Abdul Malik Bangura
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 August 2017
One of the many things which I have learnt in my years as editor of the Awareness Times Newspaper, is that people in Sierra Leone sell their conscience. The Wellington – Masiaka toll road contract and the charges imposed on very poor Sierra Leoneans, clearly show that my country needs people who can think nationalistically and fight for the rights of our vulnerable masses – many of whom are living in extreme poverty.
The reason why I say people are selling their conscience is the fact that majority of the elites that I have talked to – with regards the Wellington – Masiaka Road contract, have highlighted its inherent flaws. They also explained in detail, how bad the contract is for poor Sierra Leoneans.
But ironically, these same elites are also among the many who have been paid to advocate or sensitize the people of Sierra Leone about the benefits of using the toll road.
As for me, Abdul Malik Bangura, I can NEVER sell my conscience for anything whatsoever. One thing I must make very clear, is that I am not in any way against the development of our country’s infrastructure and improvement of our road networks.
Toll roads are an accepted mode of travelling in most countries in Africa. A month ago, I would have missed my flight during my last visit to Kenya, had it not been for the toll road that connects the Jomo Kenyatta Airport with the West Midlands in Nairobi, where I was staying.
However, what I find strange and heartless in the context of Sierra Leone, is the act of charging poor people to pay for a road that does not exist. And one can only imagine the severe impact of this on the poorest people. (Photo: Abdul Malik Bangura).
Exactly a week today, the toll charges came into existence. Three toll gates have been stationed in Hastings, Mile 38 and Masiaka. The road is supposed to run from Masiaka to Wellington.
I took a trip on this “new road” to investigate how far the road has been constructed, and whether it warrants the collection of toll fees. To my utmost surprise, I was shocked to see that the beginning of the road was still at Yams Farm Junction. This is less than three kilometres away from the first toll gate in Hastings.
Sadly, our poor and vulnerable people are being charged at two other toll gates – one in Mile 38 and the other in Masiaka, for a road where no single granite has been dropped, except the construction of the toll gates to cheat and exploit poor Sierra Leoneans of their hard-earned cash.
Is this not exploitative and unfair to our very poor people of Sierra Leone? Of course, it is exploitative. Must our desire for infrastructural development and modernization, serve as a springboard through which our very poor compatriots should be exploited, and socially and economically excluded? The answer is a big NO, it must not.
The Wellington- Masiaka road is by far the busiest road in the country and the only road linking the capital Freetown to all provincial district towns and villages, including the Western Area Rural District.
It is the only road that can be used for the transportation of goods to and from the capital to the provinces. This means that, even when our people may not want to use the toll road, the lack of an alternative would force them to be exploited.
Apart from the fact that the timeliness of the introduction of the toll road charges was bad, most of us also know that the contract is very poorly crafted.
But how in God’s name can one start charging poor people to pay for the busiest road in the country, on the very week when hundreds of our compatriots had perished in the flood and mudslides in the capital?
This is really heartless
I observed that majority of the more than 400 Sierra Leoneans that died in the disaster here in Freetown are relatives of people from other parts of Sierra Leone. Many had travelled to Freetown to mourn their loved ones, and had to face such exploitation on our roads.
So how can we charge our psychologically and emotionally tortured citizens at a time when the country is trying to deal with such humanitarian crisis?
While many countries are helping Sierra Leone deal with this disaster through their generous humanitarian assistance, why can’t our government feel the same for us Sierra Leoneans?
The truth is that the government nor the Chinese contractors, have a toll road to show us. What we have in place now is what we had previously. The roads leading from Yams Farm to Masiaka is the same as what we have always had.
It is the same old death-trap that has slaughtered many of our compatriots. We need to think nationalistically, and put the interests of our extremely poor and vulnerable citizens first.
We all know that for now the Chinese Contractors have no toll road to show to our people. Why then is it morally right for them to be demanding payment for a toll road that does not exist? Is this taxation for an intangible development? This is very bad indeed.
kindly donate to our Freetown Flood Disaster Emergency Appeal. We’re raising £50000 to Help victims of the massive flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which has taken the lives of hundreds of people, with thousands now homeless.
Please go to our JustGiving Crowdfunding Page and help make it happen: