National Cleaning Day is back in Sierra Leone via presidential Executive Order. I am not a big fan of executive orders but considering the indiscipline and lawlessness in our country, the timing for such an order cannot be more right.

Yes, citizens pay taxes and therefore, town and city councils have a duty and responsibility to provide certain basic essential goods and services such as cleaning and refuse collection. In a country like Sierra Leone however, the people must support the town and city councils at some point, to minimise risks to public health.

Our Capital City, Freetown, is filthy, full stop! There is no other way of putting it.

Photos coming in from Sierra Leone today have been encouraging. Comments across social media demonstrates that the whole exercise has been, well received overall by well-meaning citizens and progressives across the country. We however have some, mostly from the opposition APC Party, criticising the exercise. They have stated the order is illegal and it is not their business to clean their environment because they pay taxes to the city council. My response is, they have a right to their views and although I do not agree with them, I will defend their rights to express their dissatisfaction about the cleaning exercise. Another school of thought had this to say, “… lack of proper sanitation in Sierra Leone contributed in no small measure to spread cholera and Ebola in the country, so they fail to understand why people who mean well for Sierra Leone will condemn the cleaning Saturday initiative or the re-invention of the exercise”.

Well, a people who rely on its government for everything is doomed to remain in a cycle of backwardness, underdevelopment, mediocrity, oppression and mental slavery. While it is true that people must hold their elected officials accountable for the provision of certain services, it is a tragedy of false consciousness to assert that a government is responsible for all progress that happens in a country. Such thinking manifests a culture of entitlement, inactive citizenry, apathy, and more than that, a culture of laziness and problem spotting rather than problem solving.

History they say is the study of important past events. History teaches us that one of the best models explored in the African continent, and one that we must necessarily learn from, was the one proffered by the late and former leader of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere. He believed in the importance of people claiming their own destiny. Post Tanzania’s independence, he introduced the Self-help amongst other programmes where Tanzanian people were to contribute time to the rebuilding of their communities. The government would provide building supplies to villages and towns, and the people themselves would build schools in their own villages. Those who could not contribute to physical labour could contribute in other ways. He expected some to clean clinics, plant vegetable gardens in schools etc. This not only ensured quicker development for the country, it also groomed a citizenry that was active in their own growth and the architect of their own destiny.

Why am I saying this? I have been reading all sorts of requests from Sierra Leoneans (home and abroad) to the Bio government. I have seen all sorts of prescriptions and suggestions for Bio on what he needs to do and not to do. Interestingly, some of these suggestions and prescriptions have also been coming from our APC Tolongbo friends.

We all want Bio to do this and do that, because we know our rights and entitlements. Rights, though, come with responsibilities, and responsibilities are not the Government’s alone. We must all engage each other, our communities and contribute to its development.

The thinking that Sierra Leone is going to be liberated, by the government must stop. No government is going to deliver us to the Promised Land, it is us who must build it for ourselves, or at least help the government to build it with us. If we are going to sit back and wait for President Bio and his government to do everything for us, then we must agree right now that we are never going to move forward, in this lifetime or the next.

As I understand it, the national cleaning campaign aims to bring Sierra Leoneans across the country together to clear up the litter that blights our capital city, towns, villages, and beaches. Doing it ourselves is just one way to help the government, and I see nothing wrong with it. We should be proud of ourselves for participating.

A big thank you to all those who participated. Your little support can help cut litter, end waste and improve places. Your support can change our country for the better.

Together we can make a difference and make Sierra Leone a better place. So I say, take your litter home, plant a tree in your community, mobilize small groups to clean on other days in addition to the “national cleaning day”.

©️Maurice Ferenkeh Koroma

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