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PONDER MY THOUGHTS

BY

Andrew Keili

ONLY IN SIERRA LEONE
This is the start of 2019 and I wish you all a happy and fruitful new year. Many people are consumed by discussions on political issues and these are often too partisan, with good reasoning often thrown out the window. Though I cannot claim not to be part of the discourse, I have chosen to write the first article for 2019 on a lighter note. Let us ponder on a few things that have happened over the past year and some in the new year that make us in Sierra Leone peculiar (well not quite-almost). 
Strange bedfellows- ‘tis a season of peace…or is it?

There are no permanent enemies. Political pundits have gone on overdrive to explain the recent rapprochement between former President Ernest Koroma and his estranged former Vice President, Sam Sumana who went through political hell, was disrobed and disemboweled. He later went into the political wilderness only to resurrect and become a thorn in the flesh of the party which disowned him. Than was then and this is now! Some people have referred to the rapprochement which included a public embrace and sharing of food with multitudes of supporters as akin to the story of the prodigal son. That cannot be further from the truth. The prodigal son did not get thrown into the wilderness- He left of his own accord and went away with plenty. This “prodigal son” was thrown out and has come back. Maybe the father will still “kill the fatted calf” for him and call others to wine and dine-we will see. Who says this is not the season of goodwill? Not surprisingly, people on the opposite side (you know what I mean) are pondering over what this means. Some suggestions have even been made that we may see some more strange political bedfellows coming together. There is no doubt that not everyone in these factions getting together will embrace peace willy nilly. 
Some would argue that Sumana’s peace overtures may have come at a cost. According to Sumana. His overtures to President Bio appeared to be rebuffed and his security details have been withdrawn, leaving him “exposed”. “No”. says Assistant Inspector General of Police, F.U.K. Dabo.-“We were merely trying to rotate them”. On being questioned further on Radio Democracy, it became apparent that ‘The peacemaker” was not informed about the plans for “rotation” and the “rotation” itself involved a massive reduction in the security personnel to two-may be the “shaking” during the “rotation” was too robust, making some of them fall off! “This in fact was a mere courtesy as he was not entitled to such perks as a “dismissed” Vice President”, Dabo continued. All of this is notwithstanding the fact that the SLPP was overtly supportive of the conclusions of the Ecowas court on the Sam Sumana case. Whatever the case---- “blessed are the peacemakers”…”for they shall see trouble!”. 
And talking about strange bedfellows who would have thought the Alliance Democratic Party leader Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray will be applauded by APC? Applauding Kamaraimba for lambasting the SLPP gives true meaning to the saying ”the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. or is it what the saying is? Kamaraimba and APC are strange bedfellows.
I can’t resist but remind you of the embrace between Deputy Internal Affairs Minister, Philip Tondoneh and Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki Sawyer after that public falling out in which all hell was let loose. Blessed are the peacemakers. Whoever brokered the deal did a good job. I had wanted to ask Minister Tondoneh if the Mayor paid for those trucks but have advised myself not to!
Butterscotch and cucumber good for swimming
My attention was drawn to a story in Awoko: “Sierra Leone Sports: Butterscotch and cucumber seller becomes a national swimmer”. One can’t help but be impressed with the way we choose our national swimmers-yes swimmers! Apparently, there is now water in the stadium swimming pool and we have started producing swimmers for international events! Some people are indeed destined for greatness and good fortune may come your way, no matter your station in life. Take the case of Tity Nuru Dumbuya, a butterscotch and cucumber seller whose swimming prowess was discovered by the National Technical swim coach. She has now become a national swimmer.

According to the National Technical coach, Tity used to sell butterscotch and cucumbers at the pool. She was asked to try swimming and excelled. The 15-year old is taking her training seriously because she wants to represent the country and win medals. But how did she get identified? -The Secretary General of the Association, Mohamed Turay, said the technical team was impressed with her height and thought she might be a good swimmer. According to Awoko, “Turay said that Dumbuya’s identification was part of the FINA Olympic Assistance Support Project (OASP) and he said they were impressed with Tity’s first time trial for the14th FINA World Swimming championship in Hangzhou, China-out of the four females who took part she came first in the 50 metre Freestyle with a time of 43 seconds and in the Butterfly with a time of 55:36 seconds”. Tity is now part of the national swimming team’s plan for the Olympic games in Japan 2020. And who says butterscotch and cucumber are not good for swimming?

