On Monday 14 August, the world awoke to reports of devastation caused by large-scale mudslides and localised flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s rapidly urbanising capital.
The death toll rose within a few days to approximately 500, with several hundred more people reported missing and thousands displaced. The full extent of this disaster and the exact losses are not immediately known and may never be fully investigated.
As the "political tension continues to mount ahead ofthe 2018 general elections, various communitieshave not benefited much from their local authorities and they had expressed seriousconcerns with regards to the way and manner in which party symbols areawarded to candidates representing them in state governance.
On the 25th August, 2017, nine communities converged to find a way forward for proper political representation in parliament.
Few countries can have exceeded Sierra Leone’s share of misfortune over the last three decades, including civil war and the world’s largest Ebola outbreak. Last week a mudslide devastated Regent, on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Freetown, killing more than 400 people. David Winter examines the country’s response to trauma.
The recent chaos at the Bethel Primary School compound at Pentagon in the east of Freetown by aid workers, who were struggling to control the swelling number of people scrambling for emergency relief materials, needs urgent attention.
I have been very quiet since the sad event but have been active behind the scenes giving a lot of advice where necessary to both the team of geologists as well as the joint technical team wherein there are some Civil Engineers. However, I have decided to break the silence as I have read so many theories being put forward by people who have no knowledge of landslide events. I would try not to be too technical in order for the layman to understand what may have gone wrong.
John Baimba Sesay Our resolve as a nation has been tested again. It has often been tested; a decade long civil war that led to the death of thousands of our people; an Ebola outbreak that saw the demise of our beloved ones and just recently, we have been hit by a disastrous mudslide, killing hundreds of people including women and children. Psychologically, we are broken, emotionally, we are shattered. But by our faith, we shall remain strong and be hopeful that with God, we shall rise again for we are a resilient nation. We fought a civil war for a decade, then came a time to put an end to it. We did that, today becoming a global example on issues of peace keeping and building.
May I use this opportunity to sincerely thank you; His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for your leadership in bringing sanity to Hajj Journey in the country since your inception in taking control of the Hajj in the year 2010.
May I also use this opportunity to personally thank you for putting the Sheep Saga during Hajj to rest as this was a real thorny issue which I, as a person staked my neck to put an end to despite all odds.
“It might be too early however, to think or conclude that President Koroma is directly involved in this blatant human rights abuse of his people. His actions in the coming days against Hajj Committee members that seemed to have let him down so badly, would put us in a better position to judge if he sanctioned this molestation on poor Muslims.”
This is an excerpt from an article I authored and published in the afternoon hours of yesterday, Saturday, 19th of August 2017, when news broke out that certain government officials have sold off government Hajj scholarships to foreign nationals.
I have seen your question and innuendoes you have been dumping on various social media groups in form of questions for me as Cabinet Minister with the mandate to handle religious affairs. I know you are doing it to try to sully my name as you did few weeks back - fruitlessly.
The answers to your questions and much more, will all tumble out as the days go by...
‘Papa God na Kareem... Papa God na Alim.’
Now, when last did you see anyone invite the Religious Affairs Minister when the President hosts religious groups at his State House office? As recently as last week when a Muslim agency went to donate cash for Hajj pilgrims, was it not the Honourable Vice President whom His Excellency the President invited to witness the occasion at State House? Did you see me there? Why did you not ask at that time as to the whereabouts of the Religious Affairs Minister?
The list of me being sidelined and undermined in matters to do with religious affairs is endless. The litany of examples abounds all over. So so undermine...
No Minister of Social Welfare in history of this country, has had their functions so brutally hijacked or their mandate so systematically undermined in the way that has been done to me. Everyone knows this. I am SYSTEMATICALLY subjected to regular MOLESTATION WITH NO PROTECTION!!!
And don't tell me it is because I am a woman. Mrs. Shirley Gbujama remains one of the most successful Social Welfare Ministers because she enjoyed unfettered support from President Kabbah.
Why should I be maligned and sidelined so badly? Only for you to turn and ask questions that are rhetorical and meant to anger me. You cannot rile me because I am smarter than getting angry or upset with you and your handlers.
Is it not always the Honourable Vice President who is shown in all matters religious at State House? When last you even see me face na television attending a presidential event that has to do with religious matters? Even when the Adejobi Bishop of Aladura visited the President from overseas, I learnt of it whilst watching TV that night.
Honestly, as it pleases the Head of State, so may it be. He is our Supreme Executive Authority and commands very high respect from me or I will have left this Government.
