Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 February 2021:
Dozens of roadside make-shift businesses were bulldozed by police in the Jui/Grafton Highway in Freetown last night, in an effort by the police to enforce Council Bye-Laws and the government’s policy of clearing the roads of all structures that are blocking pedestrian walkways and road traffic.
After failures by successive governments to rid the city of roadside makeshift businesses and eradicate environmental blight, it now seems the Bio-led government is determined to enforce the law.
But local people and businesses owners are complaining of lack of proper consultations, and are accusing the police of brutality and heavy-handedness.
The damage to property is estimated at Billions of Leones, with hundreds of people now left unemployed and their future destroyed.
But supporters of the police’s decision to bulldoze those businesses say that this was long coming and that the business people concerned knew they were breaking the law.
Critics of the government are accusing the government of selective justice. They say that thousands of makeshift businesses are being allowed to thrive along the main streets of Freetown’s busy central district.
You can watch the videos of the bulldozed businesses here:
GRAFFITI – the writing on the wall; Many years ago in the South side of Bronx in New York City, as I climbed some U-shaped stairs in an attempt to visit a friend of mine on the 10th floor of a Hi-rise apartment building, I caught a glimpse of some words of admonition brightly painted in lustrous white on the stairwells that easily caught my attention. They reminded me about our little, beloved fragile corrupt, war-torn Sierra Leone – timeless words of truth, they were, resembling wild fires that still continue to rage, burn and consume every superficial thing in their path even today.
Here is what they said, “Thou art a cursed nation, that deserves my vehement wrath and indignation, for you have allowed the lame to crawl in pain, needlessly in vain under the burning Sun since the day he was born; And the defenceless and blind that you have brazenly led astray, far away from the ways of peace, tranquillity and happiness he humbly chooses and desires to go. Your wintry, chilly hearts have been tirelessly promoting attitudes of indolence, insolence and theft that have bereft the innocent suckling infant of the usual loving, reassuring sips of her gentle, caring mother’s precious milk.
I have now heard their heart-breaking cries echoing, and re-echoing in the eternal serene celestial spheres. In a moment my judgement will descend and crash like a massive frightening thunderbolt on all those wicked thieves, robbers, warmongers, evil schemers and promoters of the ways of doom, gloom and darkness, all across the globe. Words to the Wise – are the leaders of our Sierra Leone listening attentively or are they still tossing and turning in their dreams full of greed and delusions.(lol)
The reality is during the governance of the destructive APC party, most of these traders have reduced Freetown which was one of the most organized and cleanest city in our region to the most chaotic and filthy capital in the region ( Big Slum). The new direction government wasted no time in the path of transforming our city when President Bio introduced the National monthly cleaning and requested 100 garbage trucks from China and Russia to enhance his dream to restore Freetown to its past glory. Recently, the World Bank has approved $50 million grant for infrastructural development of Freetown which focused on transportation, road safety like traffic lights, street lights, transportation parks and markets.
Based on this development, SLRA gave notice to most of these traders about the demolition which has been consistently ignored, so the SLRA has no other option but to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goal of transforming our beloved city just like what was down at the Aberdeen and Lumley beach area. I personally believe that if most of these petty traders decide to embark on Agriculture in the provinces, our exports will transform our Gross Domestic Products (GDP) based on the fact that the government has purchased over 400 tractors and thousands of agricultural equipments which will eventually increase our Human Capital Development.
I hope and pray that the Mayor of Western Urban and the Chairman of Western Rural who are both from the destructive APC party will collaborate with the New Direction government rather than undermining their efforts because of the upcoming 2022 local and 2023 presidential elections which will be detrimental to our country.
Sad to hear such devastating stories from fellow Sierra Leoneans. Is this another example of the brutal and barbaric behavior of the Bio SLPP kakistocracy against the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in our society? If these people were paying taxes, then they have some sort of legitimacy of being there. Anyway, let’s wait for more information from the Ministry of Local Government, the Freetown City Council and the police. The law is the law and no one is above the law. That I agree with. But going late in the night and breaking people’s stalls is a dodgy and criminal behavior. Burglary must have been committed.
