September 28, 2022

By Mohamed Juma Jalloh
The Easter period is globally renowned as a period of great spirituality and conviviality. For Christians it is a moment to reflect on the momentous life lived by Jesus Christ. That name represents a central character to all Abrahamic faiths, including Islam. It evokes the supernatural in the minds of many people. Some Christian denominations regard him as the God incarnate, while some revere him as the Prophet Saviour that will lead men to eternal life.
In Sierra Leone, Easter is one of the most enjoyed holidays by Christians who ponder on the evil conspiracy of men. The period is engulfed by both grief and merriment. Christians contemplate on the devilish conspiracy that led to the crucifixion and eventual rise of the savior to the heavens.
As the world is now engulfed by a common stranger called COVID 19,people are living in abnormal times. Rigid and stringent measures are unilaterally applied depending on the country, all geared towards curtailing the spread of the pandemic.
Sierra Leone initially proclaimed a three days lockdown, subsequently followed by a two weeks partial lockdown. A combination of police and military personnel are out in the streets enforcing a 9pm curfew. Everyone is expected indoors at that time.
The country has confirmed 11 positive cases of the Corona virus. Depending on the confirmed positive cases of the Covid 19,the curfew restrictions might be reviewed after the initial two weeks. In the midst of all the COVID 19 restrictions many Sierra Leoneans celebrated the Good Friday and the Easter holidays rather serenely. For children it is like artistic creativity has been lost.
All across the capital city, Freetown,it is very disappointing not to spot a single kite up the sky. On this period, children normally fly paper or plastic kites mimicking the wonderful ascent of Jesus Christ in Heaven.
Present generation of children are computer savvy. They are more interested in playing with gadgets such as mobile phones and television games. To the less unfortunate ones they were roaming the streets of Freetown half naked. The Easter holiday is longer because it begins on Good Friday and runs throughout the weekend on to the start of the week.
For many civil servants, who do not work on Saturdays, the holiday resembles a day added on to the three days lockdown. Most Corona sensitive government workers, who don’t want to risk wallowing aimlessly, stayed at home. With enough storage of food and drinks, there is nothing to worry about.
Many Sierra Leoneans celebrated Easter at home with a hand pick of few friends and loved ones. Some homes prepared jollof rice and covertly instructed infant emissaries to deliver the food to neighbours.
Food is now the most essential commodity in the midst of the COVID 19. The screws on the restrictions might be lessened or tightened depending on the magnitude of the Corona impact. A surplus storage of food is not only wise but pre-emptive in the event of an imminent food crisis.
Out in the neighbourhood the atmosphere looks tranquil save the sound of Afro-beats from the windows of some houses. Some youths cannot be restrained by COVID 19.Many ventured out in their localities converging in places popularly called “Ghettos”. These are spots used by young men as a market place of ideas and at the same time indulging in intoxication.
On Easter Monday, as the youths flock in their numbers, people were advised to disperse for the fear of inviting the presence of the police. At a particular place in Brookfields some youths, under the influence of alcohol, refused to disperse.In violation of the Corona restrictions, the Police were called in, prompting the arrest of about a dozen people.
Without any form of protection, like hand gloves and face masks, the police were bundling people as if they are oblivious of the present Corona virus situation.If there is a suspected Corona case amongst the arrested people, there is an increased possibility for the disease to metastasizing.
Out and about in the streets police presence was skeletal. In some major junctions around town only one or two traffic officers were visible. The roads were fairly empty as pedestrians walk along while vehicles speedily sped, some loaded with children.
Despite the social distancing, couples and seemingly young lovers casually take a stroll around, enjoying the cool atmosphere. Even the hideous contagious means of the virus cannot scare lovers away from the streets. As the day dies down approaching sunset, the transportation hassle begins to pick up.
People in large numbers were converged at main junction routes, hopping to return back home. Transport commuters employed their usual tricks when the numbers of passengers getoverwhelmed. Mini bus drivers immediately changed their termination destinations. Many Waterloo passengers ended up stranded along the main BaiBureh Road highway.
In order not to be overtaken by the exigency of getting late beyond the 9pm curfew, passengers have to incur extra costs. Some have to endure a four way trip to get to Waterloo. One passenger explains the extra financial costs of living in a hilltop environment. The roads are only accessible to motorcycles that charge extra costs to take passengers beyond the junctions. Freetown`s topography is almost surrounded by a peninsular. Sprawling human settlements have replaced a once forested environment. Accessing these areas becomes very difficult except with the use of motorcycles.
Okada riders, as they are commonly called, have an opportunity to make extra profit in the midst of the Corona Virus. The brunt of the economic squeeze brought about by the COVID 19 has had huge socio economic impacts for the transportation sector.
Health regulations limit passengers to mini buses to only three instead of four in a row. Taxis and tricycles are compelled to take only two passengers. In spite of the price reduction of fuel (petrol, diesel and kerosene) to Le7500 per litter, the profits hitherto enjoyed by the transport sector are expected to dwindle. However, with motorbikes that make provision for a single passenger there is no price tag in transporting a passenger from one destination to another.
In the midst of the rush hour, that normally accompanies the curfew time of 9pm, the fastest transportation alternative is the motorcycle.
Allieu Kamara, a bread seller at the St John round about, stays at Dwarzack, a hilltop settlement. Alieu Kamara closes his sales at around 8pm and hurriedly uses the motorbike to return home in order to avoid confrontation with security forces. In the meantime, whiles other means of transportation are financially challenged, the motorcycle is actually thriving in the midst of COVID 19.