• June 25, 2020

‘New’ Sengbe Pieh Memorial Bridge provokes Creoles, 58th Independence Anniversary, Freetown residents

‘New’ Sengbe Pieh Memorial Bridge provokes Creoles, 58th Independence Anniversary, Freetown residents
Share on

By Joseph A. Kamanda

Celebrating Sierra Leone’s 58th Independence anniversary under the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the president Julius Maada Bio’s led administration, amidst growing anxieties from the vulnerable suffering masses over the unremitting socioeconomic hardship, gross human rights, hunger and starvation, state sponsored judicial restrictions of majority opposition MPs and their supporters, depriving them from making their various democratic contributions towards debates even in parliament, is not worthy of celebration about our independence not to mention democracy, barely after 150 years of British colonial rule.

Frequent fidgeting of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone by government to a large extent implies blatant disrespects for the rule of law, widespread political tensions, due processes; the atmospheric condition in which Sierra Leoneans are being subjected to commemorating this year’s independence, spearheaded by Julius Maada Bio’s Women’s Wing a pro-Bio women’s factor within the ruling party and the office of the First Lady, like they did for the official inauguration event of president Bio.

Mrs Bio is new to the high jacking national events of that nature, no matter how much controversies it drag to the door step of the presidency as long as the First Lady arranges it the whole thing will come out successfully with procurements processes and procedures well escaped, the celebration of the 58th independence anniversary is the key thing done as Sierra Leoneans wanted it celebrated.

For sure there were high hopes of a united and progressive nation after long years of British colonial rule but even at 58th years of independence nothing much has change that is really worthy to celebrate, considering that Sierra Leone remained socioeconomically and politically dependent on foreign aids for national survivals, so where are we in terms of self rule? That does not matter to people as we joined First Lady Fatima Bio, whose show at the Siaka Stevens Stadium on the 27th April, 2019 was largely boycotted by residents of Freetown and people in other parts of the country. Why was that? Has the tradition of celebrating independence faded away in Sierra Leone in recent years, or is it due to the failure of government to observe the event, on the pretext that there is nothing to celebrate or what really went wrong with last year’s anniversary, are some of the concerns being raised by critical minds as the state keeps playing pranks with the commemorations of important national events.

27th April 1961 was the day the Union Jack flag was downed, marking the end of British colonial rule, and raised the Green White and Blue, commencing the inauguration of independence and self rule in Sierra Leone, which previous governments of former presidents Siaka Stevens, Chairman Capt. Melvin Esgrabo Strasser, Joseph Saidu Momoh, late Dr Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and former president Dr Ernest Bai Koroma all respectfully observed throughout their terms of office as a significant date in the country’s national events calendar. But this was different in the first year of president Bio who ignored the event in 2018 on the ploy of inheriting a ‘broken economy’ from the last government.

The celebrations are usually observed by government in firm partnership with Heritage Foundation and other cultural groups with support from corporate entities, as lined up of events from mask devil parades by jubilating cultural dancers drown from across the country as per traditions and culture.

Coming to office last year government however banned all mask devil parades and dances during public holiday festivities and as a result performers have stopped displaying cultural activities on independence eve at Cotton Tree and Law Court building, due to failure of authorities to celebrate last year’s independence as there was ‘nothing to celebrate.’ With the ‘new’ Sengbe Pieh Memorial Bridge and access to education projects up and running president Bio now and the SLPP new direction race, now have something to celebrate.

Celebrating roads by this government is an unimaginable thing to wonder about, considering how destructive the president Bio’s campaign messages were directly tailored against the last APC government especially on roads, blaming them for poor management funds and described their works as sub standards roads.

Moreover, the good news that prompted the remembrance of independence on 27th April, 2019 is the new kid on the block, the much talked $2.4m jointly funded government of Sierra Leone and People’s Republic of China project, linking the Lumley-Tokeh road and also strategically connecting the private resident of president Bio at Juba, west of Freetown.

