A new beginning for Songo, Rural – Koya Chiefdom
The mansion situated on a half acre land which is home of host Mr. Alpha Koroma at Glendale Road, Glendale, Maryland was the venue of a never to be forgotten re-reunion of Songo, Koya/Rural descendants. The 60-member strong reunionees represented a Koya rainbow coalition. The exhibited excitement and family bonding which occurred in this small and quiet city can only be copied, but cannot be surpassed. It revealed the gathering was a long overdue assembly. The Songo Koya/Rural descendants reunion brought participants from far and near which is a demonstration of a group determined to move their old glory city of Songo back to what it is supposed to be and reclaim its place in history. By their nature, reunions engage a group of people to reflect on the past critically visualize the present and proposes a positive plan for the future. Also, it brings together people with a common goal to reacquaint with each other and solidify a family bond.
The two moderators Mr. Ahmed Kanu of Ohio and the chairman of the reunion, and Mr. Sheka Cleh Kamara of Philadelphia were quite explicit as to why the organization was formed, which is to seek the interest of Songo and lower Koya at large. Its primary focus will be on health, education, infrastructure, and local affairs, Mr. Kanu said. They were also quick in accepting the parent organization Koya Progressive Association (KPA) as quite necessary and both lower and upper Koya must support its existence. About ninety-eight percent of the attendees were from lower Koya who vowed to keep the KPA, a non-profit organization as the parent organization and probably a conduit from which much development could revolve.
Songo town is the most unique city in the Republic of Sierra Leone. It is the only city within a city. It was divided in colonial era into a Colony – a none local tax paying territory, and a protectorate whose residents paid local taxes. This uniqueness cannot be found anywhere in the nation. It is a generational issue for Songo natives. It must regain its status as the bread basket and beacon of its environs infrastructure; economic development, education, health and local affairs. It must again be pulsating commercially to attract its former population. The dilapidated city reveals what 38 years of neglect has brought to bear that the sons and daughters of Songo/Koya have termed as unacceptable. The Songo Koya descendants in the Diaspora are critically looking at the culture of biasness propagated by the chief and his chiefdom agents as regards to the disproportionate distribution of development programs in the chiefdom.
The KPA and the chief‘s administration development initiatives placed an incredible energy in the development of the northern Koya by sidelining the southern flank of the chiefdom. Koya descendants of the Diaspora are now finding out that changing the face of Songo/Rural Environs could not be easy, because the city has been long neglected.
It would have actually been in the best interest of the Paramount Chief’ to have a Songo Town that is not only prosperous, but equally developed like Masiaka and its environs in the northern Koya chiefdom. Songo/Koya has been the strategic location based on its rich traditional and cultural history of the chiefdom.
As is evidenced, the video presentation of Koya chiefdom development by Mr. Mohamed Komrabai Kargbo II, at the KPA meeting of August 28, 2010 in Virginia, brought both awareness and acrimonious feelings among the indigenes of this historic city.
Obviously the video indicated an unprecedented bias toward the lower Koya chiefdom.
The Diaspora Koya descendants were deeply moved to act as a result of the neglect by the Koya chiefdom officials, who concentrated only in the development of the northern part of Koya. The formation of the Koya environs reunion is a blessing in disguise. Because the Diaspora now has a venue to register their feelings to the chiefdom authorities and the government regarding the demographical re-sectionalizing of the chiefdom that caused Koya to electorally loose some of its largest sections: Matenneh, Mawomah and Rokel to Marampa Chiefdom under the current Koya administration. Koya lost these sections and thus forcing Koya residents to vote in Marampa. This action caused Koya to loose one of its two Parliamentary Representatives. This political act still remain questionable and quite unsettling for Koya inhabitants, whose chiefdom is the second largest after Tankatope, Malakuray, Safroko-Debia (TMSD) chiefdom, lamented Sheka Cleh Kamara.
Regarding the overall situation, members of this group are determined to promote venues for development with collaboration of the Sierra Leone government on a bigger scale for a prosperous development of Songo Koya/Rural environs.
Mr. Mohamed Buya Tarawally of Maryland introduced the keynote speaker Justice Abdulai Fofona, an Appeals Court judge in Sierra Leone who was on the invitation of New York University (NYU) to lecture on African Cultural Law. Mr. Tarawally also reinforced the objectives of the Songo Koya environs and the necessity to work together as one family.
The presence of Justice Abdulai Fofona, who is a son of the soil, brought a transcended thrill in the newly formed reunion. His perspective on the discussion shed more light on the issues due to his knowledge and frequent visits to the various sections during and after the senseless rebel war. Justice Abdulai Fofona in his contribution said, he was proud to be in the United States to participate in part of a history in the formation of such a Koya reunion whose objectives are to bring venues of development to lower Koya. Further, he said that lower Koya has all the right ingredients, because Songo is closer to Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. The development of a Songo and its environs can accommodate emigration from the densely populated capital city to benefit development in the Koya chiefdom. As a result, its development should not be politicized but rather perceived as moral, social and economic aspects for the good of Koya chiefdom. He continued to say that the overarching issue is the fact that the sons and daughters of Songo and lower Koya saw it fit, and came together to work on remedying the destruction of 38 years of neglect.
Like many of the other speakers, Justice Fofona expressed concerns regarding Paramount Chief Kompa Bomboli of Koya chiefdom crowning very few traditional Chiefs (the Alimamys and the Santigies), and appointing very few Tribal Authorities (TA) in the lower Koya region. Apparently, the disproportion of crowning few Tribal Authorities in Lower Koya will ultimately affect the future demographic electorate of the chieftaincy.
It is a 38 year trend that is quite disturbing. In his conclusion, Justice Fofana admonished that the future development should not be based upon regional or tribal sentiments.
All the speakers hit a similar theme. Ms. Nana Fofana-Sesay of Virginia and Ms. Neneh Koroma of Los Angeles, who are medical health authorities, discussed the health issues that will help the Lower Koya chiefdom.
Some of the other health experts from the Lower Koya chiefdom at the meeting include Mrs. Salamatu Kanu-Kargbo and Ms. Isatu Kanu. They will volunteer their expertise to promote a health sector not only in Songo, but the entire Koya chiefdom. They will team up with other non-profit organizations in the Diaspora in bringing needed medical supplies and assistance to the region.
Mr. Mohamed Bah of Maryland spoke on the breakage of the social fabric due to the absence of commerce, local businesses in Songo and its rural surroundings.
Also the minimal presence of local transportation and deterioration of roads have rendered Songo town and its environs toward backwardness in terms of development.
Ms. Zainab Nallah and Ms. Memuna Sankoh-Davis of Virginia spoke on women empowerment. They stated that introduction of micro-financing will aid residents to kick-start the ruined local economy. While Messer’s Mohamed Bundu Sankoh of Washington DC, Gbessay M. Bangura of Ohio, Alimamy S. Konteh of Maryland, Ibrahim Sesay, and Gibril Sesay (Songo Train) of Maryland, lamented on the deterioration of the local agricultural businesses (e.g.. Banana Farm, and Poultry, etc), the necessity to upgrade Elementary and Secondary Schools that is impacting lower Koya residents has given the cause to send their children to attain High School education at Waterloo and Freetown. It is a condition that affects the parents economically and their children physically in the endeavor in acquiring higher education.
With the involvement of the Songo-Koya Rural Environs Descendant (SKRED) there is hope that, in the near future Vocational Training Institutions will spring up. Although the senseless rebel war was the last straw to bring total disruption in lives of the people on a nationally scheme yet the Koya descendants are taking this initiative to assist in the development of the region.
The speakers ended their speeches invoking partnership between the Koya Progressive Association (KPA) and the newly formed Koya Environs reunion all will be incredibly important toward the development of the region. At the end committees were formed to cater for different needs of the region at large. The members believe that bringing back old glory (Songo/Lower Koya) will take a commitment of an immense proportion, but it could be done. The speakers personified the city and the dead after the rebel war which did a sizeable destruction to the infrastructure socially, agriculturally, commercially and educationally. Mr. Ahmed Kanu also mentioned the positive impact the proposed West African Medical Center and the national airport development designated for the Songo/Koya and Rural environs in the near future. The reunion meet ended in a positive note praising the government of Dr. Ernest B. Koroma in its effort to spread infrastructural development throughout the nation and Koya chiefdom being among the many beneficiaries.
By Arolyn I.Koroma, Washington, D.C. USA
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