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I am mother Sierra Leone

The church bell ominously tolls
Such familiar rhythm for decades its import incongnito
Sorrowful lyrics, oblivious its message or harbinger
‘Tis no merry sports, but nagging and daunting.

Unassailable our course as turbid our retreat
Opaque dark clouds hover to canopy our sordid deeds
Omniscient master I beseech, make known thy grievance.

The church bell knells as the owl hoots
My kindred spirts process in panic for yonder fields.

Even black birds make desert their cotton tree abode
Most cowards play doubting Thomas for two twice a fee?
This no friendly signs,
darkness brings gripping spirits
As daylight the ever sickening anticipation of unexpected.
Omnipotent master I entreat, pardon their infirmities.

I am me; mother Sierra Leone in decay
My propensity for self inflicted pity truly
Yields dividend than honest toil.
For I make Sports with their hopes and coin them into profit.
Such is my trade, their ignorance my merchandise.
I merry in this cunning purchase of my wealth.
Hoodlums my course do applaud,
nonentities cheer for my pittance.

I am that I am, say what you may
Brother’s ghost haunts all about
in blood stained Hands

When judge will come to just,
nemesis and retribution be theirs

Posterity weeps,
our leaders our elites in avaricious gluttony.
This our music-sorrow, poverty-
A statistical representation,
as I exist to retrogress than to progress

By George Akaragwe.

MAY 31ST 2000

A commoner writes the president


Your Excellency,

I have the honour most respectful to write you, Net tiff-tiff don begin

People are no longer safe in their houses. The spate of night armed robbery has restarted, and the pace is quite considerable. Areas in the east end of the city are no longer peaceful.

PE is always awakened during the night by sounds of gun fire and the wailing of defenceless civilians. If it’s not Mountain Cut, it would be up Mount Aureol, Circular Road or Fourah Bay. and I hope you will take some few seconds off your busy schedule to read this. This is an opportunity I will manage not to slip from me, as I have been dying for such to write you. That besides, your Excellency, as I am weighed with a heavy heart due to the events of the last two weeks, I humbly believe that by writing you, it will help in downloading this depression of my heart.

First of all I will like to congratulate you for sticking to the Lome Peace Accord despite the unfortunate events that have of late characterised this nation. That particular stance of yours I warmly welcome because, the degenerating security situation in the city would have been capitalised upon by some blood-thirsty sycophants and pro-democracy fanatics, to reinstitute a circle of violence. No doubt your Excellency, that scenario would have resulted in a complete breakdown of law and order reminiscent to those that happened in Rwanda and Burundi. There were people who were by then ready to settle scores with certain people all in the name of protecting democracy. This country would have no doubt been reduced to the likes of Somalia where the powerful and the armed are the authorities.

In our own case, believe me your Excellency, it would have been extremely worse. Imagine, we had not even gone 50 percent through the DDR programme,and there was the possibility that families, relatives and friends of our SLA brothers would have been targeted. What a pro-active response especially the West side Jungle SLAs would have taken! It would have been a massacre, a pogrom, a genocide. Where would you then be? Surely in the safety net of UNAMSIL.

But having said that your Excellency, one thing that is causing me nausea is your dullness, your ineptitude to take decisions especially when such is highly expected of you by us, the ordinary people, who look up to you as our succour and hope.

Medieval kings gave themselves the attribute of ‘GODS ON EARTH’, as they were the determinants of the destiny of their subjects. Even modern theories don’t entirely deviate from that, though there are certain limitations to modern-day leadership.

Let me ask you, Your Excellency, where were you when things were almost getting worse for your people? What were you doing exactly when the entire security apparatus of this country was in limbo? You see your Excellency, the welfare and security of the ordinary people should be paramount on your agenda at all times. These need not to be fiddled with.

You see Sir, I admire you as a perfect administrator - no contest. But unfortunately, you came into the political limelight at the wrong time, with the wrong set of people around you. Hadn’t it not been so, I bet my life, you would have transformed this country of ours. I see you as one that is much akin to party ideologies at the expense of the common people. You are aware that you came from the wilderness; you were merely used by those around you now to gain what they are now. Any advice that they may wish to give you, Sir, will only be meant at fortifying their present status. Period... What ever happens to the remaining 98 percent, is not their concern. I beseech you to check that out, and to employ some degree of political correctiveness.

Your Excellency, you may tend not to take these my humble points into consideration, but as a member of the downtrodden class, a victim of political impropriety, I see it incumbent on me to make them known to you. Sir, it seems to me that you have been mesmerised into believing that even without a formidable, dedicated and patriotic army for this nation, the so-called civil militia group can provide security. No contest about that. This has been proven by your previous actions, and now it seems that you are at it again.

That action of yours in particular is the fundamental nucleus for the protraction and mass destructive level of the war. Have it in mind that the constitution of which you are the torchbearer guarantees such an institution. No sovereign state can go without an army.

What fears have you over the army? Be it the AFRC loyalists or the so-called new army, they are all the same. There is this addage in our popular parlance that “ARMY MAN DEM ALL NA ONE FAMBUL;” they cannot be disintegrated. They are better united than divided. No contest; our own case here has proven that as correct.

You see, those around you are making you not to have trust in these soldiers. Believe you me Sir, if it were you alone, the soldiers would adore you. Do you think chairman Johnny Paul Koroma has any desire for your seat? This man deserves commendation from all quarters. Had he too been asleep as you and your ministers were, by now you would be drinking coffee in any of the neighbouring countries.

Look Sir, I want to challenge you that some of your men were quite aware of what was about to happen. Imagine your Attorney General stating publicly that with only fifty men, a coup would have succeeded.

Is this not complete negligence and irresponsibility on the part of your government? Sir, Johnny Paul made a dire patriotic move in salvaging this nation on your behalf. Now I am hearing that you are advised not to give him and his boys arms and ammunition. I want to believe, like thousands other Sierra Leoneans, that he was not forced into action. Instead he could have seized opportunity over the dead security situation to do his liking, any contest?

Your Excellency, I commit you to the hands of pro-activeness. Remember you have been warned by the women that next time round it will be you just as it happened to Foday Sankoh.

May God Bless us all,

Sayoh Kamara - A Commoner.

MARCH 2000

In the continuing interview, Dr. Conteh was asked what has been the result of the survewillance so far.
Conteh: We started active surveillance in August, 1999 and so far 32 cases have been detected, reported and investigated with stool specimen collected and sent to (the Pasteur Institute) in Abidjan. We have received about 28 results so far and three of them have proved positive, two of them for wild poliovirus and the other is ethro-virus. The two wild poliovirus are from Port Loko and Kenema and the paralytic ethro-virus is from Kenema also.

Q:What should be done in this case?
Conteh: Two of those who had positive result are Quite okay, they walk very well. Only one with the wild poliovirus in Kenema has some paralysis. What I can say is that not all paralysis cases are due to polio. If the child is paralysed and brought to the clinic, there are two benefits. One, we can be able to capture the child and put the child into a surveillance system, secondly, if the child is brought early, the child can be helped, the paralysis can be reversed, because not all paralysis cases are due to poliomyelitis, prompt action from the medical staff can reverse the situation.

Q: What agencies and organisations have been instrumental in asisting the AFP programme?
Conteh: The eradication itself is a global effort. The agency that is very much involved in assisting is the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is the advisory organisation for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Also, Rotary International is involved as well as UNICEF in addition to other NGOs. The agencies assist us in transporting stool specimen form the provinces where we do not have means of proper transportation.WHO is very instrumental in this as all support for the surveillance system comes through the organisation.

Q: Why is AFP now being put on a high stage which was not the case in the past three rounds held last year?
Conteh: AFP goes in to actually evaluate what the National Immunization Days (NIDs) had done and to see that they are successful. The NIDs are to make sure that every child in this country gets a supplemental dose of the vaccine to prevent the child from having polio. You cannot evaluate something which has not been done, so that is why the AFP surveillance has been lagging behind to see that the NIDs go further to immunize all children and then AFP would come in to evaluate what has happened. The AFP surveillance is now taking off.

Q: With your continued surveillance, are you hopeful that there is the strong possibility that polio will be totally eradicated this year?
Conteh: I am quite convinced. We have high quality NIDs in Sierra Leone. If we continue the success we have been having, the commitment both from the political will and also from the technical people, the UN agencies and NGOs, I am sure the coming four rounds will cover the country and if we do, then by the end of the year 2000, the AFP surveillance will tell the Minister of Health that there is no more polio virus existing in Sierra Leone.

Q: Let us talk about your personnel. How strong are you on the ground?
Conteh: We have personnel in every district in the country. The District Medical Officer is the Co-ordinator in the provinces for both AFP surveillance and also for NIDs. We are using the structure of the NIDs. The NIDs have gone so far, starting fromthe community upwards and we are using those structures. We are also using all staff involved in NIDs so that we can be able to get the cases of AFP. We are also now going to use the community and in this country, the paralysed child in the family is like a stigma. So we are going to intensify the social mobilization part of the AFP surveillance. The good thing is the social mobilization team, which has so much been involved in mobilizing the mothers and children for the NIDs have now fully taken on board the AFP surveillance. So the involvement of AFP will now be very, very strong. We have Surveillance Officers in each District and officials in the central level and planning to set up an Expert Committee for AFP Surveillance. NIDs and AFP are not vertical programmes, the only difference is that one person is undertaking surveillance and the other party, the immunization.

Q: Why do you take the stools to either Abidjan or Paris? Are there no local laboratory to handle this?
Conteh: We do not have the means to isolate the virus in this country. Even in countries where they have the mandate, this is a global action and WHO has some few accredited laboratories worldwide. These are the laboratories that have been identified for stool specimen to be sent there and for the isolation of the poliovirus. Abidjan has one of the WHO accredited laboratories. MAKING SIERRA LEONE POLIO FREE ROUND ONE MARCH 25 &26 ORAL POLIO VACCINE (OPV) ROUND TWO APRIL 22 & 23 ORAL POLIO VACCINE (OPV) ROUND THREE MAY 20 & 21 ORAL POLIO VACCINE (OPV) (VITAMIN A WILL ALSO BE ADMINISTERED) ROUND FOUR JUNE 17 & 18 ORAL POLIO VACCINE (OPV)
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