Sierra Leone: Making a case for Kailahun District

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

There’s now a loose saying among Sierra Leoneans that any menace that starts in Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone, will definitely spread across every region of the country.

From the first gun shot in Bomaru, Kailahun District, in 1991 the decade-long rebel war reached every corner of Sierra Leone leaving an unprecedented trail of destruction of lives and property in the country’s history.
At the peak of the war Kailahun District recorded the most deaths. The infamous Slaughter House, where hundreds of innocent civilians including women and children were reportedly butchered in cold blood and in broad day light, still stands there at the center of the town. The stench of decayed human blood still fills the atmosphere around the war relic.

From the first officially confirmed Ebola case in Kpondu village, Kissi Teng chiefdom, Kailahun District on 24th/25th May, 2014, the EVD touched every district in Sierra Leone, except perhaps Bonthe Island which, for reasons of ‘remoteness and God’s mercy’ according to the District Health Superintendent (DHS) there at the time, didn’t record any positive case during the outbreak.
At the height of the Ebola outbreak in late June-July 2014, according to WHO, ore than 80 new Ebola cases were reported per week in Kailahun; and more than 50 bodies were buried in just 12 days in makeshift graves close to the Ebola treatment center. ‘And this number did not include people who died in their homes’.
Guilty by location?

But how do the people of Kailahun feel about the fact that they have literally been the launch pad for two of the biggest disasters to befall Sierra Leone in the last three decades? Hon PC Mohamed Sama Kailondo Banya IV doesn’t agree it is misfortune.
“Unlike other border districts, Kailahun is strategically located between Liberia and Guinea,” he said. “The rebel war started in Liberia in the early 80s; naturally, because of proximity, it spilled over to Kailahun. Similarly, the EVD started in Guinea in Guéckédou, and spread to border villages with easy and walkable distances from Kissi Teng Chiefdom. Naturally again, you know it will eventually cross over to Kailahun. And at that time there were no laws or restrictions against cross border travels.”
Having been through all of that, one did understand why the people of Kailahun remained timid in the event of clocking past 42 days without recording any new Ebola case. The day had passed by quietly as just another day in that episode of their chequered history. Outside on the red dusty streets there were pockets of people here and there. The general mood was one of a people in great pain. A people hurt by their own misfortune and years and years of neglect by successive governments.

In the 2007 Presidential run-off election the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairwoman, Dr. Chrisriana Thorpe, announced the cancellation of results from a total of 477 polling stations in Kailahun, a controversial decision that sealed the defeat of the then ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)-led government and their arch rivals the All People’s Congress claiming victory. In our political Geography, Kailahun is regarded as one of the strongholds of the SLPP.
Conversely, in the just concluded presidential run-off election (31st March, 2018) the 134, 064 votes from Kailahun were the decisive quantity that handed victory to the SLPP after 10 years in opposition and the APC losing out.

With all the troubles this district has been through, the people of Kailahun should not be searching for development; it is development itself that should find them.
And the road to that development has come as close as Pendembu (work is in progress), only 17 horrible miles more to the district headquarter town of Kailahun.

Zimbabwean Boxer Charles Manyuchi knocked out by Qudratillo Abduqaxorov

Zimbabwe’s boxing superstar Charles Manyuchi was knocked out on Saturday downloadby Qudratillo Abduqaxorov from Uzbekistan to lose his World Boxing Council welterweight world silver title.

The Zimbabwean boxer went into the fight with an impressive ranking of sixth in the world in his weight class, while Abduqaxorov (23), the WBC Asia silver welterweight champion, was ranked a lowly 34th, according to WBC rankings.

Political Party Delegates And National Conventions : Genesis Of The Problems To Sa. Leone’s Democracy

By Moses Massa, June 22, 2015

Introduction: Politics is one of many activities, which encourages conflict, competition, cooperation and change as obvious occurrences in human societies. It is also the vista that opens up the pathways to unbridle power and insatiable wealth. Like some mechanized design, politics have key units assembled piecemeal to finish a process. One such piece in political democracies is debates (discourse). But too often this political discourse clank and clash like the brilliant madness of a raffle machine. Not least Sierra Leone, where presently, the debates in some key political parties as to their candidates for the 2018 general elections has started all too soon, becoming a seeming stalemate and generating much hate. The situation is not surprising from 1996 when multi party democracy was reintroduced and not helped by the stultifying party politics, where regardless the candidates put forward by the various political parties, citizens have no choice but to vote. This has had far reaching implications on our national development. And the focus of this op-ed is to examine the system of nominating candidates to contest national electable offices, understand the challenges and proffer a better alternative so as to make our country better


