30 December 2012
If the latest press statement from State House Communications Unit released today is anything to go by, then the people of Freetown and tourists alike are in for a New Year’s treat.
The president, for the first time, and after five years in office is about to take on the illegal street traders plying their wares along the narrow streets, criss-crossing the central business districts of the country’s capital Freetown.
It is not going to be easy, but the president has given his word and he cannot fail.
Street trading in Freetown has mushroomed beyond control, since the end of the war in 2001, with grave consequences for road safety, public health and sanitation, street crime and environmental blight.
Hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in Freetown are eking out a meagre existence out of illegal street trading. Few are paying local council tax, let alone declaring their income for personal taxation purposes.
But analysts believe that many traders are operating as part of criminal syndicates controlled by powerful and very rich import merchants.
Street traders are being used by rogue importers as a means of dumping expired and sometimes dangerous goods, including products that are unfit for human consumption into the market.
With high levels of illiteracy and poverty, desperate and undiscerning customers are being hoodwinked into buying products that are dangerous and unfit for purpose.
President Koroma is now going to get tough. He has decided to get rid of all street traders in the centre of Freetown.
This is a fight against lawlessness that the president must win, if he is to usher in the seismic change necessary for the transformation of a nation whose development is being crippled by indiscipline, corruption and slothfulness.
Today, State House has announced that:
“Following the re-election of His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, specific issues have been identified as of national concern that needs to be addressed immediately. These issues include; waste management and garbage disposal, improve road safety and decongestion of city streets.”
This statement comes just twenty-four hours after the Sierra Leone Telegraph published its article: “President Koroma confesses – lawlessness is too much in the country”.
The president had three days ago delivered a speech at a dinner gala held in his honour in Makeni, where he told his audience that:
“No country can prosper in the midst of lawlessness. You have voted me for my second and last term and I thank all those who voted for me. But please I want you all to realize that this is going to be my last term and I’m all set to leave a legacy as a former President.”
So it does not come as a surprise that State House has today revealed the president’s strategy for the New Year. The statement says that:
“….the public is hereby informed that beginning Tuesday 1st January 2013 actions such as clearing of all abandoned vehicles, including scrap metal yards, street stalls, shops and traders in SLRA right-of-way, footpaths in Freetown and highways shall commence immediately.”
President Koroma’s war on lawlessness will initially focus on cleaning up the following areas:
Siaka Stevens Street, Pademba Road, Robert Street, John Street, Charles Street, Naimbana Street, Richard Street, Thomas Street, Congo Cross Road, Sections of Lumley, Wilkinson Road, and Spur Road.
Many observers will question why major streets in the centre of the capital, which have been virtually taken over by street traders – such as Sani Abacha Street, PZ, Garrison Street, Little East Street and Sackville Street, have been left out of this very important campaign.
But today’s statement from State House is clear. It says that; “This exercise will continue for all streets in Freetown and other cities, during other dates to be announced.”
So what should offenders do now in order to avoid the wrath of the president?
“Owners of all abandoned vehicles and scrap metal shops in city streets and highways are therefore requested to remove all such items immediately. Street traders in all SLRA right-of-way in the above mentioned streets are expected to desist from all street trading and abide by the law”, says State House.
“The general public and all stakeholders are required to fully cooperate as there will be penalties and full enforcement of the law”, the statement warns.
So the government has set its priority for 2013. The fight against lawlessness starts on New Year’s Day – 1 January 2013.
The success of the government’s war on lawlessness is going to very much depend on Inspector General (Two Stars!!) Munu’s conviction and professionalism, as much as the president’s determination.
Will president Koroma be remembered as the president that made difficult decisions and took tough actions for the common good?
That remains to be seen.
Today is the 5th of January. I have yet to see the first street trader removed from any street. The Freetown City Council Police have been begging the street traders to move away from the puny 1m wide side-walks at Lumley , only for them to move back a few hours later.
For now I do not see much happening. In Salone parlance; “nah small small”, which really means I have no clue what to do.
This is just another hot air that is meant to fool the people. The average Sierra Leonean is so gullible that we tend to believe everything that comes from State House.
With the kind of record the APC government has, why should anyone believe this trash about cleaning the streets?
APC rely on the street traders in Freetown to stay in power, so any right thinking person should understand that it will never bite the hand that feeds it.
We are in for another five years of struggle, so fasten your seat belts for the ride. As long as APC stays in power, Sierra Leone will always remain at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Good Job, Mr. President, but why did it take so long for you to offer to address this problem?
Our streets, especially in central Freetown, are an eye sore. Petty traders have virtually taken over with disastrous consequences: road safety, traffic flow, littering, minor crime, tax evasions, chaos and disorderliness, etc.
The sad bit is that there is no need for us to be in this predicament.
Traders must be provided with market places and sign-posted to trade only in those designated places. Penalties must be enforced for law-breakers. Shoppers would still go and buy their needs, if they know where wares are being sold.
When I was growing up, I remember Akibo-Betts working on this problem with a great deal of success, although there were stiff political challenges from some quarters.
Good-luck Mr. President, and do not relent on your efforts. Please extend the exercise to areas where such action is needed most – central Freetown.
This campaign will not harm traders in any way or lead to loss of APC votes. Indeed, it would be the opposite.
The only way the president is going to win his war on lawless or street trading is to build market places in every specific area throughout Freetown.
The slum areas in the country are visible evidence Of the poverty in the country and the government’s inability to do anything. The president is talking about agenda for prosperity, its just a big talk with no reality in sight.
If the government is serious about developing the country, it should centralised the economy and enforce tax payment by every business person and consumer on a daily basis. When the government is good enough to collect adequate revenues, then it will be able to accomplish most of its goals.
Sierra Leone is way behind, in terms of development as compared to other African countries.
I am Very much impressed with this stance and hope it will to be followed by road markings for parking restrictions, with pay as you go and residents permits provided on every street required. The complete banning of street garages with specific reference to Regent street and many more, is a case in point.
ALL State security institutions must be involved in this great and promising exercise.
Perfect Stance! In the past years of APC reign, we had a great Mayor in Freetown – Akibo Betts , who had successfully created some discipline in Freetown, especially as regards; street traders, illegal parking in the major streets, waste management and cleaning of the capital.
THE PRESENT SITUATION IS A BIG SHAME AND A NASTY DISRUPTION.