Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 December 2018:
Kono district of Sierra Leone has always been the proverbial man that sits by the river and washes his hands with spittle. It is no secret that the mere mention of Kono district conjures images of wealth, thanks to its rich deposits of Diamond and gold.
Since the first piece of diamond was discovered in the Gbogbora River in 1930, the district had been and continues to be like a light to moths.
It has attracted people from all over the African continent and beyond; and this does not take into account the internal migration from especially the North and south of the country, to the district.
The nectar effect of Kono district had seen mining companies like Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST) and National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC) come and go.
Those were the days when Kono district was at its height, and places like Yengema were the lifeblood of the district; loaded with facilities including an airport, golf clubs, swimming pools, supermarkets and living quarters that were fit for kings and queens.
Unfortunately, the benefits from these companies and all the mining activities have not left any beneficial lasting effects on the district. You just need to visit Yengema today, to recognise that the district does not seem to have anything to shout about; despite being endowed with such wealth.
The last time I visited Yengema, you could be forgiven to conclude that it was a complete ghost of its heydays. But despite all the goodies that Kono District had brought to the country’s coffers, the district was not only neglected but seemed to have been punished for its blessings.
It is unquestionable that against the backdrop of its riches, it remained and remains the most underdeveloped region in the country. There are many people who may be tempted to conclude that Kono was a better developed region; considering that it had good night clubs, beautiful houses, etc.
However, there is no doubt that these were more privately run developments, as successive governments habitually ignored and failed to recognise the importance of Kono District as a cash cow of the country.
Basic facilities in areas like healthcare, education, roads, infrastructure and social amenities were largely ignored and abandoned. In sum, it is undeniable that the district did not fully benefit from its rightful position in the country.
One of the areas where this was glaringly evident in comparison was the educational sector. Most of the schools which included Yengema Secondary School (YSS), Sewafe Secondary School(SSS), Kono Model Academy (KMA) AnsaruI Islamic Secondary School (AISS) and Koidu Girls Secondary School (KGSS) to name but a few, were largely run by private individuals or religious bodies.
While regions like the Northern, Eastern and Western areas of the Country had government run schools like Kenema Government Secondary School, Magburaka Boys Secondary School, Bo Government Secondary School, Government Model secondary School, Jimmi Government Secondary for Boys and Girls etc.,
Kono languished in the lower rungs of the ladder with none. But in spite of this wilful neglect, the district persevered and produced very good results.
The sad truth is that, Kono was the only district without a government sponsored school. But the trend of neglect by successive governments in Sierra Leone was an epidemic in itself.
While regional institutions, training colleges, trade centres and other facilities to accommodate vocational learning were spread across the country, Kono was so neglected that the district could hardly boast of a school with 6th form education.
The pursuit of further education was conversely one of the main drivers for youth migration from Kono district to other parts of the country.
This neglect was so evident that many had come to the conclusion that the diamonds were a blessed curse for the district. One was left with the impression that the presence of diamonds was in stack contradiction with the vaunted adage that “learning was better than silver and gold”.
The temptation for the youth to prefer the shovel to the pen was significantly great. Ironically, the attitude of successive governments in relation to education Kono seemed to suggest that silver and gold were better than education.
But as the years passed by, requests and pleas for higher educational facilities in the region did not only fall on deaf years, but were massaged with daft promises that coincided with upcoming general elections.
The promise of building higher educational facilities in the district became the mantra of the manifesto of every successive government. Politicians continued to promise bridges where there were no rivers.
In the last 10 years of the erstwhile APC government, the people of Kono were as usual, promised a University or at worst a College. This hope was intensified when Sam Sumana was appointed as the Vice President.
During the lifespan of the last regime, the district boasted of the VP and the 1st and 2nd Ladies. The district also had a sizeable number of representatives at the heart of the APC party, who erroneously but boastfully called themselves “sons of the soil”.
But in the run up to the last general elections, it was not surprising to see how quickly the government carried out the road constructions. This development was marinated with the promise that a university will be built after the elections; with the expected triumph of the APC in mind.
As we all know now, the trick did not work this time; thanks to the irritating involvement of C4C, which many have come to identify as a manifestation of the district’s protest against the APC party.
It is worth noting that when President Bio promised a Free Education program as one of his party’s flagship policies, many doubting “Thomases”, including me poured cold water on the idea as a political gimmick.
I am sure that you can excuse our cynicism at the time; for it was near inconceivable that against the backdrop of Sierra Leone’s economic malaise, a 5th world country, having a Free Education programme was equivalent to hell freezing.
The Bio government has proved all of us wrong and thankfully so. Although many people continue to find faults with the new free education programme for obvious reasons, it will be disingenuous, irrespective of your party affiliation not to acknowledge this national feat by the government.
It is therefore not a surprise that the Bio government has promised to build a university in Kono district.
The long-awaited University for Kono is now close to being a reality, as it is reliably learnt that this is on the Presidential plate for launching.
This is not a secret, as many indigenes of Kono believe that the APC party had it as a policy statement, had the design developed and the concept fully framed out.
Sadly, many also believe that this was hurriedly diverted to facilitate the Ernest Bai Koroma University. This version or conspiracy theory could not be verified, but it’s easy to see why such conspiracy theories present themselves in the first place.
Reliable sources from the grapevine suggest that the funds and site for the University in Kono have already been earmarked and benchmarked. If these sources are anything to go by, then President Bio may have just walked his way up into the Christmas list of many people in the district.
Well, Bio promised free education and we didn’t believe him. He has promised Kono a university, and many would struggle not to believe him.
I am sure that some party faithful of the APC will not want Maada Bio to take any credit for this. But just like with the road constructions which formed the bedrock of the Bai Koroma’s reign, many SLPP supporters were reluctant to acknowledge the good job done among others, in road construction, by the APC party.