Diagnosing the problem? Let me hasten to say that I am under no illusion that this suggestion will gain appreciation by the political elites, rather it is my conviction as an option that it will provide some solutions to the perennial negative assumptions and allay the well founded apprehensions of our failing political processes.  This is so because after every electoral cycle we are disturbed and frustrated with our previous choice of party executives or candidates, who for uncountable reasons did not deliver as expected. Undoubtedly, political parties make it worse by preparing for a new ceremony to choose others in a dumb practice of awarding symbols, electrified by a razzmatazz in national party conventions where party executives and candidates are selected than really elected. Since 1996 it is a disheartening fact that the manner of our political party processes has not been an enlightening spectacle than a platform of acerbic prose, rant, and bickering. This is reflection of the simple fact that we have always got it wrong at our democracy’s entry point- Awarding of Symbols and Nomination of Presidential Candidates, which in all fairness it is not only wrong but the reason why we are grappling with good governance and economic development.

Some of the current problems and what we should do? The issue of trust is important in good governance but this is lacking between the voters and their elected representatives. For most times, the highest bidders are awarded the symbols to contest; some delegates are bribed or made to swear oaths to secure their promise in the award of candidates’ symbols. Many MPs do not interface or engage with their constituencies after elections- visible before and during elections. Worse still, when bills are introduced in parliament, MPs do not visit nor consult with their constituencies to get their input on the strength, weakness and limitations of the intended law; thus laws are enacted without the knowledge and consent of the people. The problem even goes deeper to endangering the security and safety of rival candidates and supporters. In Freetown for instance, we have some party head offices where rival aspirants and supporters are not allowed to visit; they dare not as they will be hounded like the dog does at the sight of a rabbit. Some have been removed from their parties and others are challenging their expulsions in the Supreme Court. It is high time we reflected over the entire process to see which values are there to be learnt and adopted by all political parties in electing executives and electoral nominees that would meet and serve our basic security needs and interests.

Not just import but adopt best practices: Our current political practices are imperfect copies of the American and British systems of government. To highlight a few, our 1991 Constitution makes for a president; an unsatisfactory practice of the American Constitution and our national party conventions is a mélange of the US and UK’ political practices. What we need to learn from the American experience? In America, before the presidential elections in November of every four years, the voters are involved in early state elections called primaries. These electoral primaries are conducted across the fifty two states, where qualified voters and citizens, registered as party members and independent voters, elect their potential party nominees for the Presidency, Congress and Senate elections and other key executive positions.

These primaries are very crucial as an early but stern test to elect the best and popular candidates within any political party as it seeks to convince the public to vote their candidates into office. After every primary, the winner is allotted a certain number of delegates based on the state laws. For some like the Republican Party, it is simple majority- the winner of any state primary takes all the potential available delegates, while with the Democratic Party, it is proportional representation- no winner takes all but delegates are allotted to candidates based on vote counts. At the completion of all state primaries, a date is set for the national party convention, where all the 52 states appointed delegates officially recognize the successful persons as nominees for the presidential, congress and senate elections to the nation and individual states.

Why adopting the primaries would change the current practice of granting party symbols?In Sierra Leone, all political parties understandably have their own constitution, stating how symbols are awarded to candidates. Some like the APC say selection, others like the SLPP talk about consensus, which are not democratic and fair. The processes are so intertwined, leading to the same end; granting the dangerous privilege of delegates who are allowed to selectif you believe elect– candidates for the local council, parliament and the presidency. Such a process is an affront to common sense because many delegates do not reflect and represent the popular will of their ward, constituency and national membership.  The bases for laying the foundation for good governance are not continuance with the rotten past and present than change this confusing and barren process. For us to get the initial process of democracy right and elect candidates with the required ethos to serve their constituencies and nation, we have 14 electoral districts, where each district should be allowed to choose and vote their party executive and electoral nominees freely, fairly and directly. If we are serious we could do these six months before the general elections.

