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Another airport for Sierra Leone? At Mamamah? Let’s review

Another airport for Sierra Leone? At Mamamah? Let’s review

Dear Editor: Please allow me to use your newspaper to make an appeal to H.E. the President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma for a review of Presidential decision to locate a new airport at Mamamh.  (Photo: Lungi International Airport, terminal)

To say the least, this is a location that is not in the best interest of the economics of airports for Sierra Leone and so it should be relocated.

The need for a new airport, will not be deliberated into. This is not the issue. Let us assume that the President in his wisdom has concluded that a new airport is necessary for the country. There are always pros and cons to major decisions. So let it suffice at this point to accept this decision as beneficial to the construction and infrastructure industry. What we have to look into is the decision to locate this at Mamamah.

Mamamah is between Masiaka and Waterloo. This bit of land is non-habited and is mostly bushy. In a situation where there were no airports in Sierra Leone, or even one near Freetown, this would have been an ideal location. However, in light of what obtains in Sierra Leone today, I would propose a location between Bo and Kenema. However, it is necessary to understand this recommendation from several perspectives.

Firstly, servitude. By far this is the most critical of points to consider. Who is the airport serving? The airport is supposed to serve the passengers entering and leaving the country from all parts of the country. The population going to use this new airport are located in Freetown, and the other major hubs in the North and South. You will find that these locations are at least 100Km away from this airport. To be precise, Makeni is 100km away, Bo is 180Km, Port Loko is 100Km away. Even for a small country like Sierra Leone, these are great distances to have to travel to get to the airport. Lungi international Airport was located where it is because it was the nearest flat land close to the sea and Freetown that could be identified. Also, it is noteworthy that the provincial headquarter towns of Makeni, Kenema and Bo do not have functioning airports. This is a good opportunity to begin to bring air travel to the doorsteps of these residents.

Secondly, reduction of travel times. Travel time to Freetown from this new airport, if well coordinated, takes one and half hours to reach Central. Coming from Mamamah, going through Eastern and arriving at Central Freetown alone is still 2 hours on a normal day and 3 hours during rush hours. The burden on passengers has not been reduced. Travel to the provinces is also not reduced. In six months, we will be having the completion of the Lungi-Port Loko road that will bring Rogbere nearer, and so travel from Lungi will be the same to any of the provincial headquarter towns as from Mamamah. Whereas, location near Bo and Kenema will at least reduce some travel time.

Thirdly, availability of labour. Due to the remote location of the airport, all personnel will have to be imported from the cities. This will require the construction of new quarters for the staffs of course as there are no such facilities in the vicinity. I am sure this has been taken into account. The effect is to have a new city as proposed in the announcement.

Fourthly, present expansion and development programmes at Lungi. Lungi International is being rehabilitated at great cost to the nation. Allied services such as the helicopter terminal, the high speed boat services are being built. With another airport at Mamamah, what happens to all of these plans and the boats and helicopters planned? Where is the traffic to support all these facilities? What will be the future of the inhabitants of Lungi. Their source of livelihood will be lost in three years when the new airport will be built.

Finally, politics. Granted that Freetown and Port Loko can be served by the Lungi International Airport, a good reason why the government in power would not want to have the new airport in the South or East is political. The South and the East are predominantly opposition party supporters. Otherwise, it makes sense to develop Bo or Kenema or the two by having a new international airport near these two. Passengers to the North of the country can opt to go to Lungi, while those to the South and East could go to the new location. It makes sense. The cost will be effective as personnel can be easily located. Electricity is nearby. Domestic air travel between South and North can now be developed as well. The neighbouring Liberians can sometimes opt to land in the new airport and make a quick trip to their country. International travel and trade will flourish.

Mr Editor, May I appeal to the President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma to review the decision to locate the airport at Mamamah, not because we have any problems with the village, but because there are more reasons to go farther away from Lungi than there are to be closer to Lungi and Freetown. The President has to think above politics and make a national and memorial decision. This project relocated will be a legacy project for the true development of Sierra Leone.


Francis H. Lahai, Professional Civil Engineer.

Tel:033 666900, 078 781396.

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  • What would these gentleman have said had the President approved an airport to be built at “Fogbo”? Fogbo of course as everyone should know is a mythical place, expressed in disgust when we take too long to do something or act on it..The aforementioned gentlemen would have approved of course! Hey, Guys! Am just tickling you, okay..Let’s shake and laugh about it…Okay?

