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Local Governance at its crest in the Kissy Community

Local Governance at its crest in the Kissy Community

I was impressed by the level of community awareness among our people these days that the process of development shouldn’t be left in the hands of government alone. I live in the East of the capital, precisely Kissy. Some years back, people used to refer to Kissy as the ‘forgotten community’ in the city. But I think that perception has changed in recent times-regular electricity supply at least is now being made available to the people of Kissy and especially Looking Ttown , First Street and Guard Street.

And I think it is because of the level of government’s attention to that part of the city that we are now beginning to see community involvement in the development agenda of the government. Don’t forget, Kissy stands to benefit a lot from the construction of major streets in the city, a project to be sponsored by the government, through the Ministry of Works.

The spirit upon which the Local Government Act was created six years ago was actually felt past Sunday at the Kissy community when community people, including youths and elders embarked upon a self help project aimed at linking the Looking Town, First Street and Guard Streets together.

The Act was consolidated with amendments, thus providing for the decentralization and devolution of functions, powers and services to local councils. Since the councils, a total of 19 were created in 2004, much has been felt in terms of community developments undertaken by the local councils across the country.

Newly constructured culvert is expected to link 3 communities in Kissy, East of Freetown

Newly constructured culvert is expected to link 3 communities in Kissy, East of Freetown

Specifically, the entirety of Section 20 of the Act makes provision for the functions of the councils. The councils, serving as the ‘highest political authority in the locality…’ have among other functions; the mobilization of resources, both human and material, necessary for the overall development and welfare of the people of the locality.   They are also responsible for the promotion and supporting productive and social development in the locality.

Subsection 2(c) of Section 20 of the Local Government Act 2004 practically mandates the councils to ‘initiate and maintain programmes for the development of basic infrastructure and provide works and services in the locality. In trying to meet this particular function, community elders, led by Local Chief Sheku Conteh and Councilor Abass Kamara undertook the construction of a culvert, which is valued at millions of Leones. ‘The culvert is a way of linking communities like Looking town, First Street and Guard Street’, says Umaru Kamara a youth in the looking town community.

It was not an easy task to generate the cash needed for the construction of the culvert and from what Pa Sheku Conteh say, communities should not be expecting the central government to be always providing ‘us with basic needs… and we decided to contribute at the community level to ensure, we are connected with other communities…’  From what I learnt, the resources needed for that construction of the culvert were made available when people decided to contribute and this was excellent.

The self help project, which runs into millions of Leones, is seen as a way of complementing the effort of the central government in terms of promoting infrastructural development. Another youth, Dauda Conteh believes, the ‘decentralization process has gained momentum, especially with the awareness among people, that not everything should be provided by government.

The decentralization process, following the reintroduction of the local councils by the past government has been marveled at, by people in the various localities where the councils are found. The decentralization process, initially viewed as ‘decentralizing corruption from the central to the local level’, has gradually made tremendous process over the last couple of years. People have come to see the importance of the process.

At present, community people are fully involved in the development process of their localities, as mandated by the Act. Also, the level of awareness among people on the importance of the devolution process has led to a situation wherein, councilors are taken to task by their constituents. Again, the creation of the Open Government Initiative has helped in even making council officials become accountable to their people; a recent example, being when Parliamentarians and Councilors were made to face their people at the Wellington Community centre and several issues were raised by people.

However, there was an appeal also made to the government by the community people. A youth, Dauda Conteh says, though they are aware of the efforts of the government, they are also calling ‘on government not to relent in the provision of basic social services…’

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