By Oswald Hanciles :
At the Miatta Conference Center in Freetown about thirty minutes ago, President Ernest Bai Koroma told the assembled tribal headmen/women, councilors, and parliamentarians of the Western Area of Freetown that his government is now in a “new phase” in the Ebola War which would involve a “military approach”.
This “military approach” is what has necessitated the President getting the former defense minister, Major Palo Conteh (Rtd), as CEO of the new Ebola Command with the acronym “NERC”.
Referring to President Koroma as the “frontline commander”, Hon. Shekuba Amani Sannoh, Member of Parliament for Constituency 112, underlined the mood and tone of the President who said laws would be “enforced” with military dispatch against those who continue to violate the anti-Ebola logic of non-Ebola personnel washing of corpses of people. The President said that they should use “force” against those who “resist” the dictates of the anti-Ebola burial teams, contract tracers, etc.
The traditional leaders, and councilors, and especially youth, were exhorted by the President to “comb” their neighbourhoods: “You know everybody and everything about your neighbourhood. If you don’t see a person for a couple of days and you suspect the person is sick and is hiding inside his/her house, report the matter. Insist that contact be made with the Ebola Surveillance Team”.
The President raised alarm at the Ebola statistics which shows over 4,000 people have been infected in the country; and said that especially the over 500 infection rates in Freetown, over 500 in Bombali, and over 500 Ebola cases Port Loko are simply “unacceptable”.
President Koroma said other people in the country should emulate what is being done in Kenema and Kailahun where “anybody with Ebola from outside those districts are quickly fingered by the community, and the people would insist they go into quarantine”.
The “bottleneck” in the Ebola War is the lack of adequate laboratories – as people who die have to wait a couple of days before the laboratories can determine and report to their relatives that they had Ebola or would be Ebola free. The President said the British team that has arrived would help to mitigate this problem.
Hope was expressed by the President that the 300 beds in the treatment centers in Kailahun, Kenema, and Freetown would be increased to 600 by the end of November – which still falls short of the 1,500 beds the country needs for Ebola patients.
The “responsibility” for ending the Ebola pandemic would lay not with the large number of international people who are in the country (US, UK, Nigerians, Cubans, EU, AU, etc), but, with the leaders showing leadership by “not compromising” with those who in spite of all the blizzard of “sensitization” still choose to do those things which would lead to transmission of the Ebola.
Like President Lansana Conte of Guinea did a couple of days ago during an interview with the BBC, President Koroma took a swipe at international organizations who appear to be benefiting from the Ebola Outbreak “riding their four-wheel jeeps”: “We need development and business people; not people in the Ebola Business”. President Koroma said that his government would insist in complete transparency and accountability in how international organizations are handling funds meant for the Ebola War.