Those infrastructure thieves again-hang ‘em high!
And what is it that leads some unpatriotic people to steal anything remotely ‘stealable’. We are well aware of people stealing electricity pylons and making pots out of them or draining oil from electricity transformers for unknown purposes which may sometimes include frying pancakes. I wrote a while ago about people stealing aggregate meant for building roads and spreading it in their backyards. A favourite story of mine is the Chiefs in Tongo allowing the building of houses on the airstrip formerly owned by NDMC as if they never expect any plane to land there again.

Now comes the story of a security guard, Gibrilla Kalokoh, who was charged for allegedly stealing over $137,000 USD worth of rail parts that belonged to the Shandong Steel Company Limited. Kalokoh is said to have conspired with others to steal rail bars metal, rail shippers and rail chips worth $137,000 USD along the Shandong steel railway line on Maforki Chiefdom in the Port Loko District.

Kalokoh was arrested and charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and larceny contrary to Section 2 of the Larceny Act of 1916-Yes 1916. Time, we updated our laws to deal with infrastructure thieves and include more onerous punishments.
Justice delayed, denied and ignored
Our criminal justice system keeps coming under the microscope. The Civil society organization, Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) cites the 50th Anniversary corruption case for which no judgment has been given for almost 7 years, several land cases which are pending in court and cases lasting so long that they outlive the litigants who die whilst awaiting justice. Inefficiency of judges and inordinate workload of judges have all been cited as causative factors. This is not surprising with only 24 working judges for a country of seven million people. “This is a recipe for injustice on a grand scale,” said a CHRDI press release. According to CHRDI, there are 648 criminal cases pending in the High Court as at March 2018; 737 civil cases pending; 33 Criminal cases reserved with no judgement; 122 civil cases reserved; and the 1,540 cases currently being heard by 24 judges”. It is no surprise therefore that citizens get detained for unduly long periods unlawfully, thus violating their human dignity and destroying their lives. 
CHRDI say “to detain citizens without charges or judgment and with no regard for due process is in clear violation of the laws of Sierra Leone and a contravention of international Human Rights Law”. CHRDI also laments the interference of politics into the judicial process-“We also find it very troubling that despite several efforts by the country’s development partners to isolate the judiciary from politics, Judges and other court personnel still face significant pressure to rule in favour of powerful political or business entities rather than in accordance with the laws of Sierra Leone.”

Then there are the cases of witnesses, victims and jurors absenting themselves from court, either because of sheer frustration from a host of causes or neglect. Distances travelled to attend court cases, the number of adjournments and the length of cases are enough to discourage anyone. A High Court Judge in Kenema, Justice Ivan Ansumana Sesay, said witnesses and victims often do not appear in court, which results in delays and throwing matters out of court. Justice Alusine Sesay last November ordered the arrest and detention of 67 jurors for a short period.

Many people are of the opinion that as long as you have money to spend, the criminal justice system is unlikely to entrap you. Contrast this with the unfairness to 36-year-old Alex Bockarie who was jailed for 1 year 10 Months for stealing cassava, costing fifteen thousand Leones or the poor lady in Gershon who stole chicken. She was paraded around town naked, with live chicken tied to her back. I could hear you asking Gerihun? Yes, civilized Gerihun with the yellow painted Cathedral on the Bo-Kenema highway.

Strange habits of the police
A friend of mine made a very poignant observation recently about something I had never thought about relating to the Sierra Leone Police. He opined- “The Police are for AGIP-any government in power. The same Police that used to point guns at opposition factions outside the APC Office immediately did a 180-degree rotation and turned their guns towards the APC office after the elections”. I know this is metaphorical language but if recent happenings are to be diagnosed the Police are true to form. I wonder if the statistics of when political arrests are made at the CID are available. I have kept pondering if Fridays are the only days when handcuffs are available for politically linked people that are arrested?

Order from that SLPP East Urban District Chairman
In case companies in the East End are in any doubt that there was now a change in the political dispensation and business as usual would not be condoned, I reproduce verbatim a letter from the “Desk of the SLPP East Urban District Chairman. The letter reads:
“I have been mandated by the District Chairman Mr. John Gbondo Margai of the governing party, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) to write and inform all companies to put on hold all scholarship awards, the payment of all cooperative social responsibility allowances until the Ministry of Local Government officially elects the community Chairman and Chief. I hope all Managing Directors should treat this information with the importance it deserves to avoid embarrassment.”
Brewery, Leocem, Bollore etc,-You have been warned! Please check if the Ministry of Local Government has now elected the community Chairman and Chief before getting involved in any cooperative social responsibility!

Ponder my thoughts

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