British Rule 2.0- Re-colonize Sierra Leone in the 21st Century—Part one
I want to open my response to Alpha Omar Jabbie who describes himself an Activist on a posting in the Sierra Express Media of January 13, 2015 with a word of thanks for bringing up this issue. The article itself is all full of ‘Ifs’ Sierra Leone was still under British Rule, things would be much better than they are today. Indeed Alpha’s posting clearly indicates that he has little or no knowledge of British colonial experience and probably born after 1965 and shares the thinking of our unenlightened people who have always argued their wish for the return of the Brits because of the change from the pound to the” Leone” decimal currency system. The change in the currency system meant that the “ £” which was worth 240 pennies, shrunk to 200 cents when the change was made to decimalization. Our people had a convincing argument, but not expected it to come from someone supposed to be reasonably educated like Alpha Omar Jabbie. What I gathered from this posting also is that the writer was not a student of 19th Century West African History or West African Government two disciplines which would have taught him the British and French colonial policies and compared the two policies, and he would have seen which of the two he would have preferred. In terms of colonial experience, French colonies enjoyed their colonial experience in the sense they were treated as friends, human beings and encouraged to become French citizens in a policy of Assimilation and Deputies were elected to represent West African States to the French Chamber of Deputies in Paris. They saw their subjects as humans in contrast to the British Indirect Rule system, a very unfortunate system of snob and saw their subjects as bush people. Find out the experience of the first University educated Creoles and their experience with British rule especially the Lawyers who were denied practice in English courts but instead were told to go to Native courts and ridiculed their European style attire.
I can throw light for the benefit of the author on this. Trust me no educated Sierra Leonean would for one moment wish for a return of the British to this country. Our experience with British rule is too horrible to narrate. They are the worst of European Imperialists. Yes Alpha is full of all praise and admiration for them which is not surprising. We expect nothing less than praise Alpha. He is a foreign guest of the British and nobody expects him to attempt to be critical of the policies of the hosts. Remember that Alpha has not returned to the Land that he loves to help in nation building, instead he continues to live with the colonial power which exploited and impoverished the Land that he loves wishing we were back under them with a series of ‘IF’.
Now let’s do a bit of colonial historical experience on development which he was stressing so much. He mentioned schools and Universities; did he ever know that Britain had no hand in the opening of Fourah Bay College in Freetown? Did he know that Fourah Bay College was a philanthropic educational project by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and that the British for whom he has great admiration for employed various means to terminate its existence? Did he know that the British government never for any one moment in FBC history award scholarships to students at FBC even for a certificate course for of study from 1827 to this day? Did he know that since 1827 when Fourah Bay College was started as a Higher educational Institution Britain never gave a penny to our CMS benefactors by way of subsidy to sustain the College ? My friend you are not alone for thinking Britain had a hand in founding Fourah Bay College. Fourah Bay College has seen hard times since its foundation and has continued to experience hard times to this day. It is a University which has seen developmental retardation and slow expansion because of British tactics to terminate its existence. Did you also know that the College was producing medical doctors and Lawyers up to the early 1900? These courses were terminated by the CMS owners because they were too expensive to run without government financial assistance. All appeals to the British government for financial assistance fell on deaf ears. If not for the determination and steadfastness of the CMS missionaries this country would never have had a university to this day given the present day money problems our governments have always faced. The British colonial administration starved our Fourah Bay College with funds until 1950 when thanks to Governor George Beresford Stooke whose pressure for British financial support for FBC resulted for the first and only known period in a grant of £450,000 in 123 years of existence.
Did you realize that at Independence in 1961, the British colonial administration left us with only six (5) Government secondary schools in the whole country after 154 years of exploitative colonial rule? These are the Bo Government school in the South which was only upgraded to fully fledged secondary school in 1940. Did you know that the school started as a Primary school and remained so for 30 years and then upgraded to Junior secondary school in 1936 and further upgraded to Senior secondary school in 1940? It was no surprise that Bo school had a stunted growth as it was not meant to be an elite school but a school of traditionalists to help the Brits in their exploitation of the Land that Alpha Omar loves. Next the Magburaka Boys and Magburaka Girls Secondary schools in the North, the Kenema secondary school in the East, and finally the Prince of Wales secondary school in Freetown? Next they left two Central schools, the Koyeima and Jimmy Bagbo Central schools which were only upgraded in recent years to secondary schools. Such was the colonial handiwork of the Brits. Are these colonialists our sovereign African state can wish to come back a second time? No more till the end of time. Thanks to the coming and opening of Christian Mission Schools, most of us would never have darkened the doors of a secondary school.
What about College education, how many colleges did they leave with us? The British managed to leave two primary schools’ teachers’ colleges at Njala which was converted into a University College in 1964, thanks to Sir Albert Margai, and another at Magburaka now absorbed by the Makeni Polytechnic. Sir Milton Margai built us Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET).
How many hospitals did they leave behind at Independence after 154 years of servitude? They managed to open one hospital in all district HEADQUARTER towns with the exception of the Provincial Headquarter town of Makeni which had only a Health Centre with two small wards one for males and the other for females and another small ward for children, Makeni only had its Hospital under the Ernest Koroma presidency. Do the British deserve coming back Alpha?
The poor roads infrastructure: their roads legacy is most unimpressive at independence. This is also the area where both the SLPP and the APC administrations have performed dismally. Up to the 1970s it took twelve or more hours to travel from Freetown to Koidu including ferry crossing, five to six hours to Makeni also including ferry crossing at the Rokel river at Magbele, two days if one was lucky to Kabala which had the worst roads with Kamakwie in the North. The roads network in the country were horrible. The British did not care. What about the very narrow Magbele Rokel Bridge? That bridge was built after a horrible catastrophe in 1955 where scores of people perished. Shamefully when they decided to replace the old ferry, it was that narrow ramshackle bride they built as replacement. To this day no politician from both major parties has ever thought of replacing that bridge until some other disaster happens there.
The French on the other hand made colonial cities and roads a reflection of their cities and roads in France. Did Alpha Omar ever visit Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Gabon, Togo and see beautifully well planned cities by a colonial power and compare those places with Freetown, Lagos, Banjul and Ghana before Independence ? Even Guinea Conakry was beautifully planned until President Sekou Toure decided to kick the French out when all infrastructure collapsed. Did Alpha Omar ever visit the Gambia, Nigeria and see the bad shape of Lagos the former capital, Ghana at Independence not to mention Freetown which you know just too well. They opened a special Rrailway line which ran a shuttle service to and from the Wilberforce hills where they isolate themselves at Hill Station.
You talked about Electricity and black outs. Alpha Omar, the British left us with very old electrical power houses. For the critics, how would anyone keep praising the Brits when they knew too well that they were leaving the country with very old power stations and the new independent country would be unable to make developmental changes rapidly because the new country lacked the means. They knew they were leaving a very poor country which could do little at independence. Up to the mid 1950s the supply of electricity was a Colony affair and the capital Freetown was the focus. It was in the late 1950s that electricity reached provincial towns. Even in the colony area, the majority poor could not afford electricity and still depended on their kerosene lanterns and Pan lamps.
True the Sierra Leone railway system was shut down because it was no longer benefitting the government. The actual beneficiaries were the Station Masters, Ticket Inspectors, the railway bureaucrats at Loco in Cline town in Freetown. Ticket money was just handed over to Executive Bureaucrats at Cline town. Most of Dem Pa who worked for the SLR used railway money to erect homes up Hill Station, Regent and Gloucester villages and other area of Freetown. Alpha, the story of what happened in colonial times is too painful to narrate. Some of us don’t even want British friendship with our modern day governments. If only our leaders were not too concerned with receiving handouts from them, we would have preferred friendship with new friends.
Yes at Independence, continuing to have the British monarch as Head of State does not make any sense as it simply implies partial independence and continued dependence on the British. It was that same monarch who presided over her country looting countries they once ruled. It does not matter today whether the system is parliamentary or presidential. The difference simply is that in the former, a country at independence continues to have a foreign Head of State whereas in the latter, a son of the soil is Head of State. Sorry nobody dreams of returning to a Cabinet system. No country in all Africa today has a Cabinet system. But what about your personal experience of living in a virtually segregated city like London. It is a system suitable only to the country it originated. Do you candidly support the way Blacks live in London where South and North London are virtually inhabited by Blacks with no Whites visible? Alpha, I spent two weeks in South London in Peckam and for three days after my arrival, I saw no Whiteman in the Whiteman’s country and had to ask which part of London the Whites lived. A very amazing picture! I saw no Whiteman until I was taken to Central London. Is this a situation you admire? How come a visitor cannot easily see a Whiteman in the Whiteman’s country and capital? Five years later, my family also went for vacation in the same London, but this time in the North. After three days of stay, they could see no Whiteman in sight until my daughter became curious to ask my cousin if the Whites lived in a special area. North and South London are virtually racially inhabited by the marginalized and poor of London. There were buses shuttling back and forth with all Black school kids with no sight of White kids, Why? So my conclusion is the Whites ran away from the Black population in the South and North of London to go to some secluded areas for fear of the Blackman. Is that a situation one can be proud of ? This is unofficial segregation. Does Alpha like it that way? I want Alpha to try to visit North America, either Canada or the USA and he’ll see that there are no sections for Blacks or Whites as one finds in the great imperial capital of the world. The visitor sees Whites from the airport right through the streets and all neighborhoods.
On the issue of corruption, I will not dwell much on it. I can only say people are corrupt because of their poverty background. Apart from Sir Milton Margai, all our political leaders without exception came from humble backgrounds where poverty whistles. They are all poor otherwise they would not have taken to corrupt practices which have become the way forward in politics. Those wishing to take over from President Ernest Koroma are just as poor but give the false impression that they are rich. No they are not; they are just slightly above the downright poor of the country.
The writer also mentioned how African Minerals and London Mining companies mostly employed expatriates to responsible positions. Alpha, this is normal: we have the resources but cannot exploit them . We got to invite those who have both the capital and machinery to help us benefit from such natural resources. The Agreements with Government call for the bringing in of a percentage of Expatriates. Did you ever hear about two companies in Sierra Leone called Sierra Leone Development Company (SLDC or Delco) in Lunsar Marampa, and the Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST or DIMINCO) in Kono. Where are they today? They were all British companies which came and went and left the country in an economic mess. These are the people you want back to the Land that you Love. We got to bring them back so long as we cannot exhume our natural resources from the ground. These companies’ coming is always conditional which is more to their advantage because they come with the capital.
So my conclusion is the Land that Alpha Omar Jabbie loves can in no way be compared with the same Land 53 years ago. We are far far better off than the pre-1961 years. We’ll never wish they return to rule us once more. They are the worst of imperialists. There are really no issues worthy of debating on all the points you raised. There are so many things you did not get right. To quote your ‘Rule Britannia’, Sierra Leone never neve r never shall be slaves (of Britain).
Anthony Kamara Sr responds from Canada.
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