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Issues at Large 11-12-09

Issues at Large 11-12-09

The house to house robbery

In Sierra Leone, it is part of the work of  Christian evangelists to carry out house to house preaching, but now armed robbers, sinister and with a killer instinct  have also started doing the same rounds, though with a different  motive.

Armed robbers now engage in house to house visits, especially in the eastern part of the city and the extreme west. During these visits, the robbers  threaten  the inhabitants, cart away their goods and even rape  and shoot them in the process.

The robbers are said to move in high numbers with some bands numbering as much as sixty. Residents in Wellington recently saw armed robbers in Peacock Farm, said to number over sixty men, all armed and in various uniforms. A young man was shot by the robbers and others sustained wounds. In most cases, the robbers announce their presence by engaging in sporadic shooting, terrifying inhabitants and threatening them with death.

The police have not been able to put the situation under control, and it is believed that the robbers are working in partnership with them.

Night patrols mounted by the police have not been effective and it is believed that the ones assigned to the night patrols are the same criminals engaged in the house to house robbery!


Death penalty the only solution?

The death penalty is being considered seriously as the only option in controlling the rising spate of armed robbery in the country, this position was made known by Ernest Bai Koroma, president of Sierra Leone.

The issue of armed robbery has not been a strange occurrence in the country. With the cessation of hostilities and the final declaration of peace, following more than ten years of war, armed robbery had been the final phase of the conflict.

This armed robbery phase had been seriously curtailed under the government of Mr. Ahmed ejan-Kabbah. With the assumption to power of the All People’s Congress of  Ernest Koroma, matters have reverted to their ugly past.

All attempts to put this menace of armed robbery under control by the Koroma administration still remains futile. The declaration of a maximum alert security measure- the Military Assisting Civilian Policing protocol had been declared but this has not been effective.

A call for the change of leadership in the police hierarchy has been made but this has also not been effective, as neither the police boss has been removed, nor has the activities of the armed robbers.

One wonders, at this time that we are talking about scrapping the death penalty, why is it that our new leader is thinking of introducing an old law into our statute books again.

The solution lies not in killing armed robbers, but in bringing in robust policies to bring sanity into the police force. Meanwhile the presence of police patrols at night has now become a matter of concern in communities in the country. “We are living in another version of a war here and the fear is that we do not even know who the enemy is,” said a school teacher who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.


Trye’s new face of tourism

Tourism Minister Hindolo Sumanguru Trye has undertaken a bold initiative in bringing the tourist industry to new light in the country.

Originally regarded as a dumping ground for unwanted ministers, the Tourism and Cultural Ministry has now gained new insight and fresh impetus.

The Tourism Ministry is now becoming vibrant under the charismatic leadership of Hindolo Sumanguru Trye, a pragmatic minister.

Programs have already been prepared for a great tourist awakening in the country: A celebration of World Tourism day in Kenema, a cultural show in Bo and a high profile New Year’s Day cultural festival in Kabala brings new life in a ministry once known for its doldrums.

Minister Trye has also said that the government is committed and determined to explore Sierra Leone’s cultural and tourism and to preserve its heritage by heritage by computerizing the  national museum’s artifacts while improving its assets storage. 

“It is in pursuit of these benefits that the government of Sierra Leone  had identified tourism as a priority sector for development thus tourism  has now become the largest contributor to the economy of Sierra Leone after mining and agriculture ,” Minister Sumanguru Trye said recently.


Mining policy in disarray

The mining industry in Sierra Leone, since the inception to power of the Koroma administration continues to take a nose dive. The former minister who was appointed to the ministry of mines instead of taking up the task of bringing in a better solution to an already wreaked industry instead collaborated with  African Minerals, in openly supporting them over London Mining in the acquisition of the Marampa Mines.

Even as the government was calling on investors to set up shop in Sierra Leone, London Mining as being marginalized for African Minerals because they were ready to spent millions of Leones in establishing ‘links’ with the government, while London Mining was depending on their earlier MOU signed with the government. While all this under the table works were ongoing, other areas in the industry were being ignored because they were not filling the pockets of those in charge.

Thus the stop of operations in Sierra Rutile, with the laying off of over four hundred workers was seen as a non-event, while the Koidu Holdings impasse was never treated with the seriousness it deserves.

The focus, all this while has been on controversial Romanian billionaire Frank Timis and his African Minerals backed company.


The Frank Timis angle

Investors planning on setting up business in the mining sector should rethink their positions as the new mining policy is a disappointment, and serves neither the interest of communities nor investors.

Present Mines Minister Alpha Kanu’s appointment has been more of a problem in the industry rather than a solution. Kanu has also given his support to Frank Timis, and has seem to be the new public relations officer of Frank Timis, just like his predecessor.

Meanwhile the new mining policy has not been of much impact as there are clear problems in it. There has not even been any mention of a proper Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

Appointing Mr. Alpha Kanu to the Mines Ministry is therefore a big blot on the mining industry in Sierra Leone.  A call for a reassessment of this ministry will go a long way in bringing sanity into a moribund ministry supposed to be one of the income generating departments of government.

Mr. Kanu is yet to convince right thinking Sierra Leoneans that he is the right man for the job, as engaging in taking people on aborted Hajj journeys is different from manning a nation’s mining industry.

Fast forwarding policies in rubber stamping parliament is not the solution. The fact that concerned organizations like the Network Movement for Justice and Development, and other stake holders in the extractive industry have expressed disquiet with the new mining policy shows there is a problem here.

In the case of Frank Timis, there are a lot that has been said about his role in setting up and hyping the success of bogus companies that later fold up after milking the profit and duping communities with promises of jobs.


No concern for Freetown pedestrians

The Sierra Leone Roads Authority as part of their mandate includes repairing and making roads, and these include pedestrian passage ways. But since their inception, this company has never undertaken any repairs on pedestrian lanes.

Travelling in Freetown on foot is a danger to any one’s health. Open sewers, gutters with no slabs and pedestrian ways taken over by companies and builders all make life in the city of Freetown a risk.

What makes the issue a matter of concern is that the SLRA has not made any attempt to correct this anomaly, and even the government’s Works Ministry is silent on this matter.

The belief is that the government, like the former one, has no regard for pedestrians in the city. This explains why NASSIT building by the Cotton Tree has unilaterally taken over the side walk, denying pedestrians the right to walk here. The Nigerian High Commission, also following this negative practice has also fenced off the pedestrian way, adding it to their premise. Pedestrians now have to walk on the busy Siaka Stevens Street.

Some footpaths in the city have since the time of colonial rule remained the same, with no consideration for repairs. Governments come and go but the backwardness of the country still remains.


Withcraft courts in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone continues to exist in an existence akin to the Dark Ages that Europe once existed under with witchcraft and other forms of supernatural occurrences still a part of the people.

Witch craft courts are now in existence in the city of Freetown where people are charged and if found guilty detained by witch doctors where they are forced to drink all types of concoctions to prove they are not witches or wizards.

Numerous people have been forced to go through this ordeal and in a country where the life expectancy falls far below international standards, and where child infant mortality is high, there are several reasons for the death of people but this has not in anyway discouraged the practice of witch doctors, especially in the city.

Human Rights organizations and activists meanwhile remain silent over this new menace to the right of the people, and have, like the witch doctors, preferred to test those accused through the drinking of concoctions.

The government, especially the justice sector is yet to correct this anomaly as it is a big stain on the country’s modern legal system.

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