Many said that the road construction project was already underway by the then Kabba led SLPP government. There will be no surprises this time, if the party opposite return the favour.
It is obvious that many people will continue to view the promise of a university with the utmost scepticism; and who can blame them? They have heard this before.
Considering that the promise of a higher institution has been going on from generation to generation, taking this promise with a pinch of salt may sound understandable.
But if the promise of the free education programme is also anything to go by, some of us will struggle to restrain our glee and congratulations to his Excellency Maada Bio and his party.
The adage that “Diamonds are forever” is arguably becoming a fallacy. Investing in people and especially the youth is one way to fill the inevitable vacuum that the diamonds will eventually generate.
To all intents and purposes, there can be no better way to do so than the education route. With the Free education programme up and running, and despite its teething problems and distractions, the hope is that Kono district will at last share in this long-awaited necessity – a University it can call its own. It is time.
Hi Developer, Thanks for the review by the readers. One thing among some prominence was this: Even the Sons of the soil were about to be suppressed and silenced for their vision to develop the land. Kono is the deciding factor for higher politics of the state, but majority groups decide to leave it out. However, God has its own way of showing mercy – like Israel. Let us focus to see what happens from now onwards; for history in the new making. Kono must rise and rise for the entire nation. Okay.
My President, continue through good work.
Having read other peoples views on this topic, I realized that there are a lot of Konos who are frustrated with the way the district has been treated by different governments in the past. It is really pathetic.
I accept and understand their views and resentment. However, there are some good things that have been done by past governments. Take for e.g. the wahaman abu road.
But then, we had people with leadership qualities who were dedicated and focused on the development of Kono. One of them was K C Gbamanja.
Even at this moment, we have people with leadership qualities, but the problem is that they have other priorities. We have had most recently in politics a VP, first and second ladies, but no major development or breakthrough was achieved.
If I am wrong, please correct me. We need more K. C. Gbamanjas (one of the heavy weights behind the wahaman abu road project).
Although what the government has done in trying to give Kono district a university to me is a very good idea, but on the other hand, it’s chicken change compared to the amount of diamonds that has been mined in the district for decades and ages. Anyway, its a good start for now.
I also caution that we wait and see until the project is completed. We can blame governments for lack of development of the district. But the people to blame most are the MP’s.
We as citizens should go after our MP’s and remind them of our needs. We should also engage with our brothers and sisters who are less informed about the importance of politics in our socio-economic development.
So, as progressive Konos who want to see our district develop, let us put all frustrations behind us and work with the government of the day through our MP’s.
Political dialogue and civility will make us overcome our difficulties and indifference. One thing I would advice is never use Kono as a spring board for chaos and anarchy.
Constructive political dialogue and discussion is our best weapon. Development will come to Kono. It will not be easy or very swift. But eventually, it will surely come.
Our MP’s should rally behind the government of the day and get the most out of them for the development of the district.
It in indeed a big help for all Sierra Leoneans regardless of region or ethnicity; the proposed University will be for all. In addition technical schools or vocational training centers will boost and prepare the youth to be on a middle class status. They can earn and compete as well
Wow! Alhamdulilah for that, now what have been planned in many years has now come to past, may the almighty send down His blessings and goodness upon everyone who are behind this project. Ameen!
We are happy to have university in Kono.
Mr Mansaray, you are spot on with your analysis of the tragedy of Kono in the beloved Sierra Leone.
I am from Tonkolili District, but my late Mother spent a lot of time in Kono, and I have fond memories of visiting her there during holidays – they were halcyon days.
Kono has given more than it has received, and it’s time it received in proportion to what it contributes in natural resources. This is therefore a welcome development.
A University of Kono would be a huge signal that the government is ready to start raising the profile of this under rewarded and beautiful part of the nation.
Whatever your political perspective, we should all surely lead the cheers in making this a reality.
President Bio, may God give you the will to bring this noble vision to fruition in Kono in the name of all who love Sierra Leone.
Having a university in Kono is very welcome. What I would like the government of President Bio to pursue as a priority is to build many trade centers across the country where young boys and girls will learn trades. This will enable the country to meet its middle manpower needs for national technical development.
Trades such as motor(auto) mechanics, electricity, building, carpentry, masonry, electronics, welding to name a few must be lectured in these trade centers. Also, training on the job will be given in parallel with the lectures. Not everyone will go to universities.
In fact, the majority of these young men and wonen are doing absolutely nothing. These group of people who have lost their youth, time and education during that gruesome civil war will pose a serious threat to the country in the near future if a serious technical educational curriculum is not implemented.
These groups of people are very vulnerable and trouble makers would like to take advantage of their vulnerability to cause trouble in the future.
Well done President Bio, but please consider equipping our beloved Sierra Leone with its middle manpower needs. Build more trade centers throughout the country. We need academicians but we also need tradesmen and women.
“Kono district played a vital role in developing this nation; it is also the backbone of the APC party.” Ibrahim Bah.
Wow!!! Since when did Kono district replace Bombali, PortLoko and Tonkolili as the backbone of the APC? I have always known Kono district to be a swing district when it comes to elections. This means that Kono district has never toed the line of a particular political party.
What a hypocrites; every body knows Kono district is the backbone of Sierra Leone. Kono district played a vital role in developing this nation; it is also the backbone of the APC party. But we the Kono people are minority. So the north and south take this advantage to destroy this peaceful district.
The north and south are hungry for power and money. The APC govt led by our Papa Siaka Stevens sold Kono. During the civil war Kono was invaded more than four times. so please stop this hypocrite. Lets give peace a chance and shut up.