The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 May 2013
On 24 May last year, I went to Kailahun with the Peace Project to donate crutches to the disabled. And whilst I was there, the blind also requested we help them with walking canes.
We promised to be back with the 500 walking canes, once they arrive from the United States.
When I got back to Parliament after the trip, I bumped literally into Hon. Alice Foyah (Photo). And after apologising for my clumsiness, I told her of my trip to her constituency. She smiled fully, her eyes like two shining buttons.
She placed her hand on my shoulder and said warmly: “Why didn’t you let me know you were going to Kailahun, so I could have made my people give you the respect you deserve? I could have made them treat you to the ‘Kailahun pemahun’ and, well, everything you would have requested. Come on, you deserve it – you know – you’re such a good reporter.”
I blushed and said I would let her know when my next trip is due. “Please do. Please do. And I hope you had a good time there – did you?”
“Of course I did my Honourable. I had a good time in Kailahun. I can’t wait to be back out there.”
“Aha. Aha. Just let me know when you will be returning again. Hmm?”
“Most certainly,” I answered. True enough, minus the rains and the bumpy Kailahun road, I had enjoyed my trip there, especially the extra warmth of the staff at the Luawa Resort.
Their smiles and the camaraderie have remained a keepsake in my heart. I now stood back and tied up such warmth with their representative in Parliament and I nodded approvingly.
From that day onward, each time we met, Hon. Alice Foyah would ask whether my trip to Kailahun is anywhere nearer. When I answered no, she will renew her request to be my hostess whenever the time comes, and she will leave me after a warm handshake and smile.
As you will notice by now, I became interested in this woman from Kailahun (Constituency 001) and started zeroing in on her activities, which were numerous – from her work as a member of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and her work in Kailahun itself – and I remember how passionately she spoke up for Kailahun from time to time – whenever she had the opportunity.
Time passed and the nation went to the polls on 17 November last year where Constituency 001 in Kailahun again returned Hon. Alice Foyah. I joined others in Parliament to congratulate her – and she lost no time to remind me about her promise to be my hostess.
Well, Time didn’t let her become my hostess after all because on 26 April 2013, Death the Leveller, strode in with his rude hands to lead Hon. Alice Foyah to the land of no return.
I had been celebrating the day which was my tenth wedding anniversary when a colleague journalist called me up with news of her death. I slipped away from the rest to take in the news – such sad news.
‘Death is the richest man on earth,’ I had read somewhere. ‘He doesn’t only have kings and queens for company, but he also has the brave, the beautiful, and someone you love.’
I am not a philosopher anyway to understand the enigma of death, but standing there I knew how it feels to lose someone you admire and like. The tears were fast and hot.
When my turn came, I joined mourners to sign the book of condolence in Parliament. My hand like my heart was trembling.
“I didn’t have the time to be your guest in Kailahun as you have always requested…” I wrote. “I am sorry. Rest in peace.”
The tributes have poured in from all around the world about this resplendent woman, including her native Kailahun, where she was buried last weekend. Nothing can make me forget the memories and the moment.
“Nature has never betrayed the heart that loves her,” said English poet William Wordsworth. I can’t disagree – and if Nature will not, how would the Good Lord forget her labour of love?
Fare thee well, Hon. Alice Foyah…on your trip to God’s Wonderland.
Elias Bangura is the President of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Freetown, and Correspondent for Public Witness Magazine.
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