By Kabs Kanu
Naming a street or bridge or anything after Mr. Sengbeh Pieh is not wrong at all . Pieh deserves to be honored for his role in the AMISTAD slave ship rebellion . However, anything that is done with a very bad and provocative motive will always spark controversy and that is what has happened in the removal of the original name of the newly- reconstructed Juba Bridge from Wallace – Johnson Bridge to Sengbe Pieh Bridge.
Why does President Bio always do things in divisive, controversial , deceptive and provocative ways ? There are many important and bigger bridges in the interior that are not named after important historical personalities , like the Sewa Bridge in Bo; the Moa Bridge in Daru; the Bo Njaiela ( Waterside ) Bridge on the Liberian border and many others . Bio would have renamed any of these bridges after Sengbe Pieh and everybody would have applauded the action.
But a serious leader determined to give every hero his just desserts and unite the country would not remove the name of such a very important personality as the late Mr. I.T.A. Wallace -Johnson ( The trade unionist and journalist who sacrificed his life to help not only Sierra Leone but West African nations gain Independence ) from on a bridge and hand it to Sengbe Pieh , in spite of his own heroic deeds .
Even the excuse that only the extension to the bridge was named after Sengbe Pieh is wrong. How can one bridge have two different official names ?
Bio is annoying not just because of his disrespect for law, constitution and human rights but his bitterness towards other tribes and ethnic groups in the country. Bio has read history and should be aware of the serious conflict that the British colonialists sparked between the people of the colony and the protectorate in their divide-and -divide tactics during the events leading to Sierra Leone’s Independence.
Because the British were jealous of the Creoles , whom they considered too educated and too smart and a credible threat to their colonialist designs , they suppressed the Creoles and played the provincials against them . It was Wallace – Johnson and Dr. Bankole Bright who fought the British for these divisive tactics. To this day, the unpleasant effects of the division created by the British between the Creoles and provincials exist in Sierra Leone.
To this day, Creoles are also marginalized in Sierra Leone and are not even allowed to own land in the provinces, though they are bona fiide citizens of the country.
With these suspicions and Creole disenchantment existing underneath , President Bio should have been very careful not to have been seen as stroking the embers of the fires of these schisms . By removing the name of a Creole nationalist from a bridge and renaming it after a Mende nationalist, does President Bio know the dangerous interpretations that he is subjecting such actions to, in the minds of the people? No one tribe is more important than the other in Sierra Leone and leaders should be careful that they do not create the impression of tribal superiority.
Tribal suspicions, divisions and latent tensions are a very unfortunate feature of politics in Africa and leaders must be careful that they are not seen as playing tribes against the others.
Bio’s action is as provocative as his nebulous actions since he came to power to remove people belonging to other tribes from all jobs and replacing them with members of his own tribe.
Freetown is Creole territory . Though the original inhabitants were Temnes before the arrival of freed slaves in 1787, Freetown is Creole land and we have to continue to respect this fact and leave alone the structures, installations and streets that have been named after their national heroes.
We have virtually pushed the Creoles out of their tiny space in Freetown . Let us not add insult to injury by defacing the historic and magnificent role they have played in the spread of Western learning and the achievement of Independence in Sierra Leone.
Leave the Creole names on our bridges and public structures. Removing them and renaming these structures after provincial nationalists in Creole land is discriminatory and provocative and is subject to many damaging interpretations inimical to national cohesion and peace.
I stand accused.