Sheriff Mahmud Ismail: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 April 2022:
Another fire, another slum in Freetown, yet another painful reminder of governance failure. This time, under the Congo Cross Bridge. At the ungodly hour of 4am, Monday March 4, the people in that underprivileged ‘Belgium’ community, like their compatriots at Kolleh Town, Old Wharf, Susan’s Bay, Kroo Bay, were rudely woken up to the calamity of a fire accident.
Just a few hundred metres from the scene of this latest disaster is the Youyi Building which houses several government ministries, including the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning. Yes, such a ministry exists yet ordinary Sierra Leoneans – from all regions of the country – continue to live in subhuman conditions in makeshift structures built in inaccessible and disaster – prone areas across our city.
And when disasters like this breakout, the people are on their own. With bare hands, stones, sticks and buckets of water, they helplessly expend their little energies in the futile endeavor to salvage whatever little household items they may have.
Painfully, as in this case, after everything would have burnt down, the hard working fire services, operating under very poor conditions of service, would show up, more as a further reminder of the dysfunctional state of our governance system.
Years of toil decimated, scores of Sierra Leoneans rendered homeless in no time; and no chance of any institutional compensation – state or otherwise. If anything, what the victims get would be uncoordinated, unstructured and inadequate makeshift “relief support’.
Then, once again, they move on to business as usual, without any concrete plans or actions to address the aged-old housing emergency and the mushrooming of unplanned communities.
Abandoned to fate, the resilient victims of both the fire and bad governance would be on their own, helplessly picking up the pieces without the necessary support to rebuild their lives.
With the dire economic situation in the country today, such calamity would only make a bad situation worse for a community already down pressed by social and economic hardships.
But according to Dr Samura Kamara (Photo), the leading presidential aspirant of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), the problem of housing and informal settlements in urban areas would be given serious consideration in his development agenda.
“I have visited several communities which have suffered from fire accidents, and I’ve seen first-hand the dangers and the indignities our compatriots endure in such communities,” he said.
Speaking in anticipation of the June 2023 presidential elections, the opposition politician further said that “Housing and effective urban planning will be a major agenda of my government when elected as President”.
While such policy commitment is reassuring, the victims in the ‘Belgium’ community under the Congo Cross Bridge in Freetown, are left wondering about what they have lost and where they will lay their heads when night falls.
These people shouldn’t be out there, If they can’t afford to live properly in the city, let them go back to their home towns and work harder to create means for city life. The government didn’t ask them to relocate from their towns . We’re blind and dishonest otherwise we won’t blame government for every reckless decision we make. These people should have been cultivating their land back home to carter for a better life. If they’ve opted to live in cities, then they should take the burden of city life and stop squatting .
Governance problems in Sierra Leone revolve around managing the affairs of the state by a small group of elected and none elected state officials that are critically entrusted with the running of the affairs of the State. And in the absence of local communities’ involvement in running their affairs, difunctional systems that lack transparency and accountability and a system that is ring-fenced to protect and defend themselves and their cronies, as opposed to delivering for the very people that it is meant to help, chances are we are going to see more Susan Bays across the spectrum in towns and cities in Sierra Leone. The problem we have we are so addicted to politicians that lie to us , we cannot be serious to make the right decision that will benefit us.Mayor Akin Swayer have not only proved she can deliver for her people , with her hands tied behind her back by the discredited one directionless Paopa government , now the people of Susan Bay are paying the price of Bio’s vendetta politics for failing to provide the Mayor and her team the necessary funding to rebuild Susan Bay when it experienced the same phenomenon not long ago.
Every action or lack of action by this government put limitations on the aspirations of ordinary peoples lives. People might be wondering why they are experiencing this fires , the reality of course is accidents by designed .Is man made The lack of urban planning and total disregard for the needs of residents that found themselves in this unfortunate situation, can be squarely laid at the doors of State House and it’s occupant. Visit Kroo Bay , Devil hole, government wharf ,Up Gun ,Tar Green or the side streets of out great city of Freetown, this are all places that are desperately crying out for urgent urban regeneration and planning .But where will the funding come from given the spate of corruption cases hampering any developments in the country.
People forget where they trip by electing Bio and remembers where they fall which is the tragedy sweeping a cross Sierra Leone. Boi and his ministers should not visit Susan Bay for photo ops.To me they are more like the arsonist than firefighters. This unmitigated disaster is preventable if Bio is serious about looking after the welfare of the people that elected him .