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Ushering in the New Year

Ushering in the New Year

What a year it has been! 2009 was not an easy year for a lot of people; in fact for many it was a difficult year through which we have come this far by the Grace of God. The rhetoric and the high powered propaganda notwithstanding, the APC vessel MV Hardship continues to discharge its cargo on a hapless population lured into the euphoria of intermittent electricity supply from Bumbuna to the city of Freetown and its environs. As we thank the Lord for those small mercies, we hope that the events of 2010 will match the super promises that are being dangled before our eyes. Yes, we also want the government to succeed with its general development efforts because they would benefit everyone, irrespective of party affiliation. We would prefer to see them rather than strain to see them.

As I drove into Freetown from Kailahun last week. I crossed a number of tipper lorries each carrying a large banner with, “ISU International Construction company- Kenema to Pendembu Road.” That is the kind of propaganda to which I refer. We have had a number of road projects in the past, some now completed with others on-going. With none of them did we have that kind of propaganda blitz; a sign board with the name of the Project, the Funding Agency and the Construction company has been enough.

As I write about the particular road project FOR WHICH THE LAST SLPP GOVERNMENT SOLICITED THE FUNDING, I am reminded of drive to Kenema in a borrowed vehicle as I don’t have sufficient money to repair my old vehicle. In Kenema my family and friends joined a poda-poda vehicle especially for the seventeen miles between Pendembu and Kailahun. The SLRA had done quite a lot of remedial job but it still was quite an experience in a poda-poda. But, it was fun as nearly all the passengers were family members. I must commend SLRA because unlike up to November when the 17 mile journey was said to take at least FOUR hours, we covered the distance about 80 minutes.

We of the volunteer environmental protection agencies have stressed over and over again that the remaining five to ten percent of forest cover in this country CANNOT WITHSTAND the effects of commercial logging. We have advocated against its continuation. A logging group like Taakor, having in just under two years almost denuded the entire Tamar- Tonkolili forest reserve has been trying to extend its destructive tentacles to other areas in the country. I was horrified during my Kailahun visit to learn that my own chiefdom of Luawa, headed by my own nephew, honourable Paramount Chief Mohamed Sama Kailondo Banya, had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Taakor group to carry out logging in the entire chiefdom in exchange for road construction and other developments. Which road construction and what other developments? The forest cover in the entire district apart from Malema which is part of the Gola Forest Reserve, can only sustain logging for domestic use. Two other chiefdoms of Dia and Mandu have also got some companies logging in them. What folly! In six months to a year the various companies are going to clear all the forests, then pack their machinery and leave even as they’ll be doing in Tamar-Tonkololi before long and as we look on helplessly. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture

and Forestry which is the custodian of our forests, has given approval in every case with the lame excuse that the forests belong to the local communities. I have expressed my horror very strongly to chief Banya and some of the other people involved, but the honourable minister has a grave responsibility here.. What shall we leave for our children’s children, who are the future generations for the pittance that we shall now receive from these exploiters?  My heart really bleeds.

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