Muctaru's Blog

I am Muctaru Wurie from Freetown, Sierra Leone. I blog on a variety of subject from my homeland and most of my post feature well researched stories I do.

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The Cost of Fear: A Night at Georgia’s Netherworld Haunted House

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Rapper TI was there the same day I visited

Rapper TI was there the same day I visited

One of the first things that surprises me about American society is Halloween. May be it’s because where I am from in West Africa, any image with an underworld or sorcery portrayal would be construed as witchcraft or the like. Anytime you see tomb-like paraphernalia, it’s either a witch doctor or a Juju man advertising their trades. And culturally, you know that’s not funny business. In most villages, you can get yourself into trouble for displaying Halloween-type images if you are not a witch doctor or Juju man.

This Saturday (19th October, 2013), I finally tried to explore one of the features of Halloween by visiting Netherworld haunted house in Norcross. I dug up the web before I left and discovered Netherworld was among the top haunted houses in the United States. My good mood after a smooth 33 minute drive to Georgia’s biggest haunted house was abruptly ended by the sight of very long queues. There were too many people, I even noticed a set of porta potties in the parking lot which I understood were placed there in case nature calls the many curious people and children some of whom a staff told me traveled all the way from Tennessee. The lines were so long, and there were more and more people coming. You could sense the excitements on the faces of people. On a chilly Saturday night, I asked myself: “Why am I here?” I called one of the staff and inquired how long will I be in line before I get to see the inside of the haunted house. He told me may be 45 minutes to an hour, even though I heard one woman saying someone waited for nearly two hours the previous week. “You have an option of paying $10 extra for a speed pass which will see you walk straight to the front of the line with little or no waiting.” I had to opt for the speed pass in addition to the $30 entrance fee and another $10 for parking. My haunted house desire had already cost me $50. At one point, I thought I was on the outside of those huge stadiums that host soccer matches in Africa, you do not always find yourself around huge crowds in Georgia.

Meanwhile, I soon realize that even my speed pass wasn’t so quick as touted, waiting on the speed pass lane, I observed some groups of adults who were about to enter bellowing in excitements like a group of teenage kids who just got an autograph from Justin Bieber. There were few kids too, in my mind I was thinking this wasn’t the ideal place to bring children, plus it was Saturday night too. The workers were overburdened, there were just too many people outside, many of them annoyed having to wait that long. The more the lines got closer to the entrance, the more smiles you see on the faces of those people close to the entrance. There was more excitement when rapper, TI dropped by the Netherworld haunted house, his arrival with his children and family members saw some people leaving their lines just to take a peep. Even the excitement to go see this artificial horror show could not dampen the celebrity madness of some of these folks. It turns out celebs do not walk the same lines as the masses, TI and his entourage were quickly herded in by personnel into the haunted houses. A guy at the back, shouted: “I wish I was a celeb, I am just tired of waiting and waiting.” I have seen people abandoned their shopping carts at Walmart when the queues stayed longer and the self-checkout machines occupied, from my own observation on Saturday night, no one left. It was clear they hated waiting in line, but they patiently waited anyway. Perhaps it was because some had driven from afar, may be it’s just the Halloween fever hitting them.

No wonder the National Retail Federation (NRF) projects that Americans are expected to spend $2.6 billion on Halloween costumes for adults, children and pets this year.

When my time finally came, I was excited to go see what was so special about visiting an haunted house that people will be so eager to put up with a long wait. Walking in, the first thing I heard was the peculiar audio, it didn’t sound scary, but one lady clearly differed. Without seeing anything scary yet-she started shouting: “Oh my God! Oh my God! I don’t think I can handle this, the sound alone freak the hell outta me.” One of the staff members chaperoning excited customers in said: “Once again, remember there are exits at various point. You can walk out at any time if you get scared.”

Upon entering the Dead Ones section, I was astounded at the massive display of splendor; I thought I was actually witnessing a making-the-video of a big budget horror movie. There was everything present that you could see in bestial horror movie. Simply put, this was a show -– there were myriad of what looked like ghastly version of what you normally see on western horror movies. From what looked like rendition of the dead, scantily dressed skeletal figures, a monster looking giant with a long axe. There was the ugly, as well as portrayal of spooky beauty, what looked like beautiful princess character in a fairy tale story walked close to me with a scythe in hand, blood oozing out of her mouth and uttering a creepy cry that suggested she wants to drink some blood.

