Mayor Aki Sawyerr mobilises emergency humanitarian response to Freetown fire disaster

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 March 2021:

Yesterday morning, in the wake of the fire disaster that destroyed hundreds of properties, leaving thousands destitute in the Susan Bay slum community in Freetown, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr joined the Director General of the newly formed National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Lieutenant General (Rtd) Sesay, the ONS, Councillor Madina Kamara, Community leaders and partners to assess the damage and formulate emergency humanitarian assistance for victims and their families.

This followed her visit to the community as the disaster unfolded between 7 and 10 pm on the evening of 24th March.

Freetown City Council in collaboration with the NDMA also organised a Partners meeting to establish what immediate resources could be delivered to those most at need.

Chaired by the DG of the NDMA, and supported by FCC’s Mayor and Deputy Mayor, the meeting was attended by 69 individuals representing 42 NGOs and MDAs.

Many firm commitments were made, including the immediate supply of food and water for up to 5000 victims by Save the Children.

The NDMA is leading the response as a level two national disaster, and has established Pillar Leads for Registration, Shelter, Water/Sanitation, Logistics, Pysychosocial, Nutrition (and non-food items), Security and Education.

These leads will collaborate on the ground with Ward Council and Community leaders to deliver an immediate response, whilst NDMA develops the next steps.

Casualty numbers are not yet known but thousands are affected, as many hundreds of properties, over an area of at least 10 hectares, have been completely destroyed.

Meanwhile, questions are being asked about the cause of the fire.  Opposition politician – Dr Sylvia Blyden who is also a former Social Welfare minister, said on Tweeter yesterday that there is suspicion of arson borne out of revenge.

“In last 24 hours, I launched a multi-prong private investigation into mysterious FIRE that swept Susan’s Bay. Based on initial startling but credible findings, I am now making a Call for an immediate Special Investigation into motive behind what may be ARSON inspired by REVENGE,” Dr Blyden said.

The police are yet to make a statement on their initial investigations with the fire service.

13 Comments

  1. Further to how Mende and Vai people were in high demand by ruthless slave traders, especially in the colonies of South Carolina and Georgia, USA, the Mende people and Vai people were in hugh demand due to their experiences for cultivation of the cash crops Rice that was newly introduced in the American deep South. Hence Bunce Island still bear the historical point of departure for our African brothers and Sisters in that part of Sierra Leone. More than 12 Millon people were taken out of Africa and sold to slavery. The most famous African American Mende to discover his roots back to the Southern part of Sierra Leone is Isiah Washington.

    And the other two persons from the South of Sierra Leone are Michelle Obama heritage on her Father’s side in the state of Georgia, and Justice Clerance Thomas of the Supreme Court of the United States.The later more related to the Gola people in the South. Evidently majority of people taken out of Sierra Leone were from the South. To access the hinterland in those days was very hard or next to impossible. So the slave traders rather do their barbaric trade around the Atlantic coast line. Which suggest to us Sierra Leoneans, we are a melting pot of all tribes and creed. No one should be picked on due to the accident of birth.

    The best we can do as a country of different ethnic groups, is to come together and work for the interest of our country. You just have to look at countries around Africa that are embroiled in ethnic strife, then you realise how our country is lucky in that even tbe RUF was never about ethnicity. And is defined by Confict studies as the first war in Africa fought purely on GREED AND CORRUPTION. The irony of all ironies in peace and election times, we have narrow minded politicians tbat play the ethnic card so they can get elected and steal from the state.

  2. In all the comments and article, nowere do I see how we can help the victims of the disaster. We in the diaspra are here for remmittance, belongings and accommodation. Any way fit, we are here. Can this paper not organise this? Like help set uo a fund raising initiative. There is need to destroy all pan body shelters. They are too close together and this disaster will happen again.

    • Mr Peter Dauda, I hope you don’t think to be a Mende or any other tribe for that matter in today’s Sierra Leone is a bad thing, or you are committing a crime. The Mayor is doing a fantastic job. And remember so far, a lot of decendants of the slave trade that trace their DNA roots in Sierra Leone are Mende. So stop throwing accusations because our president is not doing what he is elected to do – to look after the welfare of all Sierra Leoneans. Our country has moved away from such victim blaming of tribes for the ills of our country. This pigeonholing of people by their surname has brought us nothing but division, and lack of development.

      From my own vivid recollection of how Fulanis were treated in Sierra Leone in the past, especially in the 80s, when Fulani traders in Freetown were threatened with constant deportation to Guinea. And Pamlap just outside of Makeni, was the most feared police check point for returning Fulani cow traders that were bundled out of public transport, because of their tribal markings, which the police officers referred to as number eleven. The constant terror they use to under go, made you ask the question was it a crime to be a Fulani back then? Fulanis back then never felt ashamed or thought it a crime to be a Fulani. Forty years later the vice president Juldeh Jalloh is a Fulani.