Were these traders informed of the move in advance? Have there been any consultations or discussions between the authorities and the traders on this issue? You have a government talking about empowering women, but at the same time heartless to them. These traders majority of whom are women in my view have children and families to take care of. How can they survive now? On the other hand, those giving such barbaric orders are sitting in big offices squandering the taxes been paid to the government by these very traders. Why can’t people be kind and compassionate to one another? I hope we get clarity from the Freetown City Council, the Ministry of Local Government and the Police as soon as possible.
With COVID-19 lockdown, no cash in the banks, no jobs etc, these poor women trading to barely survive have lost their livelihoods. My advice to them is to stay calm and address the problem to the authorities through their union peacefully. First destination, the Freetown City Council. God help those poor and defenseless women and traders from the brutal claws of the dictators den. TBC.
Some questions need to be urgently answered by the government: How much time were people given to leave the affected areas? Were alternative sites offered to victims to set up their businesses? Was the member of parliament for the area fully informed prior to the demolitions? In the hours following the demolitions, has State House put out any statement?
Recriminations will now flow back and forth, besides the inferno of frail tempers and the temptation of unmitigated violence, but it is time to re-examine the course of events which were the forerunner to what has unfolded. To instantly indict the government without all available facts would be a serious breach of fairness.
It may sound callous and sadistic to state that everything has to be to done to save the outlying areas of Freetown from becoming an unequivocal reflection of the centre of the city where years of efforts to clear the streets of street traders have been a Sisyphean task, thanks to political sensitivities. This is a case shrouded in grief and emotions, but no one can claim that all decisions are easy . The world knows of commanding generals who have cried before sending their men to war, knowing that not all them will make it back alive, but it never made them to reverse the decision . Poor city planning is responsible for this dismal occurrence.
The timing is wrong. And for the small petty traders its like throwing them in a lake full of hungry crocodiles and told to swim or sink. Throwing them under the bus is no way of improving the economic well-being of Sierra Leone. We are in the middle of a once in century pandemic, and Bio’s government, who is always looking at ways to throw his citizenry to abject poverty, have decided this is the time. While the rest of the world’s governments are trying to secure the COVID19 vaccine for their people to save lives and livelihoods, our government is declaring an open warfare against its poor citizens that lives from hand to mouth.
You will understand if the government build market centres and give them time to relocate, but its quite a difference when they come and force you out, without offering alternative arrangements for the petty traders. This is directly coming from the play book of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. He used to call it slum clearance. His efforts transformed Zimbabwe from a bread basket to a basket case of Africa. And that is where Bio and his misguided policies are taking us. Fasten your seat belts. We are in for a bumpy ride.
After watching this video and hearing our people crying and asking for the divine judgement of Almighty God against all those who inflicted such a heartbreaking injustice on them by destroying their properties, lives and livelihoods the tears could not stop rolling down my girlfriend’s face; Yup,she has ceaselessly been shedding copious tears. I have always maintained the criminal SLPP is an incompetent bunch of tribalists that are unfit to rule. Is it right and proper to destroy the structures on which thousands of vulnerable people are depending for their daily bread and survival without first making adequate financial provisions that will reduce and cushion the devastating impact of such a badly timed, ill-conceived undertaking? Geez! The hearts of these people are as cold as solid, frozen ice. A country that has totally let millions down, that is ranked among the poorest in the world should not be destroying anything that poor people have toiled and struggled for on their own for no reasons at all.
To hell with the criminal SLPP Cabal! Goodness gracious our people are being thrown from the frying pan into the fire, hope no longer exists in Sierra Leone.Covid 19 looms larger and larger by the minute, and is tirelessly wrecking havoc on an already ailing economy, causing millions to go to bed hungry and these SLPP Ignoramuses are destroying the livelihoods of thousands? What the hell is going on? Didn’t the wise Solomon say there is an appointed and fitting time for all things under the sun? When will these dimwits learn to listen to such timeless, prudent advice? The amateurish, ineffective Sierra Leone Police have become a bunch of lousy puppets on strings being controlled directly from State House, scheming and conniving to inflict pain and suffering on the same people they have taken an oath to serve and protect. A damn shame!