I was not fazed, there were loud outburst of people yelling and screaming. The screaming was mostly from the female customers. As we moved to the middle of the Dead Ones section, the screaming got louder, bloodied head were popping out along the aisle. A ghostly figure in a coffin randomly raised up their body and lie down again uttering gibberish remarks. In that short walk, I heard: “Oh my God!” like a million times. The screaming from customers became so loud that at one point, it was hard differentiating the voice of the show characters and those of screaming customers. Almost at the end of the Dead Ones section, there was this huge thumping sound that grew so loud and repetitious that it reminded me of the beating of the bhatta (drum) in Africa.

I was staring at this dwarfish figure with amputated legs seemingly oozing blood, when I felt a hand around my waist tightly gripping me and screaming. At first I thought it was a kid or some teenager only for the lighting to illuminate on his appearance, revealing a scary grown-up face. He got up quickly and said sorry to me. I was in a weird surrounding, but I candidly thought that man gripping my waist with his hands almost touching my private part was bizarre.

Up next was the Boogeyman area. I must confess I was getting bored at this point. The thing that surprises me more was the human reaction, not the show on display. The only thing that made me really comfortable was the hot temperature inside because initially when I arrived it was very chilly outside, and getting the heat warming up my body inside was a calm relief. The Boogeyman area was different from the Dead Ones -– there were huge dragon-like creatures and monster characters, bloodcurdling laughs, faces changing, appearing and disappearing into the masterfully  created theater with lighting effect. The sound here was much more forceful and crispy, the crowd which was somehow diminished was moving slowly until there was what looked like a giant saw blade that cut an actor in half then shoot out into the path and make its way toward the crowd. There were loud screams and some couples were holding on to each other, and others ran helter-skelter. I wondered why I never got scared. It’s probably because I was having fun watching how others reacted.

There was this image that captured my attention, a character seemingly attired in an African costume, drenched in blood stood straight squeaking and winking his eyes. Surprised, I stood there and observe his performance. I kept on going along the dark walkway attraction that was filled with more petrifying live actors, amazing special effects and monsters of every imaginable description.

I left the Boogeyman section feeling a sense of satisfaction, not because of the massive art on display but because I was able to see something new to me: people willing to pay money to satisfy their desire to be frightened and them acting up with fear that sometimes look more artificial than the show characters themselves.

Outside, heading for my car, I managed to catch a conversation with this guy who told me: “I love horror films and I love coming here every year around Halloween. The feeling I get here is so amazing. I will likely be here again before Halloween.”

May be the whole thing about Halloween is the entertaining side of it. Notwithstanding the impressive acoustic inside the Netherworld haunted house, the human screams are the one that I remember most.  There are cultural festivals in Africa that will startle Americans, too. One of the things I often heard as a kid growing up in West Africa was the saying: “When you go distance places, you will see strange things.”

Written by Muctaru Wurie

November 5, 2013 at 12:16 am

Lovely Kenema, Sierra Leone Eastern Hub

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I am currently in the bustling eastern town of Kenema, Sierra Leone and fortunately for me though I was on a different mission – my visit coincided with the arrival in town of SLPP presidential aspirant Julius Maada Bio in Kenema a day after he was reportedly injured in Bo as a result of political violence. Elections 2012 promises to be an interesting elections but I hate it when anything turns to violence in our country. We have gone through many things and I do not think we can stomach more negative news for this country. The people of Kenema, Bo, Makeni, Kambia, Kono et al are all lovely folks. We really do not need to turn to violence to express our political stance, remember this is the land that we all love.

A guest house in Kenema

Kenema Hangha Road from Capitol Hotel view

Kenema Hangha Road from Capitol Hotel view

Local residents of Kenema go about their business whilst others go to rally

Local residents of Kenema go about their business whilst others go to rally

Kenema motor park

Kenema motor park

Sierra Leone Maada Bio Faces Huge Challenge

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Sierra Leone is a country that has gone through many dramatic events in the past two decades and this past Sunday another modest drama unfolded at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown – this drama was much more controlled and played out well according to plan. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which is now the principal opposition party voted former Junta leader Brigadier-General Julius Maada Bio as its candidate for next year’s presidential elections. Bio who scored 238 votes as against Usman Boie Kamara’s 186 votes has a huge challenge in hand. Firstly, he has to come clear about his image – as leader in the notorious National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) military regime which ruled Sierra Leone from April 1991-1996, he has many questions to answer. His past will come under more scrutiny than at any other time since he handed power back to civilians in 1996. Bio overthrew fellow coup plotter Captain Valentine Strasser as head of Sierra Leone military government in January 1996 and went on to rule before handing power to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The regime that he was part of detained, tortured and summarily executed Sierra Leonean nationals at a time the RUF rebellion was raging in the countryside, but Bio has a place to lean – he has consistently stated he never ordered the execution or arrest of anybody and was not happy with some of these things that happened. And thankfully for him, the much heralded Truth Commission for Sierra Leone never named him in any abuse cited during his tenure. One thing that is sure is that he remains a popular figure in the SLPP strongholds of Sierra Leone and can count on their support and much more importantly for those in the south that believed the vote for Charles Margai was a NO vote against Solomon Berewa in the last general elections. There is a belief that Bio will likely reclaim what has come to be known as the SLPP’s lost vote in the south of the country. There were nineteen persons vying to lead the SLPP, but it was clear that Bio was far ahead of them because he simply won the hearts and minds of the strong SLPP caucus. They moved his campaign and without spending much money compared to the likes of Usu Boie, he simply won the vote. Staking himself apart from former SLPP flag bearer, Solomon Berewa, Bio knows that unlike his predecessor he has legitimacy and he can proudly unite his party: “I implore all of you to work closely with me so that we can achieve our goals together,” Bio said after his clear victory was confirmed by the party. This will surely be the strength of Bio, he can count on a united party this time round. However, it is surely not going to be easy for the ex serviceman, since 2007, President Ernest Bai Koroma has embarked on road and energy development and put together large-scale mineral deals, but it has not been rosy, Sierra Leone still face huge challenges of poverty and unemployment and like most global economy there has been a considerable rise in basic commodities and food price. The problem in Sierra Leone is that income is still very low and rise in prices have not matched others in the sub region. That said, Ernest Koroma is a very popular figure in Freetown and the North and many of his supporters believe that he needs to be given time to bring more development to the country. Will Maada Bio give him that chance, elections 2012 is just round the corner and Sierra Leoneans will once more decide.

African Sports’ Search For Quality And Sponsorship

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The passion for sports in Africa is undoubtedly enormous, from Cairo to Cape Town and from Freetown to Mombasa there is an unwavering love for a variety of sports ranging from football to athletics. However, this massive public support and love for sports in Africa have not been translated into massive commercial sponsorship for the continent’s most loved sporting disciplines. There is a dearth of corporate sponsorship of sports in Africa, and the situation is so serious that even the continent’s most loved sports of football has not been spared. Many football leagues across the continent have faced standstill or serious delays and disruptions to the league because of lack of funds.

One of the greatest concerns to African sports organizers, football associations and other bodies is how and from whom to secure financial and material assistance. According to Gbenegbara Amos Deemua, a Nigerian PE Scholar, in Nigeria, despite the presence of big companies the Nigerian government and indeed many other countries in Africa have for a long time remained the sole sponsor of competitive sports. In other poor countries such as Sierra Leone wherein the government lack enough resources, sports organisers are forced to rely on very slim hand-outs from companies. For instance the Sierra Leone Premier league was delayed for six months this (2010-2011) season as a result of lack of sponsors, at the end two companies came in and gave some money which was far below the projected cash the Premier League Board needed, Sierra Leonean FA officials privately told journalists that they accepted the money because they had no other option but in reality the sum given to them was very embarrassing for a whole top division league.

A few years back, Ugandan boxers used to share gum shields, eat sugarcane as refreshments and train on empty stomachs. It was almost the same story in club football, athletics and all other minor sports in Uganda, the reason for this was because there was not sponsorships or enough of it.

The story across the continent paints a very ugly picture at the lack of sponsorship or enough of it, but analysts are portraying a very favourable picture of the future prospects of sports in the continent. They believe businesses are seeing new potential as the number of satellite viewers in the continent grow and the increase of internet users is viewed as many as a strong lure for businesses that hopes to capture the imagination of the public. There is a threat though, and it comes from the professional leagues of Europe, many in the continent are turning for pleasure to Europe and even now as I write this story – African companies are sponsoring television programmes that broadcast European leagues just to target the African public and millions of Africans are flocking to video centres every weekends to watch the English Premier leagues and Spanish La Liga. Some say this is the reason some African companies are not eager enough to pour cash in the country league.

Renowned British sports business consultant, Mr Graham Hollins, says Africa needs the support of business and trained professionals in various areas of sports business to change the face of sports on the continent and also tap into the huge resources and opportunities available for exploitation.

Sports, especially competitive sports require huge amount of money for its organization especially in the sphere of purchase and maintenance of sports facilities and equipment. The good news is companies like Castle Lager, MTN, Glo and SAB Ltd are getting to terms with the reality of pouring cash in sports tournaments in Africa. In a deal facilitated by MEGAPRO, it was announced on recently that Castle

Lager will sponsor the newly renamed Castle Tri-Nations Rugby series, all test

series in South Africa and the overseas tours by the Springboks making Castle the largest sponsors of sports in South Africa which has the best sponsored sporting franchise in Africa.

In Nigeria companies like Coca-cola, Nigerian Breweries, Guinness, Mobil etc have contributed to the improvement of sports preparations recently and studies show that sponsorships are on the rise. Other corporate bodies and business institutions like Globacom, Shell, Nestle, Milo and Africell are also increasing their sponsorship budget of competitive sports across Africa.

While Castle Lager’s presence has been largely felt in the Southern part of the continent where it has it’s largest market, MTN has succeeded in having their presence felt in almost all part of sub-saharan Africa. MTN has been CAF leading sponsor in all major CAF tournaments including the Champions League and Confederations cup, MTN are also sponsoring other sporting disciplines, MTN started sponsoring basketball in 2004 in East Africa, in Uganda MTN is the main sponsor  of the national basketball league that have about 12 teams (eight men) and four (women).

However, it has to be noted that despite the rise in sponsorship, football has been the main receiver of funds and many other disciplines including athletics have been receiving less. This is perhaps because most Africans are mainly interested in football and sponsors are definitely looking for areas of massive public interest.

Magnus Rex Danquah, President of Ethel-Jane University, noted “Sports business is an emerging industry with a strong financial base and if we do it well there will be integrated business for professionals in various fields. There is a lot more business in sports than we can imagine,” he said. Most experts and sports organisers African Sports Magazine contacted expressed their belief that despite the good work being done by many such as Castle Lager and MTN across Africa, more needs to be done by other profitable companies such as mining companies and mobile telecoms.

Africa surely needs sponsorship to enhance the level of its various sporting disciplines and attract quality and huge public interest. Surely, more needs to be done on the part of sports bodies and organisers to wipe out corruption and make competitions much more organise and efficient to attract corporate sponsors.

Another Positive Image For Sierra Leone

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The first thing that came to my mind when I heard on BBC news that a Sierra Leonean cab driver in New York city found a bag containing $100,000 worth of jewellery, photographs and cash in the back seat of his taxi, tracked down the passenger who left it and gave it back, I said wow, for a long time I haven’t heard such a good news for my country in the western media. This appealing account of a modest immigrant’s frankness was aired and featured in many western news outlets. But in Sierra Leone, many are still unaware of the pride the 42 years Zubiru Jalloh has brought to his beloved homeland: to me he is something of a national hero, who has done his own path to portray the good image of Sierra Leone around the world.

Since he handed over the bag of valuables, Mr. Jalloh has been the centre of attention, from the news media onslaught to the phone calls from friends and family to his newfound fame among the community of cabdrivers, who constantly tease him that he was a fool to return the loot. According to US press reports, a couple who recognized him the day after the story broke gave him $20 for a $7 fare. A mechanic who repaired his taxi knocked $20 off his bill.

To many who visit our country, this will not be a surprise for them, but to millions out there who have never set foot here – this will go a long way to tell who the average Sierra Leonean is. To my surprise, the local Sierra Leonean media has largely missed this story. I think they should pick on this and use it to portray the truly kind and generally loving and candid spirit Sierra Leoneans have for strangers and foreigners. In a truly frank way, this is a story that will make you proud to be a Sierra Leonean. At a time the country is trying to rebrand and let people know that Sierra Leone is ready for business and tourism, I think the APC led government should pick on this as a marketing tool and celebrate this great and candid act.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

February 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Footballer Returns To His Community With Charity

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Rodney Strasser will attempt to take on a new challenge off the pitch in helping his countrymen

Rodney Strasser will attempt to take on a new challenge off the pitch in helping his countrymen

After only three years since he left his modest KroJimmy/Fourah Bay Community to play for Italian football giant, AC Milan and Sierra Leonean international Rodney Strasser is returning back to his community this December with a charity to help children and disadvantaged people in Sierra Leone.

Rodney Strasser revealed to me that his main aim will be to: “Support under-privileged Sierra Leoneans such as children, amputees and the handicapped through care and hope.”

To start this Rodney Strasser hopes to begin no further than his local KroJimmy/Fourah Bay community where he began his football career that has now taken him to the Rossoneri where he plays football and dines with world football stars like Rohnaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “I will never forget where I come from, it was only about three years ago that I used to rub skin with these people now I feel a desire to help them and offer them something that can help improve their lives.”  The Sierra Leonean international hopes to kick off his charity at the Fourah Bay field, where he will have a charity match on Wednesday 22nd December.

The charity foundation that has been coined by the football star as Supporting Under-privileged through Care and Hope (SUCH) is set to be launched with a press conference in Freetown immediately when the Italian Serie A takes a Christmas break on the 19th December and Rodney revealed that he has a lot to donate and this is something he feels obliged to do. “It’s a responsibility and trust me I do not see this as a favour, but I view it as a moral responsibility to my countrymen.”

Born in Freetown, Strasser joined Milan from local club FC Kallon in 2007, and coming back to Freetown the player also hopes to pay respect to people who have contributed to his professional career like his dad and FC Kallon owner Mohamed Kallon.

During his time in the AC Milan youth system, he was a member of the under-20 side who triumphed in the Coppa Italia Primavera in 2010, 25 years after the team’s last success in the competition. He also made his debut for the AC Milan first team in a league game against Udinese on 21 December 2008, coming off the bench in the final minutes.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

December 8, 2010 at 1:14 am

Freetown Planning Dilemma

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A View of Freetown's skyline

