October 1, 2022

It is a phrase commonly used by people hoping to get something out of someone they believe can help them, mostly of a financial nature. The many young men that call the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) headquarters at Wallace Johnson Street home have said that the party under President Julius Maada Bio has reduced them to beggars, something they said was far from all the things they had imagined could possibly go wrong under the New Direction government.

Going by the name Soja Team, you see them everywhere holding boxes, pans, pots, even plates with raw rice going from office to office, person to person, vehicle to vehicle begging. These grassroots SLPP supporters said the party has reduced its unemployed and unemployable youths to begging, adding that this is what the party does to them between elections when they are not needed or useful to the party.

‘The, “Bra u borbor dey o” way of doing things has become the order of the day. It is like civilised begging. We have to do this to survive or things could get worse for us,’ said one of them as he held a plate of raw rice while he and his colleagues begged from car to car around the party office ‘for soup money.’

The young men said while they will never leave the SLPP, ‘but the time has come for us to really consider uniting with the rest of the country against the party.’

‘We have given so much to this party but we still have nothing to show for it. Our friends and families, especially our girlfriends and wives laugh at us. They said we go all around the country during elections, but after the party wins we are left out in the cold.’

Asked if they have any employable skills, the majority of them mentioned that they can drive but had not been given driving jobs by the regime. They said there is currently no peace in the party as the majority of them are complaining about the way the government has been running the people’s affairs. ‘It is shameful for us to hear daily about “this amount of money cannot be accounted for, that amount of money was not used the right way”. With all that money in their pockets, under their mattresses and in foreign banks yet these guys would say they are broke whenever we come to them for assistance.’

The youth said from the onset the Bio led government started showing its true colours when President Bio stopped coming to the party’s headquarters. They said even when he visits the provinces he rarely stops at the party’s district headquarters.

‘The ruling New Direction government has lost touch with the grassroots. We are only needed for elections to do what we do for them to win. Many people from far and wide are planning on making it difficult for Bio to win next year. The president should know that times have changed; today’s youth are not the same as those from the 80s and 90s. We don’t want a bag of rice and a million leones; we want jobs with which we can take care of ours and the needs of our families and other loved ones. We don’t want hand-outs, we want to make our own way.’

Moving with these young men from office to office, shop to shop and even public transport, they said they have become beggars under a regime that was supposed to be theirs, during the reign of the man that promised them so much but have done nothing to alleviate their stress.

‘Imagine if this government had done all it promised in the 2018 manifesto. Imagine if we had even continued with the projects that Ernest Bai Koroma started; we would have all been gainfully employed on those projects. But for the past four years all these guys have been doing is stealing from us and using us to use violence to scare the people. Well, even a fool has to gain some sense eventually. This regime has opened our eyes that far from being sentimental we should be demanding results from our leaders. Where they fail to deliver, it is our duty to join the rest of the country and put someone else in the president’s seat.’

The young men said they would rather beg than steal, citing many of their friends who are either dead, badly injured, in jail or facing court cases (for which they cited Arata Paopa and Game Terro who are currently on trial for alleged robbery, assault and carrying offensive weapons).   

After managing to raise Le115,000, this journo joined them in their preparation of the food and the meal that followed. Looking seriously lost and often caught in deep reflection, these young men who are sometimes accused of causing all the election violence across the nation, looked nothing like the brute they are supposed to be. They looked more like sheep without a shepherd. 

‘What we really need is a leader that can take us to our Promised Land of milk and honey. We just want to work and stop embarrassing ourselves daily begging. PAOPA has reduced us to beggars during our regime. I am ashamed to say I regret ever voting for Bio. But we only have another year. Even within the party there is no one that will honestly tell you that they are not disappointed by this government. We were hoping for a New Direction. What we are experiencing is the same old bullsh**t from the past. We didn’t even suffer this much under Bai Koroma.’