No wonder the sense of urgency that was attached to the whole implementation of the project. And regrettably for residents of Freetown, the bridge renaming event transformed itself into a show that shamed and dishonored not only Isaac Theophilus Acunna Wallace Johnson, but the entire Creoles community at home and abroad by president Bio, who officially pronounced the change of name from Wallace Johnson Memorial to a ‘new’ Sengeb Peih Memorial Bridge, with no recognition of the role played by I. T. A. Wallace Johnson in independence struggle in the sub-region leaving the rest with history… But again, is the name or the services being provided by the road that is truly important to users or continuations with fixing the right legacies of the past regime are the issues people should be constructively arguing in favour of or against, in national debates not just for the name sake, because the name does nothing as we piece this article together, therefore people shouldn’t be that mindful of the names as long as the right works are done to beautify the municipality are the issues everybody should be concerned about much as this discussion is related to national development debates.

Arguably knowing the Mende tribal background of Sengbe Peih and the SLPP urgency to honour fallen Mende heroes, shouldn’t have even warranted president Bio and the SLPP led government to rename the bridge; ‘new’ Sengbe Peih Memorial Bridge because his predecessors did their best in nation building in diverse ways but didn’t tamper with historic landmarks at all, neither changed their names. That is Wilkinson, Hill Cut, Bai Bureh, Pa Demba roads as well as Siaka Stevens street were all well reconstructed by the last administration but didn’t change their names.

This is not the first time a Bio’s management team is changing the name of a national assets. It could be recalled that the Siaka Stevens Stadium was also changed to national stadium by the former National Provisional Ruling Council which president Bio was a deputy chairman after a renovation in the 90s but was renamed to Siaka Stevens Stadium by the past APC government of former president Koroma. But how long will a nation continue with such back and forth things in national development.

A worriedly published State House reports are that there was never a change of name as it is widely being perceived by certain sections of the public, as president Bio actually opened a ‘new’ bridge called the Sengbe Peih Memorial Bridge by way of complimenting FCC’s transform Freetown initiative. To this, Creoles considers the act derogatory and has not gone down well with the vast majority of Creoles communities at home and abroad.

Whereas under the current Bio administration Creoles are hardly recognized and no longer appointed to higher government positions as in previous APC-SLPP administrations regardless of their remarkable to contributions towards the growth and development of Sierra Leone.

For Creoles the renaming of the bridge is provocative, disrespectful, derogatory and above all insulting to them in that, such a conversion would have been done in the south and eastern interiors if only president wants to continue to honour his fallen Mende tribal heroes instead of Freetown, where Sengbe Pieh is less known.

The move has been widely described as one of the uncalculated political mistakes president Bio will ever remain to regret throughout his presidency, as the Creoles continue to views the manner in which the SLPP government treating them in their own communities as a complete show of disrepute for the Creoles. It is unimaginable for any sober minded government discriminating against certain groups of people with inferiority, just because of their massive support showed for the last APC government.

Furthermore, considering that the mayor is officially always charged with the mandates of the municipality management of Freetown City Council and other works relating to the naming streets, roads, bridges including landmark places and structures in the city, the renaming from Wallace Memorial Johnson Bridge to Segbe Peih Memorial Bridge 25th April 2019 according to his critics, was high jacked by the presidency, as it should have been performed the mayor, but the president did it instead.

So, the president appeared to have went too low to high jacked official role and responsibility of the mayor of Freetown, Her Worship Councilor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, who they say would done it better, had she given the chance. A clarification from the FCC states the council was not consulted in the naming of the ‘new’ bridge.

Opening the facility the president tended to be insensitive to the deteriorating plights of the suffering masses and confessed that government is resourced enough to construct roads and bridges without donor fund like his predecessor former president Koroma did extremely well in the area of infrastructural development.

What finally escalated public anger that led to the massive boycott of Sierra Leone’s 58th independence anniversary is the illicit involvements of Mrs Bio, J.M.B. Women’s Wing and above all the provocative renaming of the Lumley-Juba bridge from Wallace Johnson Memorial to that of ‘new’ Sengbe Pieh Memorial Bridge are some of the reasons as to why the national occasion was left in the hands of the First Lady and the J.M.B. Women’s Wing, one of the divisive sects within the new SLPP.  The Wallace Memorial Bridge was opened in 1979 by president Siaka P. Stevens of blessed memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *