18 Perfect Days in Sierra Leone: What I saw and What I heard
Undoubtedly, sustainable development has become an overreaching objective and challenge in our country over the past five years. Assessing progress in a reconstructing Sierra Leone, where government, non-governmental organizations and communities have engaged is something that I think necessary for me to report to Sierra Leoneans across the world. The country is moving forward as the people develop a sense of identity and belonging. (Photo: Former APC Secretary General (Texas), Daniel B. Kanu, Minister Alpha Kanu and the Texas Chief Sanpha Sesay)
The truth is that the quality of life of the people in the country is greatly improving in a sustainable economic and infrastructural development. The people’s capacity to endure is evident of change and progress. There are potentials for short and long-term maintenance of people’s well-being and it is becoming increasingly important in the eyes of all visitors. In my observation, I discovered that the government is taking an effective way of addressing complex development challenges to move the country forward in an overwhelmingly policy called “agenda for progress”.
Measuring progress towards sustainability goals such as community and infrastructural development, capacity building, and strategies to keep the peace, are of key importance for a successful policy making by the government. I am impressed by the fact that the country is moving in a direction of community development, capacity building and construction. This is a new benchmark from the perspective of sustainable goals as far as I am concerned. The government allows the people to choose what is good for the country by organizing themselves in a community form to maintain law and order. There are more compliances and monitoring in the context of rule of law and everyone takes responsibility to keep peace in their environment. I saw that government has many scopes of improving on economic, political, and social well-being of its people.
First and foremost, the newly established free healthcare for pregnant and lactating women and children under five, is a success story. Saving mothers lives children with a free healthcare is one of the government’s progresses in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The maternal and mortality rate is drastically reducing, according to one health officer’s response. This free healthcare program is a fundamental value to a sustainable development and it is creating a peaceful society whereby making women and children happy and content.
The second factor about the healthcare system is the accessibility of health centers. At least every region in the country has competent, quality primary health care services to medically under-served communities and vulnerable populations. The school of medicine in the University of Sierra Leone is now providing abundant medical personnel; even though critics say there are still insufficient opportunities for advance training and specialization.
Combating hunger and poverty is part of government’s challenge. It is unfortunate that I could not speak with the Minister of Agriculture after several attempts calling him to conduct an interview. However, the intensity of agricultural development, which is a major source of livelihood for people in the provinces, is considerably thriving well. The government understands how agricultural growth can reduce poverty hitherto, a mechanized system of farming has been identified to greatly increase farm work productivity. Tractors are circulated all across the country as one agriculture officer told me. Many people at home and from the diaspora have stepped up to embark on agriculture.
I saw one Osman Bangura took the challenge to contribute to the country’s economic development growth. He returned from the United Kingdom to do both local and mechanized farming. After several years in abroad, Mr. Bangura decided to return home to take part in the country’s recovery programs by creating awareness to community members and engaging many people in agriculture productivity. He has expanded a cassava farm area to about 200 acres and he is intending to do more. He said that “a tractor to cultivate the land is always available for him to use even though it is for rent, but that is okay.”
Observers say innovative technologies and research need to be developed to ensure sustainable agriculture and productivity. On the other hand, preservation of natural environment in order to improve the quality of soil in abundant habitats should be a government priority, one expert said.
Farmers need more mechanized farming opportunites to increase the productivity of rice, which is the staple food for the country. Threshing by hand requires a great deal of labor and is still common to every sect of farming. Government and/or non-governmental organizations need to provide a mechanism for threshing of produce, Mr. Osman Bangura, a diaspora farmer told me. It is a high time for Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora to visit the country and see for themselves.
Vision is the most developed sense among the five senses, but until you make use of it with fairness you will never enjoy its value. As I saw it myself in 18 days, it is true that the quality of lives of people in the country is greatly improving. The civil infrastructure has strategically developed to improve on the agenda for prosperity. Women and youths are organizing themselves to maintain law and order without police interference in the city of Freetown. That is the first thing I saw as part of the agenda for change and progress.
Traffic congestion caused by street traders and indiscipline motor-bike drivers (Okadas) is now under control by joint task forces. No one was hurt during the first day of the “clear the streets” exercise in Freetown. The young passing-out OSD police were in high spirits to perform their duties diligently, and the people embraced them warmly to affect the agenda for prosperity.
