PUAWUI DR. SAMA BANYA: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 September 2019:
Two almost adjacent villages in the Valunya chiefdom in the Bo District and Gbonkonlenken chiefdom Tonkolili district separate the Mende speaking South and the Temne speaking North respectively, along the Bo to Makeni motor road.
I used the route quite frequently when I was stationed in Makeni as Medical Officer in charge of the Makeni government hospital in the 1980s. They are less than a mile apart and the last villages between the Southern and Northern Province.
The reason I remember them so well is that in my early years at the Bo School, that was the route that the government often used to send my contemporaries in chartered trucks on holidays to Makeni as the base for the rest of their journey to their respective Northern destinations – Northern Province.
That notwithstanding, boys like Kabba Yallu, later honourable Paramount Chief Kolio Yallu the Member of Parliament for Tonkolili district, would return to school sometimes eight weeks late. He did the rest of his journey home from the district headquarter town of Mabonto to his Sambaia Bendugu village on horseback.
How we (I mean the older boys naturally!) taunted him with his simplicity excuse of “Man, I had no calendar!”) our Northern colleagues told of their experience as their vehicle passed through the two villages mentioned earlier. They would be greeted with children’s excited choruses of greeting, “awusieh, awusieh”.
Before the echo of those voices died down, they would again be welcomed with “panemo, panemo.” As if on cue the truck drivers always slowed down in driving past the first villages; my colleagues would in turn be singing various choruses in English.
The two villages are said to have always lived in peace and never been affected even by today’s ethnic preaching from the likes of Kelfala Marah and Momoh Konteh. I was also to learn that on the contrary, there are still many inter-tribal marriages among the inhabitants.
Before today’s motorways linking Bo and Freetown, such as that passing through Bumpeh and Njala junction or currently through Gbaima, Senehun and Taiama via Moyamba Junction, the road through Yele and Matotoka was the only link between Bo and Freetown, and it went through Yele and then over the Pampana river on to today’s Mile 91 and then to Freetown.
The distance from Bo to Makeni along the Matotoka Road is only 82 miles. (I don’t know what the calculation is in kilometres). Various governments have invested in new road construction across the country, including replacement of hand-pulled ferries by modern bridges.
Sadly, as it is typical of the British colonial conservative mentality, the bridges which replaced the snail-like ferries were all single span.
There is a lot of trade between the other Southern cities and Bo with Matotoka, Magboroka, Makeni and the rest of the north.
That notwithstanding, the road between the two main cities of Bo and Makeni has deteriorated considerably because of the lack of regular maintenance over the years, so that today many motorist wanting to travel between Bo and the rest of the southern provinces and Makeni and beyond would rather drive down to Masiaka, before turning up north into the northern province.
Would it not be prudent Your Excellency to replace the 82 miles narrow and rugged road with the type of modern constructed roads which are currently the vogue? Needless to say the benefits of such a road to the country are enormous.
My primary school geography of Sierra Leone was taught by very dedicated but non-graduate teachers. First was teacher AG Spilsbury who later transferred to the Prince of Wales School, and teacher RB Kowa – one of the founding members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party. From them, I learned that the centre of Sierra Leone was somewhere around Yele.
Apart from the hills overlooking Koyeima government school and Mongheri, most of the area is flat arable land. If ever thought was given to creating a new capital, the Yele area would be most suitable for such a site not only because of its geographical location, but also because it’s water supply is guaranteed by the Tiaia, Pampana, Matotoka and Rokel rivers. It certainly would be a Town Planner’s dream were they to be asked to produce a design.
The suggestion is also worthy of consideration for other reasons such as ethnic and tribal integration which would be much better than exists today. This suggestion may be the meanderings of an old man in his 90th year. But are they not worth serious consideration Your Excellency?
They would certainly add to your numerous developmental achievements in under two years. It would also be a new beginning which would put an end to the apparently unending land disputes which is the order of the day. Yes, just my thoughts.