By Ralph Sesay
There are mixed feelings down the Northern Province of Sierra Leone the traditional stronghold of the All Peoples Congress party. Even though the party secured the majority in parliament they lost the presidency to the Sierra Leone Peoples Party that has been in opposition for the past ten years.
The SLPP under the leadership of military strongman Rtd. Brigadier Bio has been able to steadily infiltrate into the strongholds of the APC party in the North and the West, while also narrowing their votes in the East and South where they used to command between 20 to 25 % of the total votes in previous elections. This push was able to hand them victory in the second round of the Presidential runoff polls after they also narrowly led in the first rounds with over fourteen thousand votes.
This election victory for the SLPP sent down shocking waves to the North and Northerners who have different views as to what they think about the Ernest Koroma led administration in the last ten years. His stewardship to the people in this region who have voted overwhelmingly for the party and also supported it through thick and thin has been debated in this populous region since the announcement of the results. The views have been further divided along ethnic and tribal lines depending who you talk to.
As for the typical Limbas hailing from Safroko Limba and Biriwa in the Bombali District, Kafe Simira and Kalansogoia in Tonkolili, they had virtually accused the APC Government of not taking them seriously in terms of bringing development or making political appointments to high positions of trust throughout the ten years rule.
They have based their argument on the fact that the President has failed to bring development to these areas that would have transformed the lives of the people since according to them they have sacrificed and remain APC all through their lives. Their children continue to walk long distances to School, while their pregnant women continue to walk miles and miles away to access health care facility. Farmers have not been able to access loans and Agricultural implements that would move them from subsistence farming to higher productivity in terms of yields.
Chiefs and other traditional stakeholders in these areas have also complained of being totally sidelined in the governance arrangements in the country.
“The President could hardly communicate or speak to us or listen to pieces of advice we would offer as our contribution. He has refused to answer my calls or respond to my texts since 2013 “a prominent chief who wants to remain anonymous is quoted as saying.
Take for instance Biriwa, (Kamabia) where his mother hailed from. The people have complained of not having a single infrastructure to point at throughout the ten-year rule except a single uncompleted multi- purpose Community Center and a Financial Services Bank. The area does not even have solar facilities not to say a befitting health center amidst the hugely trumpeted ‘Free Health Care’ Scheme of the Government.
Safroko Limba (Binkolo) and other areas have also suffered a similar fate in the hands of the Ernest Koroma Government. Even when Binkolo and its environs squarely fall within the seven miles radius of the Makeni City they could not benefit from electricity which remains a basic necessity.
This state of affairs is a little bit different with the Limba areas in Kambia and Port Loko as the appointment of very strong indigenes in these areas into the Koroma Cabinet in the likes of Alimamy Petito Koroma and Dr.Sam Sesay was able to make visible developments in these areas.
These chiefdoms with the exception of Biriwa have also been further subjected to untold hardship and suffering as a result of the emergence of African Minerals, Sierra Leone Limited Mining Company now Shandong Iron Ore Steel Group. Huge lands, plantations and other livelihood crops have been exploited in these Communities by the Iron Ore Company to make way for the 200 KM railway line stretching from the port at Pepel to the Mines in Bumbuna. This multinational company has continued to pay pittance to land owners and communities as surface rent under the watchful eyes of the Ernest Koroma regime.
These areas have also suffered environmentally as a result of noise and dust pollution emanating from the activities of the Iron Ore Company. Corporate Social Responsibility issues has been treated with disdain, while youths from these areas have been conditionally offered menial jobs such as security, cleaners etc at the expense of foreign experts whose stay in the country to basically transfer skills to nationals has been relatively slow and compromised by greedy and corrupt Labour and Mines Government officials.
This state of affairs many believed is in direct contrast to what has happened over the last ten years in the Loko and Temneh areas which happens to be the President paternal side. Yoni for example a very small village approximately seven (7) miles from Makeni has enjoyed uninterrupted electricity for over three years now. The village which was almost rebuilt upon his assumption to power in 2007, houses the University of Makeni Law and School of Accountancy and management campuses with full fledged internet connectivity. The Tarmac road leading from Makeni to the Guinea Border through Yoni and Kamakwie was also initiated by the Koroma Government against other economically viable areas in the country to hugely make way for developments in his paternal side.
The story is the same for Makeni, Magburaka which people say has witnessed an unprecedented development in the last ten years. These developments according to many have also witnessed the appointment of very senior officials in Government from these areas at the expense of the Limba people. His appointment in these areas many say has also been largely influenced by his religious faith as a member of the Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone one of the largest and oldest denominations in the North of the country.
Another factor he took religiously into consideration into his appointments that had left out the Limba ethnic tribe is the Magburaka Old Boys Secondary School factor which also saw the appointment of a huge number of old boys who have attended the School especially during his days.
Many Limbas in these areas especially the young generation have threatened to form another political party come 2023 as according to them the future of their tribe in the APC has been eroded over the past years. They are of the opinion that they have been used and dumped in the last ten years especially by the Koroma regime.