Forms the primaries should take if we are ready for it? The primaries should be done at two levels-district and national. Level One: For MPs, Mayors, Councillors and Party Executives, the primaries should be at the respective district and ward of representation. Level Two: For the Presidential, the primaries should be conducted in all the 14 electoral districts. After these 14 primaries, the candidates with the highest votes, who during and after the process, not found wanting in any criminal matter should be declared as the party’s nominee for the presidential elections. This is an important caveat to keep all looped within the laws of the land.

How? Thus, to effectively do this, each party should have its own calendar allocated per electoral district for the primaries. Political aspirants should then visit, inform, campaign and educate the people in the various district constituencies about their background, values and policies to persuade potential eligible voters. To be an eligible voter, a person should be a registered member of the parties or resident in the given location in order to vote the contestants as nominees for district executives, MPs, Councilors and the Presidency. These elections should be observed by NEC to ensuring transparency, fairness and legitimacy. To make the process a bit interesting and transparent, the number of delegates’ count required for clinching the nomination should be stated so as to prevent the situation where early successes for a given candidate should not be accepted as having secured nomination, but going the extra distance until that is achieved. For the national party executives and presidential primaries, there will be many contenders who rightly or wrongly believe they are the people’s choice, but once the process gets underway in any district and votes tallied, those with little or no votes would advice themselves to drop out.

What next after the primaries? After the primaries for MPs, Mayors, Councilors and Party Executives in each district the votes should be tallied and winners declared. In order to make the process inclusive of having delegates, then such seats should be allocated equally and fairly to districts on size, population and gender. Once that is achieved, all districts appointed delegates basically and formally recognize all the other candidates and presidential nominee and not involve in any further voting so as to prevent confusion and legal bottlenecks.  In the end, each party will be electing parliamentary and presidential nominees with wider cross cutting appeal than a narrow one. It may also minimize or eradicate the ethnic dimension associated with our political process.

Benefits of conducting the primaries: To start with, it would lead to real soul searching to all would-be aspirants whether they have the appeal, guts, financial muscle and savvy to organize and involve in elections of this kind. It would prevent the possibility where the person with immense wealth gets elected always at the expense of the people’s real interests. It would leave no room that led to the situation in Makeni 2006 at the SLPP delegate conference, where former president Tejan Kabbah, was allegedly said to have sat in front of the ballot boxes to intimidate delegates to vote for former vice president, Solomon Berewa. This, if true, is against the principle of democracy (secret ballot) and perhaps the cause that led to the reactionary step by Charles Margai in 2007 to form the PMD as well as the kind of bickering and legal conundrum plaguing both the APC and SLPP over their current leadership question.

It would also improve the local economy as these aspirants and their campaign team flood each district with much needed cash to feed and house some of their supporters, as well as provide the necessary logistics to ensure their success. It would help our democracy regain its true value as all aspirants and eventual winners would have traveled the country, met the people and known the unique needs of each district. More so, the electorate would be properly informed and educated about the issues of greater concern to them. It will send a simple and undeniable conclusion to all defeated aspirants that they are not the people’s choice, because as voters they would have had the capacity of being well informed and tenacity to know why and who they should vote into office, thus, extinguish the flames of political mediocrity and self serving individuals. It would ensure that our elected officials are answerable to the voters and not the respective political parties, because they would be elected based on individual efforts and charisma. It would add value and independence to their work. Come to think of it that if we had had such a process in place, President Koroma would have not appointed his now sacked Vice President, Hon. Alhaji Sam Sumana as his running mate in either the 2007 or 2012 presidential elections as his political profit and loss capital would have been easier to calculate, nor would have sacked him as he did, because the outcome would have been huge and unpredictable.

Way Forward: Many of us want the best for our country, which is not to say that the present system of awarding symbols and nomination have not taken us anywhere yet or help in electing the right leaders to move our country forward. Change is possible. Often the right ideas for transformative change are like orphans or sometimes rejected by naysayers. Let us move from the old and embrace this new democratic process where the party supporters or local residents directly vote to elect their nominees, and go to the party conventions to congratulate and formally declare the winners of the much prized tickets and mend the walls of relationships broken during the primary elections. ARE WE READY?