View of Freetown's skyline from above the hills of Signal Hill

It is no secret that Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown is currently in a planning dilemma. From the upscale suburb Hill Stations to the far eastern sections of Lumpa in Waterloo, there is a massive rise in construction of houses and new communities are sprouting up everywhere. There is also an unprecedented expansion in areas that are reserved for future development by government and areas once deemed as very unsafe to live, just at the back of Bishops Court on the wharf adjacent to Queen Elizabeth II Quay, there is a whole new community just about few years old. The small portion of beach that existed before has been covered by new houses banked against the flowing tide from the ocean. The roads that lead to many of the houses there are as dangerous as the position of the community itself, narrow footpath and rickety foot bridges. The houses, most of which are built of dirt clay and zinc are so crammed against each other, that in an event of a fire accident in a, there is very little chance that any of the houses could be spared. It is interesting to note that this was an area once slated for an expansion plan of Freetown harbour. In Lumpa, Waterloo, there are over two hundred new houses being built and the majority of the houses are being built in a scattered manner. Despite the vastness of the new communities, there are very few roads and there are little signs of gutters and sewage system is almost non-existent. Some of the houses do not even have toilets or bath rooms. Travel further west and even the upscale suburb of IMATT or Regent, the home of the magnificent US Embassy; there are new communities sprouting up around the beautifully built houses in the area, and in the midst of beautiful residential quarters there is a big building material store in what is suppose to be a purely residential community. Almost everywhere in Freetown, there is a clear evidence that the city is not planned to modern standards says Joe Doherty, a Sierra Leonean scholar at the Department of Geography, University of St Andrews. “Go up to the peninsula area and take a look downtown, you will hardly spot road networks in all the communities, spontaneous expansions are the order of the day. Everyone go about putting structures virtually everywhere without proper coordination and planning with the authorities. Something is definitely wrong.” He says. In a scholarly article published in the UK, he argues that the perpetuation of housing problems in Freetown and the failure to implement housing policies cannot be attributed merely to bureaucratic inadequacies and resource limitations. “They can only be fully understood by reference to the way the main agents of housing provision, the private market and the state, operate in the specific social and economic conditions of underdeveloped capitalism.” In an exclusive interview with Sierra Eye, Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Dr Dennis Sandy acknowledged the huge planning problems faced by Freetown such as the rapid growth of structures and new communities everywhere. He expressed dismay about people blocking access roads in areas such as Waterloo and his main concern was people are consistently breaking and flouting building regulations and the Freetown Improvement Act. But he said that there are concrete plans by the incumbent government to change this scenario by expanding the current road networks and making the city a much better place to reside. Citing the current hill side road project in the eastern part of the city as one of the first move in that direction, he also revealed plans to expand other roads in the city such as Wilkinson Road to a four lane. “We are trying to see how best we can give a facelift to the city, and of course we are also trying to decongest Freetown and emphasising the planning aspect and the enforcement of the laws governing lands, housing and planning,” said Dr Sandy. The Minister angrily reacted to any thought that Freetown is becoming a slum, saying that view is a very insensitive one. “We are seriously working to improve the current state of the city despite moves to enforce the law in achieving this we expect people to heed the call of the president to accept altitudinal change and stop illegal act such as building structures in the SLRA right of way and the illegal occupation of government lands,” he concluded. However, further afield there are little signs of change as many developers struggle to put up variety of structures in the deforested areas of Juay, in the eastern part of the city. The houses most of which are not crammed together are being built in a scattered manner, and for Lamin Sesay who started building a one flat structure last year this is the dream of his life: “I have worked for over fifteen years now and now I am thankful to Allah for letting me achieve my dream of building a new house for my family. It’s really not easy for me, he said. Despite the virtual non-existence of basic infrastructures such as roads, electricity and water near his site; Lamin is visibly a happy man as he watched workers put his house together. When Sierra Eye put it to Lamin that he might not get the correct papers to build on that land or permission from the authorities to put up the type of structures he is putting up, Lamin reacted with utmost confidence showing series of papers which he claimed was given to him by survey and housing officials who parade through most of these communities. As Lamin tried to explain to us, some of these officials were approaching a nearby land where workers were unearthing the ground for a new foundation to be laid. Lamin pointed to us, these are the officials and they monitor all these new structures around here. We approached them and tried to talk to them but when they became aware that we were journalists, they backed off and quickly disappear from the area. They claimed they are not officially permitted to talk to the press and despite us trying to squeeze through a question why are they giving building permit to people even when the structural arrangements looked so shabby and disorganised? There was no response from them. A house owner