It is his decision to put his VP in charge of Hajj and make him the defacto Religious affairs pointsman... Let the chips all fall as they may.
The Ministry responsible for religious affairs & social welfare & gender was given 30 Hajj scholarships slots to spread all around the numerous applicants which numbered hundreds that wrote to us.
Before I fell sick (yes, I have been seriously sick with Liver and Lungs problems for over one week now), I had personally supervised the placement of names into the 30 slots.
I did this because I did not want to let the President down. We only got a mere 30 to spread nationwide and I wanted to submit to His Excellency only those persons proven as needy and having served their communities in the Muslim Faith, will go.
Guess What? Even some of our 30 slots were hijacked. Thank God that some of the most hardworking women who have served this nation, made it under my Ministry's few slots.
Because of transparency in my ministry, dynamic and well known women who applied to President Koroma have been able to go on Hajj.
Marie Bob Kandeh of Market Women
Nancy Kanu of Barefoot Solar Women
Mariama Sesay, the first elected Founding President of Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL)
Nationwide Nominees from Women's Forum including from 50-50 group and including a stark illiterate Muslim woman from Lokomasama.
Low-income Street traders
Two Muslim women from Bo Muslim community.
One Muslim woman from Kenema.
One Muslim woman from Kissi Teng, Kailahun
Kambia district female councillor who heads Social Welfare Committee in Kambia.
Chairladies of three Freetown mosques. One chosen from the East and another chosen from the West and one chosen from Central Freetown. I have never met these woman but they are chairladies in their mosques.
Mama Mbalu Wusha Conteh, a devout Muslim woman whose son is one of the bulwarks in Muslim journalism writings.
Two of our low income female compatriots who live in Banjul and have worked and believed in President Ernest Bai Koroma travelled by road to Freetown to apply for scholarship. They both got slots under the 30 scholarships.
I did not give Scholarship out to even a single Muslim relative of mine neither to my wonderful Foulah Tong people because the scholarships were not enough*
I benefitted from not even one single one that can be said was Minister Blyden's own personal relative or nominee. Not even ONE. I provided selfless service. Led the distribution of the 30 proposed slots to others and denied myself.
I now feel very proud.
The eulogies are already coming out en masse as needy women from across this land whom I had never met, but whom were carefully handpicked by ministry staff and endorsed by me, are all now safely in Mecca. May their pilgrimage be blessed.
The tributes for my leadership are pouring in from all over -About how I managed just 30 scholarship slots to be shared nationwide.
‼ Imagine if His Excellency the President had given me the chance to supervise and oversee the entire process?
Just imagine how PROUD our beloved President would have been by this time... Proud of how his Government transparently and successfully conducted the Hajj 2017 affairs! Just imagine ehn?
If I had been left to do my work as Social Welfare Minister, just imagine how PROUD our party the All Peoples Congress would have been by now?
But Papa God na Ya Alim. Ya Kareem. He Knows All and He Protects the Best. Que Sera Sera...
Please publish my above response verbatim in your DAILY MAIL Newspaper since you are passing from pillar to post in the name of asking questions for the paper you manage. May God guide and bless you. May He judge us all.
BELOW ARE STATEMENTS OF JOY FOR THE MINISTER’S FACILITATION OF THE 30 GOVERNMENT SCHOLARSHIPS THAT WERE PROVIDED TO HER
UNITED COUNCIL OF IMAMS BO, SOUTHERN PROVINCE OVERWHELMED WITH JOY AS DR. SYLVIA BLYDEN FACILITATES TWO NEEDY MUSLIM WOMEN FROM BO TO ATTEND HAJJ
Imam council in Bo are overwhelmed to learn that His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma through Hon.Sylvia Olayinka Blyden provided two scholarships to Islamic community based women in Bo.
We will send a letter of high appreciation to His Excellency the President through the Ministry of Social Welfare and Gender because "this is first time community Islamic women are specially targeted as women to benefit from such an opportunity".
Shiek Dauda Tarawally
Public Relations Officer
Regional Council of Imams.
THANK YOU PRESIDENT KOROMA AS DR. SYLVIA O. BLYDEN PUT SMILES ON APC GAMBIA.
The Gambia branch is so grateful to President Koroma for the two slots Gambia benefitted in this year's Hajj package.
Madam Salamatu Conteh and Mrs. Kadiatu B Koroma, both petty traders and staunch members of the party branch in the Gambia,with faith, travelled by road; a long journey which took them four days and nights with the hope of being pilgrims in this year's Hajj.--a hard time they had of it.