Employment in Sierra Leone Returns To Normal -WB Report

A World Bank sponsored mobile-phone survey has discovered that though the Ebola crisis caused so much devastation in the employment sector yet employment returns to normal in February.
“As Ebola Crisis Wanes, a Mixed Picture of Economic Recovery for Households in Sierra Leone, results from third round of mobile-phone surveys show progress since February.
Employment in Sierra Leone has returned to pre-crisis levels, though earnings and hours worked still lag behind. This is according to respondents in the latest round of high-frequency mobile-phone surveys, led by Statistics Sierra Leone with support from the World Bank Group, assessing how Ebola is impacting people’s livelihoods. The survey contacted a sample of 1,715 households during May, 2015, which represents 41 percent of the 4,199 households covered in the baseline, nationally-representative Labor Force Survey conducted in July and August 2014.
“Sierra Leone is working tirelessly to get to zero cases of Ebola,” said Francis Ato Brown, World Bank Group Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “Our job has to be not only to support the country in eradicating Ebola, but also to look toward economic recovery and toward mitigating theshort-, medium-, and long-term impacts of the crisis on the social and economic wellbeing of all Sierra Leoneans.”
According to the World Health Organization, as of June 7, 2015, Sierra Leone had reported more than 12,900 cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), and over 3,900 deaths since the outbreak began. In recent months, substantial progress has been made, with a maximum of 15 new cases per week reported following a nationwide lockdown and information campaign at the end of March.
Key findings from the third round of survey responses are as follows:
” Employment in Sierra Leone has rebounded to the levels seen in July-August 2014, during the baseline Labor Force Survey. This is particularly good news in Freetown, which had seen a nine percentage point decline in employment at the height of the outbreak in November 2014, and in other urban centers outside Freetown, which have experienced even higher levels of recovery. The self-employed, including a disproportionate number of youth in Freetown, have seen improvement; and, in general more people re-entered than exited this sector between survey rounds 2 and 3.

” Although people are returning to work, their hours and earnings are still low. This is particularly acute in rural areas, even though land preparation and rice planting has begun in many parts of the country.Earnings among wage and self-employed workers remain substantially lower than prior to the EVD crisis.For the nearly one third of Sierra Leone’s workforce operating non-farm household enterprises, revenues remain markedly lower than in July-August 2014.

” Agriculture is showing positive signs as the new planting season begins. Yields for the 2014 harvestwere comparable to previous harvests, and the accompanying sales and hiring of seasonal labor indicate that rural commodity and temporary labor markets are returning to normal.

” Use of basic social services continues to increase. Maternal health care service utilization in particular has shown signs of improvement; for example, the share of households reporting that a member gave birth in the two months prior to the survey and did so in a hospital or clinic increased from 28 percent in November 2014 to 64 percent in January/February 2015, and then to 89 percent in May.

” A majority of school-aged children, meaning those between ages 6 and 17, have returned to school.Of those households that include at least one school-aged member, 87 percent report that all of those children are attending. For those students not attending, only less than two percent of households said that the school was unsafe or still closed due to Ebola.
It is important to note, however, that the findings onusage of public services are likely more representative of better-off households, and that the actual nationwide percentages are probably lower.

“With three rounds of surveys and data analysis completed, we have been able to track and pinpoint the most urgent socioeconomic concerns for many households in Sierra Leone,” said Kristen Himelein, Poverty Economist for Sierra Leone at the World Bank Group.”The impacts of the Ebola crisis are likely to linger well into the future, and economic recovery will hinge on understanding which sectors and groups need the most support to get back on their feet.”

Council Implores MASADA To Increase Garbage Locations

The Public Relations Officer of the Freetown City Council, Cyril Mattia, has disclosed to SPECIMEN that though MASADA is doing a great job in cleaning the city they still have room for improvement.

