Operation WID: A Test Case for Boie in Sierra Leone
His Excellency the president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, recently launched Operation WID to decongest the streets of Freetown to ensure a free flow of human and vehicular traffic. The operation has been welcomed by many well-meaning citizens who see it as a step in the right direction, especially when it focuses on the eradication of street trading and other forms of lawlessness.
However, the ongoing operation has left several petty traders economically devastated and consequently disgruntled as many have lost their stalls and wares to the operation, a situation that has, obviously, not gone down well with them.
In a well attended meeting on Wednesday, February 13th at Ferry Junction, in Freetown, the aggrieved traders vented out their grievances to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Honorable Alhaji Usu Boie Kamara and his entourage among them his Deputy Minister, Alie Badara Mansaray and the Director of Trade, Ahmed Akar Ahmed.
Speaking on behalf of the traders, the Administrative Secretary of the Petty Traders Association, Mamoud Kalokoh, informed the minister that Operation WID officers have been treating traders with maximum disrespect and ruthlessness, vandalizing their stalls and, sometimes looting their goods, assaulting those who resist them, compelling the affected traders to believe that the operation is a calculated attempt to target and destroy them. Mr Kalokoh noted that although the traders appreciate the operation, they are vehemently opposed to the manner in which it is being executed.
The Administrative Secretary alleged that certain unscrupulous and unpatriotic Operation WID Officers have resorted to the indecent habit of soliciting bribes from petty traders and maliciously demolishing the stalls of those who refuse to bribe them, citing that recently in Victoria Park, the officers were demanding a million Leones bribe from traders who did not want their stalls to be demolished, describing such act as a classical manifestation of selective justice.
“We have the capability to violently resist the officers but we have decided to hold our peace due to the tremendous respect we have for His Excellency the president, Ernest Bai Koroma,” Mr. Kalokoh emphasized.
Responding, Honorable Boie pleaded with the aggrieved traders to hold their peace, urging them to place national interest above theirs, pledging to move heaven and earth to settle the matter.
The Operation WID Conflict between the traders and the police is indeed a test case for the Trade and Industry Minister who now has the difficult assignment of settling the grievances of the traders without obstructing Operation WID which has been launched by the government he is serving. Although the minister has the moral and constitutional obligation to protect the interest the traders who fall under his ministry, he is also constitutionally bound to protect the policy of HE the president. Boie requires a high level of political maturity to solve the problem without displeasing the president and the already disgruntled traders. Already, the minister has started his assignment by visiting sites that can be used to construct market structures where the evicted traders will be relocated. On Wednesday, February 13th , the Trade Minister visited the Peace Market at Ferry Junction, the Freetown Central Lorry Park and the Approved School Market all of which have been identified as potential sites for the spacious modern markets to where the evicted traders will be relocated.
By Joseph Milton Lebbie
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