Titus Boye-Thompson Strategic Media & Development Communications Unit :
To paraphrase Paramount Chief David Keili of Mandu Chiefdom, Kailahun District, the British reserved the title of kings to their monarch and hence began the withering of our kingdoms in Sierra Leone to mere chiefdoms, superintended over by chiefs and not Kings. The influence of the British over the protectorate though not fully exploited were asserted by treaties, individually negotiated but with a central purpose, to instill British oversight over those parts adjacent to the British Crown Colony of Freetown. The culmination therefore of what is now Sierra Leone can to some strict historian be seen as an agglomeration of independent and at times disparate kingdoms to a unified whole, proscribed in the drawing rooms of London and Paris when the partitioning of Africa was done. The result of those discussions and whiskey laden deliberations in smoke filled rooms gave us this legacy of Freetown and Conakry being so distant and disengaged.
Not that Conakry is in effect that far from Freetown but the resultant spheres of influences is now being played out in the response to the Ebola virus disease. France is left to look after Guinea where insidiously, they have seemed to be complicit in concocting a wall of silence and taboo, The US sent a massive military deployment to Liberia that has seemingly quelled a spiraling rate in just under a month whist Britain struggles to build one hundred of its promised seven hundred bed centres or commission 25 of eighty beds in one treatment centre that has since opened and is now regarded as being up but marching slowly.
The prospect of crossing the inherited lines of colonial attachment between these three countries are now seemingly more distant. The US forces are not necessarily attuned to crossing over from Monrovia to Freetown because they would then be subject to British command. Even though they are allies, the US is wont to have their forces and US Finances put under the command and control of any foreign power. Marginal powers like China, Cuba and Nigeria are currently under separate but integrated command and control albeit under Sierra Leonean Military command structure as sovereign authority.
Chief Mandu was right to postulate the antagonism that underscores the intransigence of some Paramount Chiefs when recently, some of them took slight umbrage to the level of monitoring, reporting and the covert threats around sums of money given to them as local grants to strengthen their efforts in fighting the Ebola virus. The Chiefs had been undertaking this work unaided and largely at their own initiative and behest, save for the occasional remittances collected to support the fight that dispiritedly reaches some of them as custodians of the people’s health and wellbeing. No support from Government has not been a panacea for lethargy and non compliance with the guidelines because, judging from the experience of the Southern Chiefs, they had to contend with marginal support from whatever quarter as they watch their people and even in some chiefdoms, their immediate households succumb to the scourge of the Ebola virus disease. The recalcitrance of the Northern Chiefs have not followed on as swiftly from the experiences of their counterpart from the South because the initial messaging was not in any manner consistent with a scientific approach to handling this menace. The Northern Chiefs have shown their own attitude to their long held beliefs in the spiritualism of their office and the hegemony that overshadows their acceptance of modern techniques more to the point of intransigence than to be an ascribed characteristic of their cultural norms. The Northern Chiefs and their traditions and ceremonies also have played a part in prolonging the disease in the North. Not that they have not been warned of that fact but the traditional and cultural ties are stronger than such political warnings and hence the disparity in their power dynamic is left to be brazen by the antagonism of the harsh outer realities of the Ebola scourge. That people are dying due to the apparent intransigence of local communities broadened the expanse of the castigation that the Northern Chiefs had to endure. Whether they have learned from this surge in attack on their natural rights to rule, their moral high ground as purveyors of customs and traditions that predate the advent of strangers to their shores, are enough reasons to accord for a resistance on their side, unfounded though that is.
The situation therefore must take q different perspective in the Western Area, where the spike seem to be ravaging and sustained. The figures are growing rapidly as it hovers in the Western and Northern regions that share land and sea boundaries and ancient travel routes. The movement to the city for a better chance at survival was never to be unexpected. However, caught unawares, the Western Area seem unprepared to face the imminent dangers of this scourge. There are no Paramount Chiefs in the Western Area, none in Freetown. The absence of age old traditions of moral superiority, a ruling class and reigning monarchy that succeeds from family to family, generations to generations portend to a classless society unprepared for the structures that demands compliance and adherence to guidance. Yet, succumbing to orders from above, the Western Area was left powerless to deal with the impending gloom. The Mayor of the Western Urban and the Chairman of the Western Rural District Council are the closet offices to the Paramount Chief but bereft with any ancestral claim to leadership, this region presented a rudderless ambiguity of failure and rabid disregard for a sacred responsibility to protect life and welfare. Per capita, the Western Area has suffered disproportionately in all aspects of this scourge, the frictions caused by a breakdown of the support structure to care for the virus can be attributed to the leaders of the region, elected to serve and not to disparage. Yet disparagement is what seem to take hold in this area, a rampant betrayal of trust and a fear of being earnest. The political class becomes disenchanted because they are deprived of the engagement that they perceived for themselves as kingpins.
The Mayor of the Municipality of Freetown and his counterpart Chairman of the Western Rural District Council may well be complicit in an abdication of responsibility at a scale far above the normal. The arrival of Ebola in Freetown was not unexpected yet its surge continues even when figures are dwindling everywhere else. Freetown and Port Loko share many commonalities and hence the insipid cross border movements, people coming into Freetown by boat at night and those rushing to Waterloo for assurances that they would be healed by native medicine spells disaster for the Region yet the respective leaders of the Municipality and the Rural District are powerless to ache Mayor more so due to the responsibility that he carries as father of the Municipality refrain because they claim to be sidelined and maligned. To that rambunctious ruffle one rebuts with the likes of the First Lady, Madam Sia Nyama Koroma. A woman with no political constituency but a lot of gumption and grit to have taken on this fight with such ferocity. She aligns herself with those most susceptible to disadvantage, even to the poorest of the poor and dispels the outrage by supporting communities in every part of the country. This battle against Ebola is not a game to be played as some would wish but a national effort. People are dying and yet there are those who wish to be Chief?