I was walking along the drive way at Siaka Stevens street one day when one OSD policeman gently asked me to step down the foot path. I felt blessed by the manner in which the police man controlled me with respect. That is the kind of discipline our police chief has manifested.
The drive-way in the streets of the capital is now cleared with no street trading and the Okada/motor-bike transportation is now restricted from littering the city center so far, as at the time I left Freetown for the USA on January 18th. When I asked one business woman at Sani-Abacha Street (formally called Kissy Street), about how come they cleared the drive-way on the street, she said, we organize ourselves to follow closely the agenda for change so that we will able to accomplish the agenda for prosperity. Allowing the free flow of traffic in the streets of the capital city of Freetown is part of the agenda for prosperity, the business woman who does not want to be quoted, asserted.
It was amazing that I saw the Okada drivers making arrest within themselves for disruptions and dress code violations at Ferry Junction at Kissy. Police work has lessened in the streets of Freetown as sustainable development in civil societies prevailed. The police task force to supervise cleaning the street trading is an uncomplicated measure because the people are willing to adhere to any law and order.
I found it as a very smart looking brain in my observation with a road construction projects so intense that when I ventured the Sierra Leone/Guinea boarder I felt as if it was part of my kingdom in Texas. What a beautiful car park in Kambia junction and wha beautiful custom offices, a joint effort by the two countries, Sierra Leone and Guinea. I know that most of us in the Diaspora are getting mixed messages wherein some messages show favorable trends, others quite the opposite. But, the reality is that the economic well-being of the nation is constantly increasing.
Upon seeing the affluent Sierra Leoneans enjoying their travelling to any part of the country with an ease, I am sure most of them feel affection for the government. Now, people travel to Conakry for shopping and return the same day.
Finally, Lungi International airport has now instituted new safety measures and operations. The airport authority, including the West Minister security branch from the UK, holds the responsibility for the safety and certification of the airport. For the first time I saw sniffer dogs examining bags of passengers on embarkation and disembarkation. Biometrics is unmistakably there for all arriving and departing passengers, Sierra Leoneans and everyone else, there are no exceptions. Different from the security system in the USA where the Americans are excluded from fingerprinting.
I met with several senior government officers and Ministers to ascertain my candid report. I did not have enough time to conduct interviews with any Minister as most of them were in the confirmation process by the House of Parliament. However, I made a private visit to the new Minister of Information and Communication Alhaji Alpha Kanu at his residence. That was the second time I met with him after the first meeting in New Jersey on 2008. When I asked him if he likes the new position, he said, “I like any position due to serve my country.” I believe the new Alpha Kan has a profound knowledge and experience in serving the nation as the Minister of Information and Communication. He is a fluent speaker, a man of extraordinary vitality, and has a great administrative ability.
I also met with the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr. Minkailu Mansaray at his Youyi building office. There was no detailed conversation with the Minister but I got a warm reception from him and his office staff as I could not meet with the appointment date of January 22 for possible interview. Nevertheless, Mr. Minkailu Mansary can take pride in the fact that his faithful performance of an exciting and vital duty has contributed much in maintaining the people’s respect for the government.
I spoke with the Director of Human Resource Management Mr. Ernest Surrur at his George Street office about how I felt impressed in the overall changes and development. Mr. Surrur told me that our country is moving forward to a higher standard and that whoever acknowledged this fact should share it to friends, family, and everyone who needs to know how they can move this country forward. I was impressed by Mr. Surrur’s policy of first in first served, and first come first choice, with no discrimination. He attended visitors in the order that they are arrived without bias or preference. I admired the civil service boss for being respectful, impartial, honest and courteous in his relations with the public. That could be counted as part of the new agenda for progress.
In this 2013, I am pretty sure that the government has a new spirit of rebuilding and providing the necessary needs for the people of Sierra Leone. As the New Year just started, it is time for reflection and to set up challenging goals by the government and everyone. Improving on the electricity supply and water resource management, especially in the city of Freetown, should be a major in the priority list of development.
God bless Sierra Leone and God bless our President and his government.
By Sanpha Sesay, Texas Chief
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