Monday, March 31, 2014

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Hits Liberia

President Ellen Johnson Sierleaf
New Ebola Worry

Having ravaged Southern Guinea for the past few weeks killing over 60 people, the highly deadly and contagious Ebola hemorrhagic fever caused by the dreaded Ebola virus has been confirmed in the neighboring republic of Liberia.
Liberian Information Minister Brown
Earlier denied Ebola in Liberia

World Health Organization (WHO) sources state that as of  this Saturday March 29, 2014, seven specimens taken from individuals in Foya Kama in Lofa County, which borders Guinea and Eastern Sierra Leone, were tested for Ebola with two of the tests coming back positive. Among the suspected cases, there has already been two confirmed deaths from the outbreak.
The World Health Organization reports that blood work from a 35  year woman who died on March 21st tested positive for Ebola, as well as that from a 27 year old male patient who died on Thursday March 27th. As of now no cases of Ebola have been reported outside of Foya which shares boundaries with Kailahun District in Eastern Sierra Leone.

The Liberian authorities are collaborating closely with the world health organization and other health care NGOs to get a lid on the outbreak and restrict it's proliferation across the country. Already those who were in close contact with the confirmed cases have been isolated and rapid training in Ebola Virus management is being provided to workers at the Foya Hospital.

Health Care works from around the country are also being provided specific training in the identification and management of Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF)

The government of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has set up a high level National Task Force to coordinate the response to the outbreak and provide leadership and a disease management strategic plan. The International Red Cross and other agencies are also actively involved in the response to this emerging catastrophe.

Based on current information, the World Health Organization is advising the governments of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to avoid imposing travel restrictions at the moment. However, each government is warned to be extremely vigilant.
Compiled From WHO reports.
Sheku Sheriff

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sylvia Blyden Sierra Leone's Drama Queen at it Again.

Blyden's Midnight Juju
Of late I have been wondering whether Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, the Special Executive Assistant to Sierra Leone's President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and publisher of the Awareness Times gossip column is either a practical joker, has some marble loose somewhere, or is just plain mischievous.

Last year, spending just two weeks in America, she made up this story that members of the APC North American chapter have so much admired the work she is doing back in Freetown that they bought her a red Mercedes Benz. The uproar of the false claim almost fractured the North American branch of  Sierra Leone's ruling party in USA, causing the chapter leaders to quickly release a statement rebuffing her claims in a bid to calm down frayed nerves. The woman is a mobile trouble magnet.

As if all her claims of being the target of almost everybody in Sierra Leone is not enough, now she has come out with this fantastic claim that at 11.00 pm sometime this month a mysterious four horned object mysteriously dropped out of nowhere, yes, just out of thin air and fell onto her house.
Not knowing what it was, she, a practicing Christian, a point she repeatedly emphasizes, did not send to call her pastor or church priest, but instead sent for one Dr. Sulaiman Kabba, who she claims is the President of Sierra Leone Traditional Healers Association or to put it in simpler terms, the country's Chief Juju man, officially recognized.

According to Dr. Blyden's own personal account the witch doctor quickly came to her house and dismantled the strange paraphernalia. The object as reported by the President's own personal assistant, consisted of horns, cowrie shells, the skin of a pussy cat (don't know if a zoologist was also at the scene), some monkey hair, mirror glasses, (last time I checked most mirrors are made of glass), red blood, and some other strange components.
Blyden's Mysterious Horns

Dr. Blyden is of the fervent belief that on that fateful night, she did come under sustained JuJu attack which she only repelled because, according to her, she is living in a house consecrated with the Holy Spirit and it was the power of this Holy Ghost that repelled the invisible "witch juju invaders."  If this juju, Holy Spirit and consecrated house combo sounds confusing, then you need to take a trip to Freetown.

According to Blyden's rag, The Awareness Times, it was the Holy Spirit himself who was resident at her consecrated house that caused the mysterious object to morph from its hidden metaphysical form into the strange object that suddenly appeared on her doorstep in the middle of the night, causing her to summon the nation's most decorated witch doctor.

Guinea needs Dr. Sulaiman Kabba

Now if somebody had just told me this story as a rumor, I would have probably just dismissed it as somebody talking too much after a hefty plate of cassava leaves. But this is a story being peddled by the Special Executive Assistant to no other person than the country's President himself, and you wonder if somebody that close to the center of power and professing to be a trained medical doctor, would be that irresponsible to make such a public claim, the veracity of which depended solely on superstition.

You wonder whether this was the first time the witch doctor, Dr. Kabba, was summoned or whether he was also being summoned in times when decisions of national importance have to be made. A scary thought, when you think that economic decisions that will affect the destiny of our nation may now be made not on the basis of data from the central bank or Ministry of Finance, but from the mystical visions of the country's most celebrated witch doctor! The consultation of herbalists now becoming official government practice and policy; scary!

Sometimes thinking about Sierra Leone really saddens anybody with the capacity to think above a pussy cat. Here is a country that was the first in English Sub-Saharan Africa to have a University with graduates getting the same education as the leading British Universities at the time. Forward to many decades later we have a President who graduated from the same university, with a Special Executive Assistant professing to be a medical doctor, yet would believe that she is under attack by juju because the leading witch doctor in the country had told her so.

Now with the whole world looking for that missing Jumbo Jet, why can't we just call the Malaysian government and say "Hey Malays, you have been looking for that missing Jumbo Jet for several days now. Here is Dr. Kabba, the leading proponent of dark arts in our country. Take him to the middle of the Indian Ocean and he will help you locate that plane before you can say Shokolokobangoshay.

