the previous Kabba led SLPP Government. Why?

    The 58 Kilometres road between Masiaka and Makeni and the 58 Kilometres road between Mile 91 and Bo were both constructed and paved during the Kabba led SLPP government. The same could be said about 70% of the 44-kilometer road between Mile 91 and Masiaka and 30% of the 11-kilometer road between Gberay Junction and Port Loko.

    In truth, the trend to abandon the South and East did not start with President Koroma APC-led Government. It began with the Kabba SLPP led government that received the most votes from the south and east.

    My hope is that another credible journalistic investigation can be undertaken to determine the amount of money borrowed and spent on these road constructions.

    Mind you our external debt is close to 2 billion dollars. That is not small money, and it does not positively equate to the number of roads constructed and paved by this and the past government. How are we going to repay these loans when none of these newly constructed roads have a toll system?

  4. Your analysis shows a grim picture of the sectionalism, tribalism, nepotism and neglect by the APC party wherein 86% of the roads in the north are paved compared to just 17% in the south and 30% in the eastern provinces paved.

    Yet, the APC party in their thirst for power have postponed the presidential and general elections from July 2017 to June 2018 in order to manipulate and rig the election.

    The northerners are in a marriage of convenience with the southerners and easterners to get the southerners and easterners trapped and be gullible and manipulated, dominated and controlled for the northerner’s selfish needs which are the true sign of witchcraft. May God help us from these calamities. Thanks Manbu TV for a job well done

  5. I just want to doff my hat to Mamba TV for the great investigative journalism that went into this. It is indeed a mark of national service.

    From just a macroeconomic perspective, this among others is a contributing factor to the rise in the prices of local commodities in major towns and cities around Sierra Leone – what economists call inflation that is currently plaguing Sierra Leone.

    This is because when you deprive the Southeast, the most productive parts of the country with good, paved, motorable roads, farmers in such areas will find it impossible to transport their local goods to market, (we are talking banana’s, plantains, palm oil, rice, corn – you name it), and thus, demand would exceed the supply of these goods in the markets, and there you have it, prices of these goods will go up, simple economics 101.

    Furthermore, farmers will have to add the high cost of transportation to bring these goods to market, and prices will continue to go up. Thus, aside from the inflationary monetary policy of the government, where they are just printing money to chase the few goods brought to market, the scarcity of the goods in the market should also be a concern to citizens in the major towns in Sierra Leone.

    Moreover, the condition of these roads in the Southeast will incentivize producers of products such as cash crops like coffee, cocoa, ginger, palm oil and others, to smuggle them to other markets in neighboring countries of Liberia and Guinea because it is easy to get their products across the border, and secondly, the prices are better for their goods.

    Thus, from just the logic of it, if the goal is to grow the economy, as the government and its policy makers purport to be doing, then there has to be a way to distribute infrastructural development such as road maintenance to all the regions, especially those most productive with high contributions to GDP. It is not rocket science.

    So just from the point of view of the impact of this neglect on the economy, the government should go all out to make sure these roads are pliable so that goods and services can come to market on time. The loss to growth and national productivity will be mitigated by making sure that these roads are well maintained.

  6. This is a job well done by Mamba TV to investigate the state of the roads in Sierra Leone, because development in any nation can take place whenever they pay serious attention to roads, transport and communications in order to transport agricultural products to the main cities from the plantations in the villages.

    In terms of roads I do believe the president is moving in the right direction and I will advise him to take a look at this chart and build upon it.

    The president should also be commended for finally trying to finish the road from Pujehun district to the Mano river bridge to Liberia, which was well overdue because Liberia finished their portion way back in the 80’s which was one of the main conditions in establishing free movement and trade between the three countries of the Manor River Union during the days of the late president Siaka Steven.

    Keep it up Mamba TV.

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