By Komba David Sandi…..
For sometimes now I’ve trawled through my various WhatsApp messages and read some sense and nonsense; viewed expressions of hope and witnessed sighs of frustrated despair, leaving me wondering: what next? it to strive, toil and pass away having achieved something substantial, medium scale or absolutely nothing?
To love or hate to the point where both love and hate become blurred phenomena, reaping joy or sadness, praise or disparagement, life or death in equal measure?
Is it about building communities or destroying them, forging cohesion or disrupting the very basic ethics underpinning community development?
Questions left to ponder and be answered variously. With alliances made along the way or, maybe enemities created or entrenched?
On the Kono social media landscape where some participants have made hate, divisiveness and vile expletives against each and every other, the order of the day, is there way forward for liking, unity and words of brotherly, sisterly support?
What is our real focus and what are we really focused on? What do we say is our intention and what do we really intend?
Do we want to build our Kono or destroy it?
Make tangible progress or live on unfulfilled promises and wistful thinking?
Are we to focus solely on political shenanigans (particularly the dirty underbelly) or are we aware there is more to life than raw crude politics, such as the sweet scent of socio-economic enhancement and progression of a people and a land?
It may help to continue paying attention to the following issues relevant to us in Kono.
Can a large urban settlement like koidu and its environs, survive only on boreholes? In the days of NDMC pipeborne water ran from Koidu to koaquima, water pipelines ran all over yengema.
Not to say we do not appreciate the effort of those who are using their own hard earned resources to provide bore hole facilities for our needy communities – they’re filling a critical gap: half bread is better than none.
But if Makeni, Bo and Kenema cannot live on boreholes and water wells alone, why should a similarly large settlement like koidu be expected to? Bearing in mind Kono bore the brunt of destruction of the rebel war (around 94% of the entire district) yet rehabilitation continues at snail’s pace?
This is an issue that needs to be addressed!
* The light situation remains one of the worst in the country. In a district which, immediate post conflict, was designated by the UN and GoSL as one of the most impoverished, how do you expect the poor men and women who sweated to procure electricity supply and electrical equipments to make a living, only to witness continuous darkness and destruction of their hard earned equipments ( thanks to an erratic EGC/EDSA electricity service) to feel?
This a glaring gap that needs to be urgently addressed. I am aware government is striving to fast track the pending west African grid. Although we remain gleefully hopeful, it does not preclude us from watching, like mountain fat foot, to see how that particular project will finally pan out.
Quality govenment sponsored social housing has been, and continues to be provided, in districts that were relatively untouched, infrastructure-wise, by the war. Yet in Kono which saw 94% structural destruction in every town, village and hamlet, the clarion cry for desperately needed quality, low cost housing remains unheeded.
Go to Koidu, Motema, Yengema, the two Jaiamas, Tombodu etc etc etc and see the raft of burnt out houses still in existence, almost 19 years after the end of the war. You cannot but ask : What the hell’s going on?
This is a question we need to continue asking.
I still hear people whining about the burnt under five clinic at the government.
Are they not aware individual initiatives are already underway to expand under five bed access?
What more, are they not aware of the proposed ground breaking health facility expansion project pioneered by PIH and backed by government – the Maternal Health Center of excellence, that will provide loads more under five beds, radically reduce maternal/child mortality, provide training in a variety of in-country scarce medical disciplines eg orthopaedics, gynaecology, specialist nursing services etc? And for which project 18 to 20 million of the estimated 25 million dollar initial phase budget is already at hand? That will create over 700 direct essential services jobs?
Turning of the sod has aready taken place for commencement of this project. We now eagerly await turning of the cement and sand to best the required blocks for the structure.
Healthwise, we also need to be thankful for the commendable mainstream services provided at Dorma hospital and those provided by Hope ministry. Of note, I’m also told, are those provided by the Arab clinics.
Having said that, numerous peripheral chiefdom health centres/posts still face serious challenges requiring urgent remedial action.
The whole of planet earth knows Kono road infrastructure is one of the worst in the universe. This impacts negatively on the local economy by creating price hikes, transport injuries and fatalities, disruption to agricultural, health and education services to name but a few.
So it does not help when promised road projects are granted to contractors who, save one, glaringly underperform with apparent impunity.
When poorly constructed sidewalks, that have already caused serious injuries and fatalities, remain the order of the day despite numerous appeals on public radio for their rehabilitation. A similar case with the flawed edging to the Chinese road construct which, in places, is now in serious danger of eating, in time, right into the very heart of the road itself.
Why must this be?
The high rate of youth unemployment, both male and female, remains a source of great concern. Unemployment leads to gangsterism/cliques, theft, family discord and could lead to ultimate social upheaval.
Mining is not a reliable source of employment although its resources, if sensibly utilized within its period of existence, can change the face of a chiefdom, district or country for the better. But added to the gross environmental damage it causes, the extractive industry is not replenishable hence, not sustainable.
Kono has one of the most fertile soils in Sierra Leone. In 1976/77 I was the secretary of the Kono Farmers Federation.
That same year Kono significantly outperformed the much trumpeted Kailuhun district in both cocoa and coffee production. This just after receiving the district’s first ever significant input from IDA three years earlier of coffee, cocoa and palm oil seedlings. At this time I was serving as secretary of the Tankoro farmers association.
Agriculture is the highest employment sector in sierra leone. Which is why I remain baffled as successive governments pour millions of dollars into other agricultural districts, assuring them of sustainable employment and economic growth, leaving Kono to depend almost entirely on a unsustainable extractive mining industry. What happens after the diamonds and the environmental carnage?
Having said this I view with great delight the coming University of Science and Technology and the Maternal Centre of Excellence. Both present alternative routes to sustainable job creation, employment and human capital development.
I smile when I hear people expressing their concerns of indigenous intake into the university. I’d like to remind them that Konos ran Njala university as concurrent principal, vice principal, heads of departments for many years. They also headed FTC, Eastern polytechnic, have headed FBC and University of Sierra Leone and, I believe, still do. Every single clever, honest, mature sierra leonean head reading this piece will remember full well that their main contenders for top five positions at school – be it AA Freetown, CKC Bo, Bo School, Kenema government, Boys school magbruaka, St Francis etc etc, were the Kono students who often came first or second.
So let the doomsday prophets keep their worries to yourselves. Let them just bring us our university. The rest will be a history worth reading.
The current disruption to education in Kono is the result of the war. Pre-conflict, the likes of JSS nimikor, YSS yengema, KSS koidu were among the best performing schools in the country.
What irks me is the apparent indifference of some stakeholders who bear the responsibility towards certain issues requiring instant attention. And which have been brought up time without number but with no visible remedial action taken. Namely:
+ the unsightly overgrow vegetation on many of the sides of our roads. Both within and outside our main towns. Who is responsible?
+ the ongoing deplorable condition of the Konomanyi park. Who’s to blame?
+ the blocking of our water ways in Koidu with human waste and domestic/business filth. When will that be addressed?
+ two terms missing primary school fee subsidies for all primary schools in Tankoro and Toli chiefdoms. Where is it?
+ the unfinished bridge along the old yengema road to Kainsey. Why, after all these years, does it remain unfinished even when the contractor’s fees were paid?
+ the incompetent contractors along the Fiama and Gandorhun roads. Why are they still there?
+ EGC/ EDSA supremos of incompetence. Why the protracted unheralded blackouts without a care to notify or explain to the people?
Fortunately it’s not all doom and gloom. Many indignes (both ethnic Kono and non ethnic Kono) are now bent on developing their district. But there are still those residing out of Kono who’ve not contributed a dime to development issues in the district, but yap on daily in the most unobjective manner, through mouthfuls of spiced meats and swigs of beverage, as if the lives of the patriotic majority depended on their fruitless, air headed utterances.
What more, in these days when unity, gratitude, positive focus and effective networking are the required qualities, we have a tiny bunch of oafs who have nothing better to do than smear their betters and blast expletives all over social media, creating divisions and working towards blocking rather than promoting Kono district development. But they will surely fail!
In the meantime more power to those who appreciate the little that’s been put on the Kono plate while they continue to lobby for the larger amount which is our just desert.
In closing, I note that certain individuals have an indelible penchant for correcting the written English of others. It’s not a bad act, but might be better appreciated if one notified the culprit in private.
What more, don’t be like the person who tried to laugh at his companion because he pronounced “canoe” as “cahusu” by saying: “oohh una look de foolman! E say cahusu. Before e say GUNU!”
God bless us all.
Copyright: Komba David Sandi.