Upon reaching Freetown, our ladies didn't know where to start but for the love, industry and timely intervention of our Gender Minister, Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden, their hope was restored. She assured our ladies that, although she had a very limited quota, she will not let them return to Banjul clapping hands.
In utter disbelief, I received a call from the Minister asking me as Chairman of Gambia to identify the two ladies and their membership to the party branch.
In less than 24 hours again, Dr. Blyden called the branch confirming that 'because of the faith of the two ladies in President Koroma', vis a vis their pivotal roles in APC Gambia, they will benefit in this year's hajj package. As I write this piece, Madam Salamatu Conteh and Mrs. Kadiatu Baby Koroma are in the holy land of Mecca.
Thank you President Koroma for appointing Dr. Blyden to serve in your government. She cares and listens attentively to the "cry of the African woman".
Thank you Dr. Blyden for your diligent role in government and for lifting the spirit of APC Gambia.
God bless President Koroma, God bless Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden, God bless Sierra Leone.
WOMEN'S FORUM THE UMBRELLA BODY FOR ALL WOMEN GROUPS THANKS SYLVIA BLYDEN FOR MAKING SURE SOME OF PRESIDENT KOROMA'S HAJJ SCHOLARSHIP REACHED NEEDY WOMEN
We once again thank our Honourable Minister Dr Sylvia Blyden for slotting in the five Women's Forum members - women who are serving the nation to participate in this years Hajj. Irrespective of the 30 quota she received, she equitably shared them all over Sierra Leone.
Dishonesty from others may have made her fall ill because hopes of other deserving female pilgrims were shattered. Honorable May God grant you healing. Those whose hopes were shattered, you now see the reasons why.
How we wish Minister Blyden had been in complete control of the whole activity. JUSTICE IS MINE I WILL REPAY says the Lord.
My people will rest in peace, though you tear them apart into pieces. Ain’t you sorry, Mount Sugarloaf?
And you are not even ashamed that your action does not represent your sweet name – Sugarloaf?
Oh shame on you Sugarloaf! You cannot even be man enough to face your fellow giants as fat and high as you are. You will rather pick fights with tiny, weak and defenseless humans. Shame oh shame on you.
On Monday, 14th August 2017 while on a trip abroad, I learnt of the terrible tragedy caused by natural disaster that has befallen various communities in the Western Area of Freetown.
While the full scale of the devastation to lives and properties caused by the flooding and mudslide are being assessed, initial reports indicate that over three hundred citizens have lost their lives and billions of Leones worth in properties have been destroyed.
As the March 7, 2018 elections approach, the nation of Sierra Leone is at a crossroad and so many things in the nation depend on the outcomes of those elections.
However, we must as a people stop for a moment to assume the posture of reflection and even introspection so that we can avoid the mistakes of the past in order to ensure that the nation is accorded the opportunity to recover from the ills of the past, bounce back in sound political health and move in the right direction especially because there is the urgent need to deliver the true dividends of democracy on a sustainable basis to the masses of the people that have been victims of bad governance in the past with clear reference to the one party state and military regimes.
Just before the publication of my autobiography “Looking back – My Life And Times” I stopped writing; I stopped active political activities except that I would go to SLPP headquarters and pour libation to the founding Fathers and past Leaders.
Nobody, seeing many of the photographs of the damage caused by mudslides – especially the loss of life and to a leas extent the buildings and property, could fail to be awestruck, depressed by the devastation and remain silent.
The people of Kenya are still mauling over their controversial election results, days after the electoral commission announced that the incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta has won another term of office.
The controversial results have once again brought Kenya close to the edge of the precipice. More than ten people are now reported dead, as opposition supporters take to the streets in defiance of president Kenyatta’s call for calm and acceptance of the election results.
Looking at the very recent past, we see opposition politicians sounding offbeat as if they are out of step with reality and the practical issues that people face on a day to day basis. They rarely come out with real issues or oppose government in a constructive way but rely on misinformation, false propaganda and fake news.
Forty-six (46) years ago today, 29th July, 2017, the Republic of Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China entered into diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level, an event marking the birth of a long and lasting cooperation beyond the bilateral level.
As Teddy said, Peace and Conflict Study is very important and he has benefited immensely.As KKY said, the number of students offering Peace and Conflict at FBC are so many that the supply of graduates far exceeds the societal demand, hence high unemployment.