Kenema’s ugly showpiece

Dr. Sama Banya – Puawui

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 June 2014

kenema road1I am seated in Fokai Demby’s delightful Kamboi Complex, along Kenema’s co-busiest thoroughfare as I watch motorists, bike riders and pedestrians struggling to avoid the bad patch at the Capitol-Reservation roundabout.

The visitor driving into Kenema city over the last three years is greeted with potholes and a slushy path, as the main trunk road from Bo turns into Blama Road.

Except for a break in the muddy patch, the rough road of potholes continues throughout Blama road, almost to the city’s Clock Tower at the junction of Dama road – with the commencement of Hangha road.

In addition to the muddy patch earlier described, there are pot holes throughout the length of Hangha road, as far as the IDA bridge, from where the rehabilitated Kenema to Koindu road commences.

Somewhere along the road, just past my hospital buildings are three wet patches, which have existed for almost twenty years.

Some clever, but thoughtless water engineer had laid the main water pipe from Kondebotihun in the middle of the road. His thoughtlessness is compounded by what can be described as a careless connection, which is constantly seeping water on to the surface of the road.

kenema hangha road from capitol hotel viewEven as a non-engineer, I would have thought that a permanent remedy would be to remove the entire section from the middle of the road to the side, and then to replace the particular pipes with new ones that are properly joined – allowing no leakage.

But my friends at SALWACO, along with the SLRA staff, believe in repairing the three feet length of the pipe. And so the trouble persists like a recurring decimal.

My wonder is whether the authorities in both institutions are blind to the folly, or whether they are just being oblivious.

Seven years or so ago, the main Blama road with Hangha road was rehabilitated by the construction firm – METCHEM. It could not have had a solid foundation, because in those bad patches that reach the surface of the road, it is obvious that the foundation was not strong enough.

It is easy to compare that with what the Korean company – ISU, have done with repairs to the other roads within the township.

Kenema road2These raise the question as to why such a major trunk road, was not included in President Ernest Bai Koroma’ s programme of road systems rehabilitation in the provincial and district headquarter cities and towns.

Surely, somebody was negligent or careless in their responsibility. Or were they expecting his Excellency to handpick the major roads for rehabilitation?

When I asked a prominent citizen, why the City Council was not pushing such major defects forward, without batting an eyelid, my informant told me that the Council lacked effective leadership.

He must have detected the movement of my eyebrows; and he added that Mayor Joseph Kelfala was a disappointment and was failing the people.

So over to you – Your Worship.

In the meantime, the people of Kenema City – especially along its main commercial streets of Blama and Hangha, must be bracing themselves for many months of slush, splash and muddy water during another rain.

On a bright note, yes a very bright note, the city had electricity supply for the two nights of my stay. Has the Guma Dam filled up, or has BKPS received their new generators?

Whatever the answer, may be – “THREE CHEERS”!

1 Comment

  1. Nothing has changed, and it will get progressively worse. When I was growing up in Kenema almost all the major roads were tarred and maintained. The town council led by late B S Mssaquoi did much better for the township. Since then Kenema has degenerated.

    Dr Banya referred to the pot holes, but I would described them as ponds. Streets that were tarred are now impassable by vehicles, the reason for the reliance on okada as the only means of transport in town.

    By 2007, there was only one taxi in Kenema, apart from Fokai Demby’s car. By 2010 there was no taxi. Stones have grown on the streets and even okada riders struggled to pass on the road. Trees are painted brown with the passing dust and so are it green leaves. No need to paint houses because there is the natural paints provided by the dust, and those who painted their houses white ended up turning dusty brown.

    The first time I returned to Kenema after 14 years in Europe, I lost my bearings, I could not recognised the places I used to hang around. The situation was different when I got to Bo, where I went to School. As the car drove along the town I recognised the landmark which remain as I left it.

    When on one of my visits to Kenema, I saw a heap of sands and stones by the road side, I asked the people how long would it take to tar the road. One told me that the sands had been there for a year now because the man who was given the contract to do the road work had ran away with the money to Liberia.

    For over 20 years the town hall was just at its foundation level. In fact by 2007, when I was there, the building foundation had started to crumbled. I was told by the deputy mayor that the building was left to rot all these years but president Koroma had provided funds to complete it.

    In our days Kenema was more vibrant than Bo. Because it was the district headquarter of the diamond eastern province. People who had money, including the Lebanese community moved in and opened businesses in Kenema.

    The underlying problem is lack of honest leadership and corruption.

    The town council should be the vehicle for local development. But resources are mismanaged by those running these vital public sectors. Sadly, market women bear the brunts. Standing in hot sun all day selling their goods, council officers collect taxes from them but there is no development in return. Today, there is only one street that is tarred in Kenema.

    The late major, was not above corruption. I did not see the development he brought to Kenema. But he has the best house on the only street that is tarred.

    I am yet to see what the current mayor has done. I would expect much from him, but would not be disappointed if he has not delivered.

    Business as usual for those tasked with running the town and district council, but the town’s people suffers.

    The problem of neglects in Kenema is cyclical.

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