From the Editor’s Keyboard

Tonkolili is nobody’s colony!

By  | 9 September 2010 at 01:20 | 521 views

Opinion

To many readers the news item captioned, ‘Tonkolili in billion-dollar project’, published in this newspaper a few days ago about a huge mining project signifies a U-turn in the long isolation of the district, a step in the right direction for economic growth and the President’s agenda for change, and the cleansing of the blood of the great sons of Tonkolili district slaughtered some decades ago.

Perhaps, this is nothing but a parody. Over the years, Tonkolili has been subjected to a deadly political isolation approach that has succeeded in surrendering the district to manipulative political syndromes of all kinds. The district’s nomenclature has been configured as a COLONY that should get sympathy from the master. But is Tonkolili really a COLONY? The answer is NO!!!

I need to remind readers that Magburaka or Tonkolili is not a COLONY of the Makeni or Bombali axis. Magburaka, the district headquarters, in particular and Tonkolili in general must be independent. The district has to be considered responsibly as a key partner and not as a second class or second rate partner. The district needs no sympathy. It needs its own recognition.

Tonkolili, the epicentre of Western education in the Northern Province, is bordered by six districts; a major river (Rokel) flowing along it borders, a national hydro-electric dam, and a sugar manufacturing factory. It is known for producing men and women of character and intellectual prowess worthy of emulation. This makes the district unique and enviable in the eyes of many who hate men of valour. The bravery of sons and daughters of the district has always invited reproach and mayhem from those who see the future of the district as a threat. For many years, the district has been left politically crippled, socially cursed, and economically dormant. Her sons were killed and for many years, the pain and fear of another unequivocal calamity rings in the minds of many people of this noble district. But today, a new generation is born and is ready to bounce back. This generation would not accept terminological headlines and theoretical deceptions. Tonkolili district needs real change and recognition. It will be a leader and not a follower.

The anti-Tonkolili agents orchestrated the ‘dark ages’ for the district. Unlike the command of the Almighty to bring light to the world, the enemies of the district replaced light with darkness. They took away the only source (the generator) of electric power from Magburaka and deposited it elsewhere. They decreed that darkness shall be the portion of Tonkolili district. That was the beginning of rapid retrogression in the district. What would you expect of darkness? The whole environment and minds of the people went dark; decisions became ‘blank’, and the district that hosts the ‘Oxford’ of the North (Government secondary school for Boys- “Boys school”, the Super Power”) lost her glory. The district was tortured psychologically and left with broken institutions like the walls of Jericho.

Geo-politics has taken its course and Tonkolili district is left to survive on its own. The electricity from Bumbuna is enjoyed in Freetown while Tonkolili ‘enjoys’ darkness. Not a single electric power pole has been erected in the district headquarter town. The sugar warehouse was ‘air lifted’ across the River Rokel and dropped in Makeni. The children of Tonkolili asked, ‘WHY US’?

Many years ago, the Training College was removed from the contour lines of Magburaka and taken to Makeni. Now, Makeni has got a University again. During the senseless rebel war that had a ‘resource curse’ ingredient, the military would normally come to the aid of Magburaka after the rebels had finished playing their game. It was just pathetic that no one considered the importance of the people in the district. Thanks to Yele and Yonibana which had formidable civil militia groups (the Kapras and the Gbethis respectively) that the rebels and ‘sobels’ were afraid of. The security of those people was in their own hands.

Tonkolili suffers from a ‘Political Osmosis’. Makeni absorbs any good thing from Tonkolili. What is wrong with adding to the infrastructure in Tonkolili district? What is wrong with making the children of Tonkolili feel proud like others? Should the district continue to be a subordinate? Is it for security reasons that every iota of blessing from Tonkolili is kidnapped by others? If so, are the people in the district not more important than the sugar? Remember, you need their votes.

Now, the whole world is reading the headline of the billion-dollar project in Tonkolili. Readers are invited to visit the district that has so much to offer to Sierra Leone. They will be shocked at the level of backwardness. They will see that the main hydro electric poles by-passed Magburaka; the railway under construction by-passes Magburaka; and remotely, the only University in the North is named as the ‘University of Makeni’. Every effort is being done by non-Tonkolilians to suppress and taint the district as backward and incapable of taking responsibilities in the course of national development. Interestingly, one of the things Tonkolili can be proud of is the free ‘powder’ or dust in the streets of towns and villages that cover the houses, vehicles, and is inhaled by the people.

There should be no clandestine hegemony to subdue the rights of the district. You need Tonkolili as Tonkolili needs you. Makeni should not develop at the expense of Tonkolili. It should not be a ‘Zero-Sum’ game. Tonkolili wants to be free and have equal rights. It fell and it is bouncing back.

Editor’s note: Ahmed Ojulla Bangura is a PhD candidate in the department of Geography, Exeter University, UK.

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