Freetown floods disaster again – Now what?

Abayomi Tejan: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 August 2019:

The inhabitants of Freetown have sinned. They have sinned against the trees, the land, the rivers and streams. They have sinned against the environment, they have sinned against mother nature herself. We all know the ultimate wages of sin, death.

Last Friday’s flooding in Freetown was a foregone conclusion; a certainty that was to happen, and has happened. It has happened before and will happen again and again, unless we show repentance for our cruelty to the environment and, ultimately, to ourselves.

Now what – Prayers?

Let’s keep God out of this; and let pastors and preachers save their prayers for God’s intervention in this self-inflicted catastrophe. Instead, let them pray for the trees, the mountains, the rivers, seas and oceans, the beasts of the forests, the birds in the air, that they be protected from the destructive devices of the most vicious of all creation, man.

Take away humans from the ecosystem, the animals and plants would co-exist in perfect harmony. God’s patience is long, his vengeance swift and unforgiving.

But this is no ‘Act of God;’ this is self-destruct contrivance of a people long accustomed to lawlessness, condoned by governments thriving on the ignorance of the primitive minds of the barefooted many.

Enough of the Gospel. Now, let us reason together. Who is to blame for all this stupidity?

Inevitably, the buck shores up on the government’s table. Which government? Certainly the SLPP, although it is somewhat unfair to heap the blame on this government for a problem that began over two decades ago.

The root cause of all this flooding, landslides, massive erosion and growing slum dwellings is, without question, land grabbing.

But if anyone could do something to stop this land grabbing madness, and random housing development on the mountain slopes, gullies, shoreline and swamps in the capital city, it is President Bio himself. Who else?

The Office of National Security (ONS) seems impotent to act decisively. They have been relegated to coordinating humanitarian assistant to victims, which has somewhat become an annual rainy season ritual, and a splendid source of sustenance for slum dwellers who refuse to be relocated.

In fact, many slum dwellers are looking forward to another disaster, so more goodies from government and humanitarian donors would come their way.

The Mayor, without an iota of doubt, must be thoroughly exasperated over the level of lawlessness and intransigence manifested in her never ending cleaning exercise. The more City Council clears garbage, the more it accumulates, outstripping Council’s capacity to clean the city. Thanks to citizens who see nothing wrong in throwing garbage into gutters and drainages. Thanks to erosion of gravel, silt and debris from loosed soil on the hills where precarious, unplanned and unauthorized housing construction is taking place by land grabbers.

The Mayor demonstrated absolute discretion when she signed a Le 2.4 billion flood mitigation Memorandum of Understanding with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA,) the ONS and the Army late last month. This comes with an ominous warning that Freetown, is at risk of a major environmental and deforestation disaster. Same old story.

The bulk of the population in Freetown comprises of people in the lower rung of society, but wielding considerable political influence because of their sheer numbers that is invaluable to political parties during elections.

Street traders, hawkers, destitute of no fixed abode – let alone access to toilet facilities make mockery of ‘land that we love’ our Sierra Leone.

Left to the courts alone, reclaiming state lands and halting land grabbing would be as inconceivable as it is impossible. Judges, Magistrates, lawyers, police and military officers, influential and connected individuals are among the greatest beneficiaries of dubious land deals in prime sites around the city.

How does one expect the lands minister to get justice if and when his actions, which may be perfectly lawful, were brought before the courts for arbitration, when the Plaintiff is one of those above mentioned beneficiaries? Poor minister Dr Denis Sandy – caught between the devil and deep sea. Alone.

Because the land tenure laws have been twisted and mystified, and used as an instrument of fraud, a lay minister (with respect,) cannot stand a chance against a conspiratorial legal system that tends to favor wrongdoers according to their socioeconomic status and political clout. Sinful indeed.

The never ending radio discussion and TV footages of flood scenes that make for edgy listening and curious viewing keep pouring in. The BBC’s Umaru Fofanah is on overdrive collating all those telling footages WhatsApp is pouring out, trying hard to cut out a new headline angle for his employers at Bush House in London.

Is there anything ‘breaking’ about news of flooding in Freetown?

There is nothing new about flooding in Freetown. The 14 August 2017 landslide at Regent is a record on record as the biggest mass burial in the history of Sierra Leone. Approximately one thousand people lost their lives,  and August is just nine days old. And people are still living there. How do you explain that?

So, the sins of President Bio’s  predecessors have been visited upon him, and atonement could only be made by he doing the right thing, no matter the noise coming from a beleaguered judiciary.

Another Executive Order prohibiting any further deforestation, unauthorized structures in disaster prone areas; and setting up a special Commission of Inquiry on  ‘good title’ to lands in the Western, and getting rid of slum communities, would yield dividend for President Bio in no small measure. Politics aside, that is.

See video below of lands minister Sandy speaking this week about deforestation and illegal housing construction:

 

6 Comments

  1. What has President Bio’s INNOVATION TEAM at State House done in terms of INFORMATION on EARLY WARNING SIGNALS to help people in such UNSTABLE and DANGEROUS lands/areas? May be a simple smartphone will help in some cases. EASY.

    Why is this Government failing to make sure that 24 Hour ELECTRICITY and INTERNET is available throughout the country? With that and the training of 3000 Students per year for 10 years in Russia (in all fields), Made in Sierra Leone will happen. Believe me. Everything is going SMART. So our Leaders have to go SMART too. But will they?

    This department should have by now CREATED and IMPLEMENTED a system that would inform people by TEXT, SIRENS and even LOUDSPEAKERS well in advance before DISASTER strikes.

    Such a system could also be communicated to the FIRE DEPARTMENT, POLICE and MEDICAL SERVICES. Something easy to do.
    I hear them talking about 3D and 3D modelling. That is not important right now. It is just a waste of time and money.

    What is important right now is help create and implement the tools that will save lives and feed our people. Let them think about areas like SMART AGRICULTURE. I won’t get into the technology for now. But, let them think about that very seriously.

    May GOD help and BLESS our LEADERS and POLITICIANS to think SMART and become SMART for the good of our NATION. AMEN AND AMEN.

  2. Yes, this is a good article. when I came the first time to Sierra Leone in july 96 during the rainy season, the lion montains were green. Years later the view on this mountains became more und more ugly, because of deforestation and illegal building construction.

    As an architect and townplanner for me I was already conscious that this development will lead to an erosion; and during the rainy seasons it will be a big catastrophe. It happened like this. And who is suffering? Especially the poor people in the slum areas like Kroo Bay.

    what has been done all these years about town and country planning?

    Another point is the overpopulation of freetown since the war. I remember that the GIZ had a program to bring young refugee youths back to the country side for farming. is it still working? In my eyes it needs a strong concept/program to stop the emigration to the cities under aid of a long term development plan (15-20 years) for the countryside for employment and infrastructure. After this you may be can think about the lungi bridge project.

  3. The City in its current standard of development cannot cope nor manage the different problems facing it, starting from overpopulation, century old infrastructures, no town planning, no effective governmental institutions to enforce life saving precautionary measures and the dilemma of being a hilly peninsula.

    The mistakes started in the early seventies and has never been attended to; and the money to invest in order to change things around is not available. But what we are capable of doing now is an emergency action plan:
    – massive and aggressive reforestation of the hillsides
    – abolish all stone extractions in the hillsides
    – no cutting of trees or grass
    – break down all half-backed structures on the hillsides
    – no new building structures in  vulnerable areas***
    – City Cleaning, City Cleaning, City Cleaning and City Cleaning!!!
    – City council committee only for the implementation of the outlined measures

    ***Our government should engage the few environmentalists, engineers and architects to come up with  solutions as to specify  the no-go areas for new infrastructures.

  4. I extol the author Mr. Tejan for his flawless narrative facts depicting the cause of floods that annihilated Freetown, once a haven on earth that outshined the borders of Sierra Leone and beyond.

    This dismal state of our once beloved Freetown is due to the defunct and buried laws by arrogant leaders for decades, who opted for the rule of(macthersism) a lawless society or dominion is a place of horror and death.

    God has nothing to do with the carnage and evil that befalls its people. The people are to blame for they have completely disobeyed God just as Adam disobeyed God in the garden of Eden, by not dressing and tending to the garden as God commanded.

    The land of Sierra Leone was allocated to its people flowing with milk and honey and all its abundants, but we destroyed and disobeyed God. Therefore consequences of sin brought us death. Can we all change and repent?? GOD IS WAITING FOR OUR ANSWERS.

  5. Thanks for the excellent article and call for action. I found your conclusion to be very brave and precise. Additionally, the immediate implementation of the Executive Order without “pick-and-choose” is the key to achieving sustainable relief.

    “Another Executive Order prohibiting any further deforestation, unauthorized structures in disaster prone areas; and setting up a special Commission of Inquiry on  ‘good title’ to lands in the Western, and getting rid of slum communities, would yield dividend for President Bio in no small measure. Politics aside, that is.”

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