Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 September 2015
The people of Sierra Leone have this morning woken up to the very grim task of clearing up and recovering whatever little has been left behind, after three days of massive torrential rain. And there is more to come, according to meteorologists.
Not surprisingly, Freetown the capital is experiencing the worst of the flooding, after decades of under-investment and lack of proper planning that could have rehabilitated the city’s poor and colonial drainage system built to support 200,000 people – but now falling under the weight of millions of people.
Today, over 2.5 million people live in the city, again a serious failing of successive governments to adequately resettle over 1 million people, who had sought refuge from their provincial towns and villages during the brutal civil war.
But the mass migration of people from the provinces – mainly from the north of the country, did not start with the war. And today we are paying the cost. It is a politically inspired, social engineering project that has gone awfully wrong.
Politicians throughout the 1970s and early 1980s engaged in a wicked programme of social and political engineering by promoting mass migration from the north, simply to increase electoral votes in the capital.
The results of this senseless political destruction – which many of the indigenous population today regard as nothing other than ethnic cleansing through the back door, can be seen throughout the city today: shanty town settlements built on stolen lands; over-population; deforestation – cutting down of trees to make way for new settlements on hill tops; destruction of natural water ways to accommodate more poorly built housing structures; environmental blight; and poor sanitation.
This politically driven social, environmental and human tragedy is manmade. Nature does not turn itself on man. It is man that destroys what nature has provided and should be managed.
It was obvious to those that dispassionately saw the wicked ways of politicians in the 1970s and 1980s that, the socially engineered policy of mass migration from the provinces was unsustainable.
Over 80% of the population of Freetown cannot get access to regular supply of clean drinking water, electricity, reasonable healthcare, good education, reasonable housing, and jobs – too many people chasing too few resources and opportunities in the capital.
Take a look at some of the pictures showing the aftermath of today’s flooding in the capital and you get a good sense of the serious failings of this Koroma government in particular – corruption, tribalism, poor governance, and simply having too many squared pegs in round holes.
Independent Sierra Leone is a political project that has failed woefully. It has failed to bring the much talked about prosperity, freedom, civil liberty and equality.
Bad people have done bad things to good people in that country, and today we are all yet again paying the price, after a brutal war that took the lives of thousands, an Ebola virus that has so far killed over 5,000, and now floods – the cost of which we are yet to count.
But appearing to be in control and in command of the fast evolving situation in the capital, the president has released this statement to a nation that is crying out for real help:
“Government regrets to inform the general public that the continuous heavy rain during the past couple of days has resulted in severe flooding in parts of the western area including kroo bay, krootown road, brook street, samba gutter, falcon bridge, gray bush, spur loop, spur road, lumley, malama, wilkinson road, dokorty, cottage hospital, culvert, peacock farm, moyiba, moa wharf/eastern police/magazine cut axis, old wharf and bai bureh road.
“The flooding has devastated many settlements, caused four confirmed deaths so far, and left many people injured and homeless. at an emergency meeting of key MDAs chaired by his excellency the president at state house today 16th september 2015, the following measures have been approved with immediate effect as a first line of response to the crisis:
“Deployment of ministry of health and sanitation personnel in hospitals and peripheral health units to receive people who require medical treatment; deployment of the police and the military in a military aid to civil communities (MACC) engagement to help maintain order and salvage the situation.
“Opening of the siaka stevens stadium at brookfields for emergency settlement of displaced persons. The attouga stadium and the open field at ferry junction are also available for use by affected persons in the eastern part of the capital; activation of the office of national security (ons) emergency toll-free number 119 for use by the public to report situations connected with the disaster.
“The general public is informed that Sierra Leone has been identified as one of the countries in west Africa that will experience heavy monsoon rains for the next six days with all its attendant damaging consequences.
“Therefore, in order to minimize loss of lives and properties, people living in vulnerable areas, particularly hill tops and foreshores, are advised to move out of those locations to safe areas.
“Furthermore, with the exception of essential workers and school children currently taking the WASCE examinations, all citizens are requested to stay at home tomorrow 17th September, 2015.
“Buses will be made available to convey school children to their examination centres. The security agencies will provide information and guidance on motorable routes and accessible areas.
“His excellency the president sympathizes with those affected by this flooding disaster and wishes to assure them that arrangements are being made to bring emergency assistance and support to the displaced and injured.
“The situation is being closely monitored and regular meetings are being held to bring all personnel up to speed on the emergency arrangements. Please be assured that the nation will be kept abreast with developments as they unfold.”
Is the government in control?
As the people of Sierra Leone begin to count the cost of this human disaster, the question remains – how is Sierra Leone going to recover from these floods, with Ebola still causing problems for many in the country, and the devastation of a ten year long civil war ever present, is anyone’s guess.
But one thing is certain, the landscape of a once beautiful Sierra Leone is changing fast – for the worse. Thanks to the politics of greed, based on tribalism.
This is what happens when we fail to take ourselves seriously and live up to the standards of the modern world.
People residing at the various Bays are not from the provinces. They are indigenous to Freetown. Therefore, you cannot relocate them “to their villages and towns in the provinces”.
There has always been excessive rain in Freetown – however in the 1960s and early 70s, the wide street gutters were always clean, so that rain water – no matter the volume, was able to flow freely into the streams, rivers and the sea.
Cleaning Saturdays were a weekly event and helped to properly get rid of waste in our drainage systems.
Today many people dump their waste on to the streets and into the gutters, and public dustbins are left to overflow with rubbish.
Building on the hilltops, cutting down trees, building under bridges, building over streams and allowing people to build around the bays are all contributing to the flooding we are seeing now.
People who have been residing at the various bays should be relocated back to their towns and villages in the provinces to allow the illegal structures to be brought down and the areas cleared.
But will this happen? Politics.
God help Sierra Leone