      The APC opposition Parliamentary head is a Fulani. Mr Bah of the Africanist press is a Fulani. So if we go with your premise I should not criticise the Bio and Juldeh Jalloh government, because we belong to the same tribe. I criticise them for their performance not the tribe they belong to. So please let’s stop tribalism talk. It is not healthy for our country. I don’t suppose Foday Sankoh and Sam Bockari that brought war and destruction in our country were decorated members of the Mende tribe. Our problem in Sierra Leone is corruption. Full stop. And be proud of who you are.

    • Plans to remove Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr proved futile. She places Sierra Leone above self. Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE didn’t come into the political sphere of Sierra Leone ‘clap hand, clap foot’. She came with a lot of resources including her ability to make huge difference. For the first time in Sierra Leone’s history, we have a mayor who has been able to work locally but got international accolades. No wonder she was nominated to be among the best Mayors of the world. ‘Nah bad ein do? Attack on Mayor is calculated. Of course many think she is ripe to be part of the presidency of this country. With all efforts to taint her, she kept her head up. Mayor enjoys human relations; her ability to preside over brilliant women and men in a male dominering world has made her a rare politician.

      Let’s come to the specifics. Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has not joined any other party in Sierra Leone apart from the All People’s Congress. As a Mayor she has worked so hard to be that leader who serve Sierra Leone. She has been in the bad books of narrow minded folks. What has Mayor done to them? She is rolling out the Transform Freetown agenda. She is sustaining the popularity of the APC. She is scoring goals. She is making history that we have a politics to Change the lives of the people.

      Tribal lining won’t work…. Nobody will remove our Mayor. She was popularly elected. Even though she has been attacked a multiple times including few days ago when her phone was forcefully removed from her by a knife wielding criminal, civil society including the media have been lukewarm. They haven’t got any evidence to implicate a woman who has given everything to serve her country. Since she became Mayor of Freetown, nobody has been sacked. Her only crime is to stand for the right thing. Like any leader, she is standing for something. The tribalistic allegations are false!! She has not sacked a single staff at FCC since she was elected mayor. She has worked with everyone. Her refusal to accept the new posting of a specific member of staff who consistently refused to recognize her position as mayor is totally understandable. She has asked for him to be replaced by ANYONE which shows that she has no tribal agenda.

  3. Pssst! Mister Why don’t you read my comment again and perhaps you will be able to catch a tiny glimpse of light resembling a glimmering atom lost in ecstasy dancing around the Sun that will brighten up what I am trying to say quite clearly for you. Now allow me to gently pull that rug of self confidence that you are proudly standing on from under your feet just for a minute. Goodness gracious,bro how can you jump into something so recklessly without first doing a proper research?

    On this glorious forum of Fact Checkers that was created for enhancing mutual dialogue our standards demand without compromise that you LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP at all times before ruthless wolves come out of the shadows and eat you alive.(lol) Now the phrase “Fire in the Hold ” is nothing but a total misunderstanding of the Military phrase “Fire In The Hole” that warns bystanders that an explosion is imminent. It simply means” Watch Out.”

    Now here comes the sledgehammer – The Phrase “Fire In the Hold” doesn’t exists.”(lol) Sorry to be the bearer of bad news for you buddy. But we all make mistakes and learn from them – it must be so. Again, I am not asking that you naively believe in anything I said – Do your own research and then come back to us and if you can prove me wrong then as a sign of defeat I will send you an authentic Football Jersey of your choice Via DHL or UPS wherever you are…Word is Bond.

  4. A scene of utter destruction, eerily reminiscent almost of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet it is the result of neither an atomic nor yet a conventional bombing raid by some hostile forces from afar possessing air supremacy and out to get our capital city and its inhabitants. No,the scene is rather the result of decades of gross criminal negligence on the part of those who have a duty of care for a nation whose citizens need and deserve support from those they elect to govern them.

    If the culprit is a lone wolf arsonist bent on settling scores without any concern whatsoever for who might get caught up in his diabolical act of revenge, or if he is in the pay of some self-seeking bandit or bandits prepared at all cost to gain possession of a strategically located piece of land in our capital city, either way no effort should be spared to get him, try him and jail him and his paymasters in accordance with the workings of our criminal justice system.

    Be that as it may, the final responsibility for this disaster lies directly with the powers that be. By allowing the appalling living conditions at Susan Bay to worsen year after year, they have prepared the way for the heartrending spectacle that has unfolded. The current government must now do the decent thing – atone for its own failures and those of its predecessors by mobilising without delay the resources at its disposal to enable the victims of the inferno to find respite and rebuild their lives.

  5. Gentlemen – It was ARSON and the Police should treat it as such. My sources in Freetown have informed me that this was the handiwork of an expert who was intent on maliciously destroying lives and property. For the fire to spread easily and rapidly it seems that were multiple ignition points that were connected by a fire spreading trailer – in this case I was told it was Petrol. Whoever committed such a heinous crime against those innocent poor people knows that as long as he was not caught in the act or seen trying to get away, then its game over – Arson is very difficult to prove anywhere in the world; In my little Corrupt Sierra Leone that lacks the tools morale and expertise to investigate arson nothing worth the effort is going to come out of this. Folks, Government in power should be held fully accountable for this; A disaster of this magnitude doesn’t happen out of the blue without the approval and consent of some men in High places of authority. I told y’all to be vigilant.

    A million thanks to the Mayor of Freetown and her highly motivated crew for their quick and decisive response to this heartbreaking disaster. The President should have been the first one there to offer his heartfelt moral support but he is nowhere to be found. The GUILTY are always afraid of looking in the eyes of struggling people blazing with the fires of anger and desperation – Mr. President did we hear you say “FIRE IN THE HOLE” or was it just our intuitive and discerning minds playing tricks on us.(lol)

    • Astrologer Man, can you please resist the urge to call it before full time?? As a concerned person, it really seems presumptuous and dangerous to claim arson. And oh… And oh…its “fire in the hold”!!

  6. While this might be a painful period for the affected, disasters also give way to opportunity for better planning. Unless you want to play politics, but it is not a hidden facts that slums like Susan Susan, Government wharf etc were all disasters waiting to happen. The places are congested, built from materials that fuel fire and also some of the residents store flammable materials including petroleum products in their aboded. This couple with illigal electricity connection. The opportunity now is for the FCC to take over this place.

    The FCC can borrow money from the bank to build five or more five to seven storey apartment blocks that can be lease or mortgaged to the former occupants. That way, the place can be well managed, with a Facelift. The FCC should not allowed any more panbody structures and over congestion of the place. This is actually an opportunity to start changing the face of Freetown.

    • Mr David Samura, its rather unfortunate to suggest in the wake of this human tragedy that we are trying to play party politics. I don’t know about you, but for the record I’m not a member of any political party in Sierra Leone. But like majority of Sierra Leoneans, someone that wants to see progress and end chronic and entrenched corruption in our country, that has over the years denied us development. I got to confess, I’m a proud member of TEAM SIERRA LEONE UNITED. In your opinion piece, you seemed to suggest the victims of this horrendous tragedy, brought it upon themselves. You suggested, some might have tampered with the electricity supply system, or even stored petroleum products in their homes. You got to ask yourself why poor people would resort to such methods just to try to get by and survive? To me its their government that hase failed them, and abandoned them.

      More like you have placed victims of the fire in the court of public opinion, accusing them of being poor. So it is up to them to prove their innocence, or justify their poverty. The evidence is in plain sight. Our unrepentant corrupt politicians have placed them in such diabolical living conditions. The reality of course is members of this government and previous governments that created the necessary conditions, that engaged in corruption, like stealing state funds meant for housing projects, road construction, fire services, hospitals, good electricity supply, schools, and neglecting and abandoning their duties towards the citizens, whose interest they are elected to represent.

      In today’s Sierra leone, you are more likely to be sent to prison for stealing a mobile phone than being a government official caught stealing millions of Leones from the country’s coffers. Our country is rich in both human and natural resources, but poor in political leadership. And that is one of the greatest impediments to our country’s development. At the time of independence our country’s economy was similar to that of Singapore and South korea. And today, sixty years later, what a world of difference.

    • I’ve lived in developing and developed areas of the world and there’s one thing I know. It’s always a tinderbox of failure when slummers meet high rise buildings. My sincere belief is that the homeless from the disaster should be relocated. But oh ya…urban planning nuh dae town, e travel!

  7. Its too early to call. Nothing should be taken off the table as the investigations to the causes of the fire gets under way. The police and fire service should be given the breathing space to carryout their investigations. Speculations and trying to draw inferences will only muddy the waters of the investigation. So we have to keep an open mind. I wonder where is our president? I know the Mayor and international NGos have taken a leading role in helping alleviate the suffering of the victims of this horrendous fire. Nonetheless, their efforts will not be complemented with out the full resources of the state deployed.

    Like providing relief funds and emergency accommodation for the victims. We expect our president, or vice president to visit the victims in hospital and the devastated area of Susan Bay to reassure communities in their hours of need. And what help if any is the government ready to offer to mitigate their sufferings. On the question of arson, as Dr Blyden alluded to, is not beyond the realms of possibilities. Just like some members of this government, there are mindless individuals that only tbinks about their well-being, never mind the rest of the communities they share the same air or breathing space.

    Those sort of people only think about themselves and their families. And that is what brought our country where it is today. In which case, if anyone is found guilty at the conclusion of the investigation, the full text of the law should be thrown at them. Now is the time for the police and Freetown city Council to set up a telephone hot line for both victims and would be perpetrators. And even offer reward for valuable information.

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