From the Editor’s Keyboard

Yvonne Aki Sawyer offers realistic hope for Freetown

24 February 2018 at 18:12 | 2155 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown

Political sensitivities aside, the hope that Yvonne Aki Sawyerr offers for Freetown as its presumptive Mayoress is beginning to augment her already easy acceptability to the City’s residents.

However, the multiplicity of the City’s communities and interest groups combine to build the mental environment to which this young lady aspires. In the throng of the campaign pressures that she already faces, Yvonne is to be seen engaging on the practical level with some of the groups whihc would come under her purview if she is successful to take this city, a conditionality that is gradually academic as she endears herself to the city and its inhabitants.

On a more personal level, Mrs Aki Sawyer would come under pressure to do something about the Creoles, the people who are credited to have found this city and modernised it after they were returned here from slavery in the Americas and Europe, some as far away as Nova Scotia. Some of the Creoles even never did experience the full journey out hence the clinical attachment to cultures and customs of other West African nations like Nigeria and Ghana. Many attribute the resilience of the African way of life even beyond slavery provided the one sobering link between these people who though not an ethnic group in the strict lexicon sense but share in effect a common inheritance and heritage. In the event, when people talk of the Creoles as one people, such references are misplaced and misguided.

When one considers the socio-political dynamic in Sierra Leone, it is a fact of history that the Creoles have traditionally favoured the All Peoples Congress. This empathy stemmed from the initial rejection of the Creoles by the people of this country because they addressed themselves as non-natives. A term that was to cost them dearly as time went by. The Creoles also had a clear competition from the South Easterners because on the one hand, they were one of the first indigenes who accepted the education and ways of the Colonialists and hence became integrated into the Civil Service alongside the Creoles. In this competition grew a very unhealthy antipathy between the two peoples to the extent that as the noise grew for independence, some Creoles had asked for an independence settlement on their own. It is again a result of these past antagonisms that provided for the dichotomy in the political landscape that this country now experiences. The Creoles were to form a solid alliance with the North because of the natural affinity between them, After all, it was the Northerners who had ceded their Western flank to the Creoles when they first landed on these shores. In the Mountain villages, the Creoles who went afar to conquer their new found land were easily integrated with the indigenous people, mostly of Temne and Loko stock and inter marriages were swift and solid. Thus the Creoles are easily more confident with the Northerners than they have managed to be with the Southerners. As for the East of the country, their alliance had always been on tribal lines with the Konos being a proud and resolute people intermingling with the Vai and Krim as they share commonalities in the languages of their neighbours, the Mendes.

The tribal element in Freetown’s politics is necessary for a proper understanding of the dynamics that the Mayoress would have to face. On the one hand, history has provided certain milestones along the way that has caused this city to be what it is today. The natural progression as the seat of government for the country has been interspersed with the contentious issues of war and disease. In the event, the Western Area a city built for 28,000 people now house over 2 million with the largest growth being experienced in the past twenty years. The terrain of this City prevented growth in a concentric circle but favoured an upward trend from the coast to the hills. It is this upward move that has destroyed the hilly landscape of Freetown with shanties on both sides of the divide. Slums converge along the coast and shanty developments challenge unplanned palatial mansions in the hills of the Freetown Peninsular. The city itself a cacophony of existences, traders, hawkers and business people mingle with diplomats and civil servants in a deafening aroma of stench and filth. Waste Management is a major issue and so is water; electricity is well-nigh conquered but patches of neglect still remain. Education, health and social care infrastructure suffer on the weight of pure demographics. The people far outstrip the resources available and the expected contexts for accountable public service delivery are almost unrecognizable.

So As the Creoles come under fire for supporting the APC many observers gasp with surprise at such a demonstration of short political memory. The Creoles potentially do better within the APC than in any other political party. The test for that is evidenced in the practical advances that Creoles have been able to make within the sphere of politics. When many Creoles absconded from mainstream politics, the likes of J E Leverse, J C O Hadson Taylor, D F Shears blazed the trail in Parliament representing their communities in the Western Area. More lately, Ajibola Manly-Spaine, Winstanley Johnson, Manny Betts Priddy and others number amongst those who supported the resurgence of a post war APC. The clear indication has been that Creoles supporting the APC has in effect caused concern within the SLPP because they understand the vigour of the Creole support and the impact that it has on the APC.

Hopefully, the coming of age of people like Sho-Sawyer, Cornelius Deveaux and others whose support is critical to enable Mayoress Yvonne Aki Sawyerr to impose a further strand of Creole significance on the Party and when the collective psyche is properly structured, we will begin to feel the impact of a strong Creole presence in the Western Area political scene once again.