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The untouchable Abacha Street Traders are above the law

The untouchable Abacha Street Traders are above the law

The name Abacha Street Traders rings a bell to many Sierra Leoneans within and without the country, some attributing the name to a barrier that impedes the development of the Freetown Municipality. To others, it is the hub of the block votes for the ruling All Peoples Party (APC). Whatever meaning the name signifies is not much of a problem like their very presence in the Central Business District (CBD) which is now an eyesore to the decency and beauty of the Country’s Capital City. Indeed Abacha Street Traders’ presence in the Central Business District of Freetown is a contact and transmission center for the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which has claimed the lives of more than 700 Sierra Leoneans across the Country. (Photo: Elkass Sannoh)

Despite the billions of Leones and thousands of US Dollars poured into to the country in order to eradicate the dreaded virus, the Government of Sierra Leone is still affixing complacency in the ongoing Ebola fight. It is now an open secret that Ebola disease has a high death rate: possibly up to 90% fatality. In Sierra Leone, the virus is very deadly and destructive, hence winning the race against its competitors. Yes! Ebola disease is winning the fight and experts say it is prominently through bodily contacts. Experts also warned that the best way to prevent and protect contracting the virus is the abstinence of body contacts, in short, Avoid Body Contacts (ABC Method).

Abacha Street traders

Abacha Street traders

The questions on the lips of many Sierra Leoneans are: If Universities and Primary Schools have been closed for fear of Ebola spread, why allow Abacha Street Traders to cluster on daily basis all in the name of doing business? Are the Abacha Street Traders untouchable or above the law? Is the Mayor of Freetown municipality afraid of losing the votes of the petty traders for his re-election bid? Is the Government of Sierra Leone sincerely serious to rudely eradicate the Ebola disease?

Current status of the Central Business District of Freetown impedes Ebola fight

Current status of the Central Business District of Freetown impedes Ebola fight

Indeed it is not for nothing that the tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth when the eyes see strange things. Strange things never ceased to happen in Sierra Leone when it is related to good governance and decision making/taking.

Unfortunately, the hijacking of major Streets and pavements on Road sides by petty traders in Freetown have become a major menace of concern and little or nothing has been done to abate the situation. Irrespective of the numerous decongestion strategies devised by the ruling government, the petty traders are still adamant in overtaking the busy Streets like Bombay Street, Montague Street, Magazine Cut in the East End and notorious Abacha Street and Ecowas Street in the Central Business District of Freetown. I don’t want to waste my energy on Guard Street and the age-old Fire Born Markets.

Many people are still asking, if Operation WID, which was launched by President Ernest Bai Koroma at State House has woefully failed, how is it possible to contain the uncontrollable petty traders amidst this Ebola epidemic? If Operation WID failed to carry out its mandates owing to the lack of political will, it means President Koroma has failed to keep the city clean and free from pick picketers. Then one would tend to argue that Freetown City is still an eyesore, hence an Ebola Virus prone center.

One of the reasons proffered by the Public Relations Officer of the FCC, Cyril Mathia, for the incessant lawlessness in the City is the overpopulation of the Municipality. I strongly begged to defer, population growth is expected in every Capital City of which Freetown is not an exception. The reason(s) for development across the world is for Countries and its leadership to stand up to overcome those growing challenges in line with modernity. The truth here is, development in all its forms will never be visible where there is NO POLITICAL WILL.

In Sierra Leone, what is lacking is that the institutions that must impartially enforce the law and promote the citizens’ welfare are still intermeshed with pernicious executive interference, which they are yet to extricate themselves from. As a result, public confidence remains persistently flat.

Following the promulgation of the State of Public Emergency, President Koroma ordered that commercial (Okada riders) motorbike riders’ activities be regulated from 7:00am to 7:00pm; commercial drivers were asked to reduce the number of passengers and entertainment centers closed all in the name of controlling the spread of the Ebola virus across the Country. The decision was action oriented but very much ironical to the ongoing Ebola fight. Why ruled out Abacha Street Traders?

From all indications, Streets in Freetown Municipality have become extremely congested; as a result, vehicles are being parked along some of the major Streets and even putting their market stuff in the middle of motorable routes. To worsen the situation, footpaths no longer exist as they have been taken over by market stalls and petty traders’ trays and baskets. Currently, the Abacha Street Traders are not only undermining the efforts of the International Community/Development partners, but blocked traffic-flow and pose hazards to lives and properties of innocent persons. The environment further provides protection for broad day light robbers and pick-pocketers. Many Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans have been traumatically affected by the activities of the jobless youths whose only means of survival is through pick-pocketing, snatching hand bags, wrist watches, chains, mobile phones and valuable luggage from passing vehicles.

The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans recommend that the FCC should not only be interested in collecting dues from traders or shop owners but to use those monies into tangible development such as the establishment of car parks in the City to generate more revenue; To also put more premium in building and expanding the existing markets or speedily complete the Sewa ground market; To coerce the traders to be using the markets and ensure that petty trading is banned with full enforcement of the law and to also ban the Abacha Street Traders with immediate effect as a prompt measure to eradicate the Ebola disease.

With Elkass Sannoh, Pen of the Voiceless

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