Anthony Kamara Jnr: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 April 2018:
In Sierra Leone, central government is responsible for the construction of highways and feeder roads to ensure the free movement of goods and services as well as citizens. This work is often managed by the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) or the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security.
Sadly, negative and partisan politics have contributed to denying citizens basic services. In some cases, communities benefit only if they have voted for the government in power, or during election campaigns.
No one knows this better than the residents of Samu Chiefdom. There are reports of several chiefdoms around the country in similar circumstances. When central government allows politics to cloud its responsibilities to citizens – it is the citizens who suffer the most.
Traditionally known to be supportive of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Samu Chiefdom has had its share of challenges in winning the attention of the APC government in bringing development to the area.
During the 2018 presidential elections, former President Koroma was very active in campaigning on behalf of his party in the area and spoke ill of one if it’s sons, Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, who was contesting for both the presidency and parliament seat.
“Kandeh nar small borbor. E nor get the experience, so ah nor go hand over power to am,” Koroma said in Kychom, forgetting that Kandeh was older when he ran for the Office of the Presidency at age 59 when he, Koroma was 54 in 2007. (Photo: Koroma extolling the virtues of his handpicked presidential candidate Samura Kamara).
However, for the people of Samu, Kandeh is their son, brother, uncle in whom they are well pleased. This week, he will be sworn in as Member of Parliament, representing Constituency 062 after winning over 60 percent of the votes.
At the height of the presidential run-off elections and in need of votes to stay in power, Koroma’s APC party was back in Kychom, capital of Samu Chiefdom and Kandeh’s birth place with cash and campaign promises, including the construction of the Kabaya bridge. They even brought along with them, some of the construction materials needed before the run-off to bribe the people.
Yumkella had forewarned his people to take any money given to them by the APC. “It is your money – money they should have used to develop our community. Instead they are bringing it to buy your vote and they forget about you and your needs. They will only return again during another election,” he said on numerous occasions. After the run-off and their subsequent failure to retain State House, the project was abandoned and left in limbo.
“This is a very important bridge for us,” said PC Bai Sebora Yek II “and we remain thankful to those that began it. In any case, we must build this bridge because of its importance to our Chiefdom.”
To continue the bridge construction, the paramount chief called on the New MP elect and “as he has always done, when I called on his assistance, he saw the need and assured me of his support. He never fails his people and early this morning, Saturday, April 21, he arrived here from Freetown having contributed immensely to this project,” said the soft-spoken Chief. (Photo: Chief Yek and Dr Yumkella).
But the call was not just to the new MP. Chief Yek also called on other sons and daughters of Samu Chiefdom, and “as you can see, Dr. Alusine Fofanah and Mr. Mohamed Zayat are here as well,” noted Chief Bai Yek.
“Our people here rely on business. And without good feeder roads, it will be difficult to move goods to the cities or to neighboring Guinea. Without good road network, we will not be able to move our people to the nearest health centre when they fall ill,” underscored the Chief. Samu Chiefdom relies mainly on farming and specialises in pepper, rice, fish and other produce.
MP elect Yumkella noted that this is a bridge that has given the Chiefdom problems for over a decade. “Previously, what was here were trunks of palm trees used as a bridge. And you can imagine what hell it was and still is during the rainy season,” he said. (Photo: Dr Yumkella and Chief Yek).
To come to their Chiefdom, residents use the by-pass through Guinea where they are harassed by Guinean security personnel. And this continues to this day. “We came here to support our paramount chief. He is a very development-oriented leader,” stressed Yumkella.
Samu Chiefdom has a population of 65,000 residents, and is made up of 132 villages including 12 sections. The Kabaya Bridge is one of several bridges built using tree trunks. It urgently needs to be properly constructed to alleviate transportation problems for businesses and residents – including school children who cross two or three rivers by canoe to access education. The only Secondary School is in Kassiri and it’s a long distance away.
When politicians make campaign promises during elections to secure votes and end up not fulfilling their promises, for communities like Samu Chiefdom, making the campaign promises a reality becomes the responsibility of the locals. (Photo: Dr Alusine Fofanah and Mr Zayad).
As a new parliamentary representative, Dr. Yumkella may have his hands full, but the adage “all politics is local” might just be true. After all, this is just the first turning of the sod in partnership with his chief for the benefit of their constituents.