in the area who prefers to be anonymous told us that these officials are clearly not interested in anything apart from the money that they collect from builders. “They only come so that they can get money from us,” he said. However, he claimed that house owners are trying to ensure that there are spaces for roads so that they don’t end up having a crammed up community. Another planning dilemma in Freetown has been the absence of an efficient waste disposal system; most gutters across the city are blocked throughout the year and as a result of this most streets become over flooded during the rainy season. In the east of the city, it is far worse, some inhabitants throw their waste at night in street corners when the gutters are filled. Although, the Freetown City Council provides waste disposal trucks and carts, the city is just too vast and some communities are off limit making the task of waste management a serious problem. Areas that once catered for waste disposal now have houses or other structures standing on them, almost all the waste disposal sites in the city have vanished. Most observers have in the past warned about the imminent dangers and over-congesting and rapid rise of structures in dangerous communities in the city, Councilor Mr. Mohamed Kargbo in a drive to save lives and property the Freetown City Council has been issuing warning notices to the people living in various dangerous communities in the city to quit those areas but they are not getting any cooperation. Of late there have even been fatalities in these communities especially during the rainy season. Last rainy season a huge rock at the edge of a ravine at Culvert along Bai Bureh Road, a few yards from the Bumeh dumping site in the  East end of Freetown collapsed killing four people and injuring nine. Inhabitants within the vicinity said the incident occurred at around 1:00 am during the torrential rain when almost everybody within the neighbourhood was asleep. The huge stone with a mass of loose earth crashed down upon a structure positioned underneath it burying all the occupants. Neighbours and security personnel rushed to the scene in a desperate bid to rescue them but the mudslides, torrential rains and lack of proper rescue equipment made it very difficult. The Member of Parliament representing Constituency 102 Hon. Eustace King said the Freetown City Council had already issued warning notices to the inhabitants to quit the area but they did not heed the advice. He referred to the situation as pathetic and heart-breaking taking into cognizance the catastrophic dimension and further stated that he was again warning those dwelling in such a deadly spot to move forthwith as the area is a hazardous zone. Some of the inhabitants of these areas are pointing the fingers on government. At the back of Prince of Wales in the Kroo Bay slum, Morlai Turay living at No 2 May Street who happens to be one of the unfortunate slum dwellers said he is living there not by his choice. “I knew living here is risky and dangerous for me and my family, but I clearly don’t have another option.” Morlai whose house is banked on the sea and having a rock hanging just above the cliff behind said he chose to live there rather getting back to his village where his three children might have had little chance of gaining education. Morlai said it is not their fault, but that of the government who has failed over the years to provide low cost housing estate for poor people like them. “When was the last time the government embarked upon a programme to build low cost houses in the city? We are being forced to live in these places even though there are dangers to us and our children because our leaders have no strategy to develop the city,” said an angry Morlai. When a city is overcrowded and lack efficeient housing, even the dead feel the effect of the pressure, many of the cemeteries in Freetown have been encroached by dwellers. Houses are not only being built on burial grounds from the Circular Road to Kissy Road Cemetery, but overcrowding means a clear interaction between the dead and alive. During the day, it is not uncommon for group of people sitting on top of graves at Kissy Road Cemetery, traders and women selling foodstuff can be seen right in the Cemetery selling their food items and cookeries. At Race Course Cemetery it is almost the same situation but made far worse because of it nearness to the Bomeh waste disposal site. Nonetheless, there are huge new building structures at the back of the Cemetery. And most inhabitants use the Cemetery as their route. Whilst the Freetown City Council has succeeded in closing the gates at Kissy Road Cemetery at nights, they are struggling to do the same at Race Course. Isatu Kamara one of those living at edge of Race Course Cemetery said that since the war brought them to Freetown they have struggled to find a place to live in the city. “We know this place is not safe for us and healthy for us, but my brother where can we go?” She asked. Living between the dead and the massive pile garbage of Bomeh is a way of life for many here. The situation is made worse by the usual smoke from the burning of garbage which hangs up like cloud in the air. But many of the children in the fog of the smoke joyfully kicking socks ball in the area are clearly symbolising the acceptance spirit of staying put in the area, despite the hazards. The UN-HABITAT, a UN body seeking improvement for people faced with dangerous housing conditions has called for the improvement of slum and informal settlements in Freetown. In offering a solution for the rising problems, they called for the proper identification and mapping of all slum and informal settlements in Freetown, carrying out of an extensive review of the literature on the housing situation in Freetown, and also the analysis of the housing, environmental sanitation and socio-economic situation in a selected slum/informal settlement in Freetown. But for the moment, housing, waste management, traffic and planning difficulties mean that even if appropriate measures are taken it is going to take time for Freetown to have a normal face-lift.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

October 31, 2010 at 11:53 am