“We have been looking at the effort MASADA is doing and we believe there is room for improvement to make the city even cleaner. Initially they were committed to a certain level and gave us the assurance that they get the equipment to do proper management of garbage disposal in the city.
“They have certain capacity that they exhibited before they were given the contract. They showed to us (Council and Government) that they have what it takes. We were expecting fleets of vehicles.
We also take into consideration the other assurance that they will rollout dust bins throughout the city so that use of the garbage disposal land fill in the various wards will be a thing of the past,” Mattia said.
He continued that there is confusion in council because people are complaining that they have been stopped from disposing off garbage in their wards and so when it rains garbage is placed into drainages and causing the streets to flood.
Mattia also said that monies demanded by MASADA for the service is unimaginable and that if council mobilize young people to do the work it will be an opportunity for more employment.
Our target is for us to get a clean city where cholera will not hit us again
He said before the agreement was signed between MASADA and Council, there were over 40 garbage disposal locations in Freetown but that MASADA is presently utilizing 23 locations and that that was not what they agreed on.
A representative of MASADA said the challenge they are facing is that some of the garbage disposal spots been used before have been encroached upon by community people and others knocked off by activities of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority.
He also said the placement of certain disposal spots poses environmental risk to the communities and that MASADA not having a mandate for the provision of land for garbage disposal means they have to look forward to council.
A Resident of Rokupa in Wellington, Isatu Koroma, disclosed that a house has been built on the plot of land that was used for the disposal of garbage.
She claimed that employees of MASADA normally visited them to collect waste which they kept in bags.
“If we don’t see MASADA we send our children to throw away the garbage into the sea,” she disclosed, adding that MASADA is working hard but there is need for people to be penalized for indiscriminately throwing garbage into the streets.
During the unveiling of MASADA, the Mayor of the Freetown City Council, Franklin Bode Gibson, said the signing ceremony marked the start of responsibility of waste collection, management and conversion by Masada.
“I feel joy and dignified in handing over the responsibility of waste collection in the city to Masada Waste Management Company”, he said
He cautioned that people must pay for waste as “Masada is a profit-making company which the government cannot continue to support to clean the Freetown municipality” but that the company will have to sustain itself.
He indicated that now is the time to tell the people in the city that they must start to pay for their waste, and called on all not to throw their wastes on the streets or in the gutters.

“Stop Traditional Practices For Now To Stop Ebola”

Traditional healers have stepped-up social mobilization activities in Port Loko District and are urging their colleagues to stop traditional practices for now and focus in the fight against Ebola.

The National Public Relation Officer of the National Traditional Association of Sierra Leone, Mr. Shuaib Idriss Kamara said during an engagement with the District Social Mobilization Committee that people are accusing traditional healers for most of the cases since the outbreak OF Ebola virus disease in the country.
He said they will be monitoring the activities of their members at district and chiefdom level.
“There are about 35000 traditional healers in the country who are registered,” he said, adding that their major challenge is the lack of support from government and nongovernmental organizations.
“We are prepared and ready to complement government’s efforts to eradicate Ebola in Port Loko District,” he said.
The national president of the National Sowe Council of Sierra Leone, Madam Kadiatu Mansaray, said the outbreak in Kailahun district started from one of their members who got the disease from Guinea.
She said through education and sensitization they stopped the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) but then urges government to support them for their livelihood because it is through FGM that they make their income.
“We will continue to stay in Port Loko District until we get to zero Ebola cases,” she said.
The representative of UNICEF, Madam Joy, thanked the National Traditional Association for their intervention in the fight against Ebola, adding that the District Social Mobilization Unit will support their operation.

Bar Association To Address Negative Societal Influence

The Sierra Leone Bar Association has held its Annual General Meeting on June 11 and 12, 2015 at the Bank Complex in Freetown where they elected executive members who will run the association for the next five years.

Abubakarr Turay

Abubakarr Turay

Abubakarr Turay, Aka Kabaka, was elected the new Public Relations Officer of the Association.

Turay said the Bar has a battered image as far as the public is concerned, which according to him, is as a result of no fault of lawyers but rather the negative societal influence which has eroded the fabric of their integrity.

“Rebranding is now our focus and our foremost target is to re-orientate the public perception,” Lawyer Turay averred.

He explained that the Sierra Leone Bar Association is still the oldest Bar in sub-Saharan Africa and that the same ethics have been preserved, adding that they have a young bar with many role models to follow.

“Truth is that we are not oblivious of the fact that we need to step up our game. This is what this new executive will bring to the table. We have a President and an executive that will right all the wrongs,” the Public Relation Officer stated.

He also said he believed that in as much as the public perception is based on individual subject views; it has a role to play in their efforts in synchronising the confidence the public has in them as well as their duties as legal guarantors of the Constitution.

“We maintain our credibility and strive for justice for every Sierra Leonean,” he said.