The Politics of Filth

6 November 2005 at 21:27 | 517 views

Under the watch of the SLPP, Freetown, the capital of Sierra leone has become one of the filthiest cities in the world, posing a health risk to its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.Abdulai Bayraytay examines the problem.

By Abdulai Bayraytay

Freetown based media outlets have been over the past few weeks harping on the filth that has engulfed Freetown and its outskirts, and the politicization of garbage collection. Indeed, the Freetown City council has over the years grappled with street trading,and trying to keep the city clean. The recent monumental inertia over this has largely been attributed to either gross incompetence on the part of council or the institutionalized corruption that is eating into the very fabric of Sierra Leonean society.

Quite recently, top echelons within the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) charged that the opposition All People’s Congress dominated City Council has outlived its usefulness since it could not keep the city clean. Some skeptics have dismissed this to be a cheap and frivolous political diatribe and contended this to be nothing but an act of escapism in order to hoodwink the victims of health-related hazards that come with one of West Africa’s most untidy cities.

Agreed, the political past of the APC is still haunting it, taking into consideration the damage it caused to almost all facets of the political entity of the country. No wonder successive governments from the notorious National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) to the criminal Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) to the propagandist “democratically” elected ruling SLPP government all have one chorus in common: “we inherited a bad system created by the APC and that the great expectations of the people should be tempered down”. In fact, this sordid state of events was only exacerbated by the carnage waged on the country by pseudo- revolutionaries from 1991 to 200I. The real culprits are the country’s political elites who are some of the most corrupt in the world.

However, with the politicization of garbage collection, keeping one of the proud cities in West Africa clean has been a gargantuan problem for the council. People are already wondering if the APC run council could not clean the city, then what political guarantees could the citizenry repose in such a party to run the affairs of the state for that matter?

This political diatribe could be taken for granted at face value by some steadfast politically narrow-minded supporters of the ruling government, taking into consideration the bellicose propaganda machinery the ruling elites and their cronies have put in place in order to absolve themselves of any blame for the misgoverning of the state. From a critical evaluation of the track record of the Sierra Leone’s clientele political masters, one could only sense a paradox because if the SLPP lacks the fiber to address cancerous issues like corruption and the scandalous perversion of justice, then on what moral grounds should it continue to rule the country? Also, with the escape of notorious prisoners from Pademba Road Prisons in broad daylight under the noses of wardens, will it be appropriate to call for the SLPP not to be returned to power because it lacks the fiber to even control a prison holding less than 10,000 people? Or, should the very government take a disgraceful recess since the Education ministry has been incapable to provide clean drinking water, adequate toilet facilities and constant supply of electricity to college and university campuses. Students are expected to be tomorrow’s leaders yet they live in daily squalor and filth.

Instead of politicizing the filth that has surrounded the city, it would have been prudent for the government to constructively engage the City Council in fruitful discussions devoid of any political gimmicks in order to address, if not devise, strategies on how to combat the unhealthy state our proud environment is enmeshed in. This is particularly sane because the very government lacks the means to effectively run the Cost Recovery Programme lest addressing the health concerns of most Sierra Leoneans amidst the exorbitant charges imposed on the very poor. If this is not done, then the unsightly mounds of garbage in historic places like PZ and The Cotton Tree, among others, is not only scandalous, but will continue to be an eyesore to the public and the international community. On a symbolic note, does it mean that the lackadaisical approach to keeping our city clean is inextricably linked with the lukewarm approach with which the government is tackling issues like corruption, press freedom, human rights and administrative laziness?

So, like the Freetown City Council, like the SLPP, all the citizenry deserves most is the unequivocal concentration of the energy left of our politicians to keep the city clean so that their life expectancy could catapult to a respectable state. Stop messing with the health of the people and stop playing the political chess game of blame and indictment. Indeed since health is wealth, all what patient Sierra Leoneans will be content with is a healthy environment whilst they feverishly look forward to other gigantic projects like the completion of the Lungi bridge in 2007, food security and self sufficiency by 2015, and the nationwide supply of electricity in 2007, among others.

About the author: Abdulai Bayraytay (above) is the Deputy Editor of the Patriotic Vanguard. He lives in Toronto.