Opinion

Think before you leave for the West, my friend

13 September 2009 at 04:40 | 782 views

By Chernor Ojuku Sesay, Information Attache,
Sierra Leone Embassy, Brussels/EU.

A few weeks ago, I did an article highlighting some of the obstacles our African brothers and sisters searching for better lives in Europe or America encounter.

As expected, the said article provoked lots of reactions either For or Against. A writer in the New Vision online newspaper agreed that indeed Europe or America are not a paradise but that the situation back home is not encouraging for one to stay.

A very good colleague of mine, Mohamed Magba Taimeh, who was my Secretary General when I was President of the Sport Writers Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL) and now residing in London for the past eight years, telephoned me to comment that my article was one-sided as I failed to highlight the side of those who have succeeded in Europe or America, himself as an example, though he admitted that it’s not as smooth as he had expected.

Agreed, that a few of those (Sierra Leoneans to be specific) who venture to the West do succeed, but comparatively, the number of the unsuccessful ones far outnumber the lucky ones. My brother Taimeh could be counted among the fortunate ones, but what about the thousands of Sierra Leoneans at Peckham and other places in London or other European cities who might not be so lucky? I’m sure you’ve read the plight of two other Sierra Leoneans, Emadu Rogers and Joseph Bangura.

As I am typing this piece on my lap-top computer, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Brussels and the European Union, Dr. Christian Sheka Kargbo and seven other African Ambassadors have just returned from an official trip to The Netherlands ( Holland) through the invitation of the Dutch Government. The outcome of that meeting was unpalatable to all of them who attended. In a nutshell, the Dutch cabinet has resolved to deport all illegal immigrants from their country. And from the information made available to Ambassador Kargbo, sixty (60) of those to be deported are Sierra Leoneans (names withheld for now ).

What sounds more pathetic is that most of them have spent quite a considerable number of years in prison ranging from two and above.
This is exactly the stark reality of things here that I am trying to transmit back home. Some of these Sierra Leoneans that will be deported (mind you, the decision to deport them is irreversible) were living relatively average lives in Sierra Leone before venturing to Europe with the hope that manna will fall from heaven immediately on arrival.

Now, after spending some years in detention, they are heading back home in an undignified manner. The reaction of the families of those to be deported is unimaginable considering how families back home depend on their kith and kin living in Europe. How will family members feel, after bidding farewell to a loved one departing for Europe, and after years of high expectations to see that same individual being bundled back home with nothing because he/she has been declared an undesirable alien.

What is more worrying about some of those to be deported is their mental state. No one knows exactly what had gone wrong with them- whether it’s a case of their long detention in prison with the prospect of being deported or something funny could have been done to them whilst in prison that has resulted in some of them behaving insanely.

One of the detained and soon-to-be deported Sierra Leonean, Dauda Mansaray, was given permission to telephone the Embassy from his cell in Holland last Tuesday, September 8th. From the way he responded to questions, I knew he is a Sierra Leonean and a Temne. But from all indications, he seemed to be illiterate and in an unstable mental state. He was a second-hand clothes trader at Fisher Street who had a successful business back home before disposing of his business and property to make the trip to Holland in 2003 just after the declaration of the end of the war. He’s been in detention since his arrival in October 2003.

After realising that he cannot communicate in English but Temne, I decided to ask him some questions in Temne. Instead of him answering the questions, he went berserk and started using unprintable words against his own mother, father, the Dutch government, the government of Sierra Leone and uttering all sorts of rubbish. One could not establish anything concrete from him.

From facts available, there are non-Sierra Leoneans among the number of those to be deported but who are purporting to be Sierra Leoneans. One of them was also allowed to telephone the Embassy. He gave his name as Ibrahim Dauda. Further questioning glaringly exposed his non-Sierra Leonean citizenship. You know what, for one to be an expert liar, he/she must have a very good retentive memory, otherwise, no matter how hard you try, the truth, like smoke, will reveal itself. What I have been able to establish is that there are people who usually give these people lectures about Sierra Leone and possible answers to possible questions if interviewed about Sierra Leone. However, in the process of rehearsing what they’ve been told about Sierra Leone, a country some of them have never been, they most times end up confusing themselves and their answers.

Ibrahim Dauda was asked to name the school he attended in Freetown (since he claimed to be born in Freetown as most of them know no other city in Sierra Leone but Freetown) and to also name the President of Sierra Leone. He said he attended the Annie Walsh High School. I guess he must have mixed himself up between Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School and the Methodist Boys High School. But since he repeatedly said Annie Walsh High School , we had to accept his own Annie Walsh as the school he attended. May be I need to contact my friend at the Information Ministry, Kwame Yankson who was a teacher at Annie Walsh to tell me when that school start admitting boys. The President of Sierra Leone, according to Ibrahim Dauda is Solomon Kabbah. Here again he misfired. I’m sure he must have been rehearsing the names of the former President and his Vice, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and Solomon Berewa. But for Ibrahim Dauda, he insisted that Solomon Kabbah is the President of Sierra Leone. Who am I to deny the name of his own President, in his own Sierra Leone?, he demanded.

I am not insinuating that Sierra Leone is better than Europe. That’s far from the truth. But there is a popular saying in Temne that "it is always better to be poor with total freedom than be rich with a restricted freedom." Rather than selling all what you’ve acquired in your life time for an uncertain future in Europe, stay at home, work hard and improve your life and the lives of your loved ones. Then you can travel to any country in the world with ease and comfort.

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