    23rd March 2013
  • I rather think that it is naive for Ezekiel, Abass and Abdul to lambast Francis Lahai for his suggestion and reasons for rebuilding a new international airport between Kenema and Bo.It also describes the way they think that if someone suggests that an infrastructural development be brought south and east of the country, the person doing the proposal is pro-tribe. I have lived half of my life abroad and as such I am more in the loop about what goes on in developed parts of the world…All major towns in those countries have a functioning airport more than the size of even Lungi International. What anybody developing a complex system first thinks about is it’s simplicity of use and the maximum benefits that would accrue from it. Developing Sierra Leone is about spreading that goal all over the country and not just Freetown..And Freetown is bursting at the seams more because that’s where we all suppose that the “enlightenment” comes from. This enlightenment is later discovered to have been an unfulfilled dream or a false promise. Should an airport be built where Lahai proposes, the next development to adjoin all the other areas is a railway linkage and good roads of course. Railway? Yes, as that would be the safest norm of travel between all our towns..And I happen to think that it would cost far less than making traffic flow faster through Freetown.And all decisions made by the presidency compounds mainly between politics and economics…Nothing else!

    23rd March 2013
  • I just don’t believe a sierra leonean will think like that, why is always BO and Kenema did u want to move the city?Lets try to build one Sierra Leone.

    9th March 2013
  • I just don’t get it, all the sudden somebody is talking about constructing the airport between Bo and Kenema, obviously that will not happen, because that idea would have come to fruition if SLPP knew what development was. If I can remember they were in power for nearly a decade and non of them thought of such ideas. Kabba’s promise of building a bridge from Lungi to Freetown never happened. To more serious note, why will somebody construct an international airport that is far away from the capital? Mamamah is the best place for the country period!!! I am tired of this crap of tribalism and regionalism… this is about the development and conveniency of Sierra Leoneans and people coming into the country, the capital is the first place they will like to see. Sorry for the previous typos!!

    5th March 2013
  • I am not a civil engineer and do not have any type of engineering background or college degree in fact. But my common sense, (COMMON SENSE) tells me the airport should be built near the capital city of Freetown because it just makes sense. A capital city without an airport just doesn’t make any sense to me. This idea of building the airport between KENEMA and BO to make it convenient for the “indigenous people” to get to their towns and villages faster is absurd. I’m a born Temne who have ties in Makeni, my father side and Yoni Banah, my mother side but have no desire to see our nations airport relocated to the area Mr. Lahai is suggesting. This tribalism way of thinking is why most African countries including Sierra Leone are behind in development in many areas. The Krios, the Fourah Bays and all other tribes should consider themselves Sierra Leonean first, everything else is secondary.
    Here in the U.S we sometimes travel far distances to catch our international flights and we hardly notice the distance because of the excellent road conditions. I believe if the road conditions in Sierra Leone are improve, driving from the current proposed site in Mamamah to any part of the country would be fairly quick and enjoyable.

    2nd March 2013
  • Mr. Lahai’s article is the best that I’ve read so far on an aviation strategy for Sierra Leone. I initially lauded the decision to build the new airport at Mamamah and had gone as far as searching GoogleEarth for the sites’ location.
    Even though the majority of indigenious people that fly into Sierra Leone somehow have families or acquaintances in Freetown, yet most of them, myself included have our roots in the countyside. Indeed, except for the Krios, Fourah Bays and Middle and Far-Eastern business people, we all come from the hinterland.
    The creation of the new airport will only further fuel Greater Freetowns’ expansion, but have very little developmental impact on the rest of the country.
    Mr. Lahai, being a professional civil engineer knows his onions. However,if the decision to build the new airport had an added political weight, then this meant that it wasn’t well researched and so, there’s no likelyhood that it would ever get reversed.
    Let’s hope that in the not too distant future, another modern international airport will be built where it was proposed by Mr. Lahai…BETWEEN KENEMA and BO…

    25th February 2013
  • sometimes people dont think before write something.When it come to build a new airport.Mamamah is the right location so freetown city will expand to that part of the country into a modern city.Mr.president do whatever you do to make this dream come true for our future generation.God bless Sa.Leone Thanks.

    22nd February 2013
  • Mr Editor,allow me to subscribe to your publication.In my own opinion your ideas are just like how kids thinks.Freetown is the capital and more busy with ,masaika as a center root for all roads reaching all corners of Sierra Leone.Relocation of airport at Mamamah is a big vital area, and would make way for a quick development in infrastructures,and would attract town around and people to relocate.Please remind your meaningless proposal.

    15th January 2013

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