Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 October 2015
But this is not going to be easy. Although the last two known Ebola patients in the country were released from treatment centres last Saturday, there are scores, if not hundreds of people that remain quarantined in the northern districts of Kambia and Bombali.
Recent torrential rains have also made the final push against the transmission and spread of the disease all the more difficult.
Thousands of homeless people are now seeking refuge across the capital Freetown. Scores of villages in the provinces have been cut off from the main towns and cities. Food is in very short supply. The onset of disease such as cholera and typhoid is ever present.
But with government’s misplaced priorities and corruption it is difficult to see how Ebola can be brought to a quick end, and other deadly and preventable diseases avoided.
Many of those affected by the floods that destroyed their homes are sleeping rough in makeshift tents at sport stadiums, where the risk to public health must be a matter of great concern.
But the authorities in Freetown say that they are looking to rehouse over 5,000 homeless people to new low-cost accommodation, which are yet to be built.
But critics say that if not for the wastefulness of senior government officials and their misplaced priorities, driven by corruption and greed, the government would have known better than to spend $12 million on 50 public buses.
At a mere cost of $12,000 each, the government could have built at least 1,000 low-cost houses for poor families that are living in despicable condition in the slums of the capital.
Speaking with the Chinese head of state on the fringes of the UN last week, president Koroma told the Chinese premier to speed up the construction of a new airport, costing $400 million.
Critics say that this is another example of a misplaced national priority in the face of death of thousands of poor people in Sierra Leone, due to preventable diseases, joblessness, poor housing conditions, lack of clean drinking water, poor health service, and poor sanitation.
But president Koroma is doggedly determined to have his new international airport as a permanent legacy to his reign over the people of Sierra Leone – one of the poorest nations in the world.
Despite warnings from the IMF not to commit the country to further debt it cannot afford, the ruling APC party is adamant. “The Mamama airport is our political objective,” says transport minister Logus Koroma.
Ebola’s incursion into Sierra Leone and its devastating consequences was not inevitable. There is a lot the Koroma government could have done to protect the people of Sierra Leone from harm, assuming that the people of Sierra Leone were its priority.
Almost 4,000 people have so far died of the virus and no one knows how many more are going to die, before the country is declared Ebola free.
Abdulai Bayraytay – the government’s spokesman, confirmed last week that so far, none of the more than 700 people who have been quarantined in Bombali District has shown any symptoms of the Ebola virus.
“Since the incubation period for the disease is usually 21 days, so those people have now appreciated over 10 days into their quarantine period. And so far we are very lucky nobody has shown any symptoms for the virus,” Bayraytay told local media.
And one thing is quite clear: throwing money at the heath service as part of a grand Ebola Recovery Programme is not the answer – there is too much corruption on the corridors of government.
Despite talk of a cash strapped government of Sierra Leone unable to meet its financial obligations – including paying the salaries of doctors and public sector workers, money was no object for the president when he decided to take along fifty non-essential staff as part of his entourage to the UN conference last week.
The cost of this frivolous and profligate ‘state tourism’ to the poor people of Sierra Leone is a whopping $400,000 – all in furtherance of selfish and naked political ambitions.
Will this president and his ruling APC party bosses ever learn that governance and fiduciary propriety is a responsibility bestowed upon public officials, based on trust and oath of office?
A new international airport costing $400 million in order to satisfy the president’s craving for a life-long legacy; state tourism to a UN conference for 50 political cronies costing over $400,000; $12 million spent on 50 buses; $14 million of Ebola funds stolen from the sick and dying.
The former State House Chief of Staff – Richard Conteh is yet to account for $47 million accumulated through unlawful state contracts.
Over $200 million of custom and excise duty waivers granted every year by the president to political cronies and friends – money that should pay for health, clean water and education.
Will the president, his ruling APC party and their ministers ever learn that governance and service to the public is not a get rich scheme, nor is it a gravy train to personal aggrandisement and enrichment?
President Koroma may argue that he does not sponsor state terrorism, but would find it very difficult to convince even his own loyal supporters that he does not sponsor state tourism, massive money laundering and corruption in high places.