Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 December 2020:
A video clip has been making the rounds on social media, in which Mr Sinneh Kamara, Head of Burial Team, Ministry of Health and Sanitation depicts a very sorry state in our country. Watching the clip, there is a temptation to heap an avalanche of blame on the Ministry and the government. However, there are subtle messages one can glean from this rather disheartening video clip.
One of the first issues that Mr Sinneh raised was about identification. In this clip, he calls for the sensitization and promotion of personal identification for our citizens. Chances are that many people have identifications to hand, by virtue of voters’ ID card or otherwise.
Unfortunately, many see the use of these cards only when requested. As for others, the only time they exercise their cordial relationship with their identification is when they have an appointment with Afro International or Western union.
Your ID card is not for Western Union or Afro International alone. Take it with you everywhere.
Jokes aside, Mr Sinneh has been drumming a very important message here. Sadly, it seems to fall on deaf years. His message seems to be heeded only during the end of the proverbial 5-year political cycle; when especially our politicians make every effort to know the names of their constituents. That is the time they promise to build bridges where there are no rivers.
A reported total of 80 people, including women and children were buried recently in mass graves. The majority had no identification and hence no traceable family members or relatives. This is the kind of stories you hear in the developed nations where the populations are huge. Sierra Leone’s population is less than 8 million where everybody knows everybody’s name.
What is really disheartening is the manner of their “disposal”. They were reportedly buried in “MASS GRAVES”. The words “MASS GRAVES” is not only spine tingling but usually associated with war time and genocides. Mass graves should be the undertones and one of the yardsticks of war.
Our country is in peace time and to bury our citizens in mass graves should etch an indelible mark on our national conscience. Some cynics will surely snigger at the thought of caring for the dead, when the living are in such dire straits at the moment; I know.
Notwithstanding the plausibility that casualties would not have had verifiable postmortems, these victims or casualties deserve some semblance of a decent burial; at least. No one is asking for a bandstand to accompany them to their graves or a wake to proceed that. But even a proper burial ritual with the traditional prayers recanted for the dead should be the least they should have. So, we should pray before we’re prayed upon.
Judging from the video clip, the City Council and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation have been facilitating this sad part of our society. But should more be done to provide some dignity to these casualties?
Lest we forget, “Na mama born den sef o”, and we all share the same inevitable end. What would you expect when your time comes? As a nation, we owe it to them and our collective conscience.
As a people, we have a strong religious ethos in our daily lives; although the sanctity of such seems threatened by hard times. But leaving our dead to be “discarded” in such a manner should not be a sight for the 21st century. It should not be this way.
The dead cannot cry out for justice, but it is the duty of the living to do so for them. If respect is one of the greatest expressions of love, we should be able to give our dead some fitting burial. No, its not utopian but basic human decency.
It is time we stopped living with a veil over our eyes, for no one knows what it would be like if and when we meet our Heavenly Father. So, whether you go in a golden or diamond encrusted coffin, we’ll all be subjected to the same Heavenly jurisdiction. Why discard the dead in such a manner?
In the light of this sad state of affairs, the Ministry of Information should be embarking on a massive information blitz to highlight the message to carry identifications; if not for anything but security reasons. I am not asking for a stop and search jamboree; no.
The hope is that our abled Mayor Sawyerr will look into this; she is a decent person. Sierra Leone has a lot of decent people who would chip in, I am sure.
Na mama Born Dem O. Remember that death is a gentle reminder of our mortality. Remember: everywhere you go, just like the weather, take your ID card with you.
May the souls of our departed fellow citizens rest in peace. Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.
Recently, a bishop of the UMC mission died in a road accident with his driver. People had to post his remains on social media asking for identification. Luckily he was in his robe and someone from his congregation was able to identify him to the mortuary attendants. He had no ID card on him at the time of the accident. This is the culture we are in. We need a massive civil education on this. May Jehovah God help us all.
Mr. Mansaray, a grave containing more than 2 remains is a mass grave. Would you suggest cremation instead?