Monday, January 2, 2012

Fuel Shortages Bring A Tough New Year To Southeastern Sierra Leone

While residents  of Freetown and other areas of the country are going about their business of welcoming the new year with pomp and pageantry, the citizens of Southeastern Sierra Leone, are having to welcome the new year with serious shortages of petrol and other essential fuels, creating further hardship in these already marginalized regions of the country. The  regional headquarter towns of Bo and Kenema are especially hit with long queues outside petrol stations making some drivers spend the entire new year sitting in petrol lines.
Sierra Leone's marginalized

Kenema Okada Riders

The APC government of President Ernest Bai Koroma has responded to the situation by heaping blame on petrol dealers for creating artificial fuel scarcity for political and profit motives. They government is also, as usual, blaming the global economic crisis, even though the consumption of fuel has markedly declined in the western world due to the adoption of more fuel efficient vehicles like the Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt and Honda Insight, amongst others.

Sierra Leone's President  Koroma
Speaking by phone to some residents of my hometown of Segbwema, they complained that this is the worst Christmas they have had in a long time as the cheapest price of rice in Kenema, where they buy rice from,  is one hundred and fifty thousand leones a bag, a sum that most citizens cannot afford this Christmas. An uncle of mine told me that people are now surviving in Segbwema and other areas by engaging in barter system, a primitive economic method of exchanging goods  for goods, with some surviving only by the generosity of relatives and their children abroad.

Local Okada riders, the most popular form of transport now in Sierra leone, have also jerked up their prices because of fuel shortages, compounding the already dire situation of citizens of these neglected regions. The resident Minister of the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone, William Juana Smith decided to spend Christmas out  of the country and does not currently have to deal with the situation of the people. The Southern Region Minister states that he is working with the trade minister, who has said that people may not have to suffer for long, as fuel imports to the country may soon arrive. A local driver said he will not hold his breath for this promise, as the APC government has been singing the same song for four years now. "This government" he said, "has made so many promises that they have not kept, that had we waited for them all these years, all our children would have been dead by now"
Sierra Leone's poor

Vice President Sam Sumana

The severe hardship has cast a shadow of gloom over rural Sierra Leone, even as government officials go up the provinces in luxury cruisers to enjoy Christmas with their blessed relatives. A government supporter I talked with about this situation said that Sierra Leoneans are never grateful and are always complaining. He said President Koroma is the best president Sierra leone has had in a long time, though how this can be true amazes me as the prices of basic foodstuff have gone through the roof these four years and official corruption is so rampant that even the international community is now growing increasingly alarmed. As of now, the people of rural Sierra Leone seem resigned to more promises and back breaking hardship, as they welcome the new year.

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