“New Phase” in Ebola War – “Military Approach”
The Ebola virus has been waging a war on Sierra Leoneans since May, 2014 – just like RUF leader Foday Sankoh led his ‘rebels’ to ignite his war on the people in March, 1991, and waged his war for eleven years. The problem with the Ebola Enemy is that it is unseen – unlike the RUF rebels who were horrifyingly visible. Fighting an invisible enemy that wages a war by simply infecting its enemies is a Herculean task. At the Miatta Conference Center in Freetown on November 4, 2014, President Ernest Bai Koroma told assembled tribal headmen/women, councilors, and parliamentarians of the Western Area of Freetown that his government is now in a “new phase” in the Ebola War – this would mandate a “military approach”.
This “military approach” is what has necessitated the President getting the former defense minister, Major Palo Conteh (Rtd) [in photo] as CEO of the new Ebola Command with the acronym “NERC”.
Referring to President Koroma as the “frontline commander”, Hon. Shekuba Amani Sannoh, Member of Parliament for Constituency 112, underlined the mood and tone of the President who said laws would be “enforced” with military dispatch against those who continue to violate the anti-Ebola logic of non-Ebola personnel washing of corpses of people. The President ordered the ordinary citizenry to use “force” against those who “resist” the dictates of the anti-Ebola burial teams, contract tracers, etc. – and, when necessary, call for backup from military and police forces.
“Comb Your Neighborhoods”
The traditional leaders, and councilors, and especially youth, were exhorted by the President to “comb” their neighbourhoods: “You know everybody, and everything about your neighbourhood. If you don’t see a person for a couple of days and you suspect the person is sick and is hiding inside his/her house, report the matter. Insist that contact be made with the Ebola Surveillance Team”.
This strategy of energizing and mobilizing youth to “comb” their neighborhoods to ferret out ‘Ebola suspects’ could be the most potent in this Ebola War. We are optimistic that the President would use the security forces to back up the youths who the President said should be “hard”. If this strategy had been used the months leading to the January 6, 1999 invasion of Freetown, there would be no way RUF/AFRC rebels would have infiltrated and invaded the city.
Use of video images is still needed to jar the senses of ordinary people
The tough approach still has to be backed with more “education” – using video images. I can hardly imagine that an ordinary sane person would be suicidal enough to continue to wash corpses, or, touch corpses, when it would lead to his/her death. The problem with most of the intense “sensitization” is that they compromise almost entirely of words…words…words.
Words are meant to form pictures in the head. But, if all people see about the Ebola ‘sensitization’ are people in brilliant yellow ‘space suits’, they are likely to perceive the Ebola threat as a foreign phenomenon.
There could be need for new laws for anyone over the age of 15 years who keeps sick people in his/her house; or, washes corpses at home. There should also be laws against those councilors or chiefs who would not take action to effect the tough laws. The President’s threat of removing the symbols of their offices is not enough. They should be publicly shamed. Made to lose cash or kind. Locked up in cells. We should work on educating people that not taking tough leadership action could tantamount to murder, or manslaughter, at best.
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