Probably this elevation of mediocrity is the reason why occasionally people look at you quite strangely when you tell them that you are from Sierra Leone. They sometimes tend to look at you as if you are an interesting biological specimen for dissection. "Lets put him on a table, and see what the brain of an elemental moron looks like."

The next thing Dr. Kabba will tell SOB is that the witch plane came from either Makeni or Kono. The pilot will likely be a young man, fair in complexion, with a popular weekly radio program that starts with an M, go figure.

As we say in Freetown, "Ayyyy Salone!"

Friday, March 28, 2014

More Ebola Cases Reported in Conakry as Neighboring Countries Prepare.

Suspected Ebola Case Conakry
Eight cases of Ebola have now been confirmed in the Guinean Capital Conakry putting the city in a heightened state of fear. These new cases include the four brothers who on Thursday came down with the virus after returning from burying their brother in the south of the country. The neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone have also started to investigate suspected cases of people showing the flu like symptoms, according to Radio France International.
Poor Hygiene in Conakry

In Conakry, medical teams have now been assembled to locate and isolate suspected cases in the city. Guinean authorities have banned the eating of raw bat and monkey meat, which are believed to be the main vectors of the highly contagious and fatal virus. 

The Guinean government has also appealed to the residents of the capital not to give in to panic, but to be very cautious in practicing basic hygiene, avoid eating raw bush meat, avoid interacting with people who are believed to be at risk, and reporting suspected cases promptly.
Health Workers on High Alert

The confirmed cases of Ebola in Guinee have now exceeded 103 with at least 66 deaths and the tendency of the virus to wipe out entire families has brought the city to a state of near total panic. Health authorities in neighboring Sierra Leone have also started educating the citizens about the virus and warning them to take basic hygiene very seriously. 

Ebola usually starts with malaria like symptoms characterized by general weakness, fever with chills, muscle, joint and chest pain. Those afflicted may also suffer nausea with vomiting and diarrhea. People may also develop respiratory symptoms with swelling of the neck, sore throat, coughs, shortness of breath and hiccups. Severe headache, agitation, confusion and seizures may also be present. Those infected may also start bleeding from the nose, ears and mucus membranes, including reproductive organs.
Hospital in Conakry

The Ebola virus has so many different symptoms that are similar to other tropical infections that most times the only way it is confidently diagnosed is when the health care workers taking care of the patients become sick themselves. The disease has no cure and has a fatality rate of 90% and it is only controlled by isolating those afflicted and strictly controlling their movement. This is the first reported case of Ebola in West Africa.
Poor Ebola Handling

Ebola symptoms closely resembles symptoms of Lassa Fever, another hemorrhagic fever that originated from the village of Lassa in Nigeria and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Segbwema, Tongo, Kenema and other main towns in Eastern Sierra Leone in the late 70s, 80s and 90s. The main Lassa fever research project in the country was located in Nixon Memorial Hospital in Segbwema and was one of the top most scientific medical research projects in a West Africa. Unfortunately the project became a victim of the country's civil war, was relocated to Kenema and lost a lot of its exemplary health care workers.

Ebola Spreads to Guinean Capital Conakry


Guinean Ebola Outbreak
The deadly Ebola virus which causes a type of hemorrhagic fever with a fatality rate of 90% and has been plaguing the southern region of the West African country of Guinea for several week and has already claimed over 60 lives in that area, has finally spread to the country's highly congested capital city Conakry.
The Ebola Virus  

The Conakry case started with the death of a shopkeeper in the Guinean capital on March 18th 2014. After his death four of his brothers were assigned to take his body back to their village. After preparing the body for transport, one of the brothers started feeling very unwell and went to the hospital where tests confirmed that he was afflicted with the deadly virus.
Guinean Health Workers

The Segbwema blog correspondent in Conakry reported that after this confirmed case, the three other brothers were also checked and all were discovered to be positive for the killer virus. Guinean officials have isolated all the relatives and even the health care workers and doctors who treated them. There is a great fear and disquiet that the virus will spread very rapidly in the highly congested capital where hygienic practices are not always at the top of the agenda of the locales. Conakry has a troublesome relationship with the cholera bacteria which is far less deadly and the release of this virus in the troubled coastal city is seen by many as a potential health catastrophe.

The Guinean Health Minister Colonel Remy Lamah confirmed the outbreak of the virus in the nation's capital. He said the dead shopkeeper's house has been sprayed and all his relatives have been quarantined. The doctors that treated the brothers have also been quarantined for 21 days.

The highly fatal Ebola virus was first reported in Congo in 1976 and has reoccurred there regularly over the years. This is the first time Ebola has been reported in this area of West Africa. In neighboring Sierra Leone, whose capital Freetown was just a couple of years ago devastated by a severe attack of cholera, the population is very concerned and a lot of people are very worried as there is daily interaction between the Guinean capital Conakry and the Sierra Leone capital through trade. Traders ply the route between the two congested urban settlements daily and many Sierra Leoneans pass through the country to travel abroad.

It is hoped by many that now that the Ebola virus has reached Conakry, the Sierra Leone government will put structures in place to respond rapidly to the eventuality of the virus moving across the boundaries of the two countries. Already countries like Cote D'Ivoire and Liberia has put some restrictions on the consumption of bush meat. However, the restrictions are largely being ignored by the people. 

Sheku Sheriff
The Segbwema Blogger.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Beloved Ex-President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah Dies in Sierra Leone

Ex President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah
Yesterday was a particularly sad day for me. I was driving on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis, listening to BBC West Africa Service on my phone through my car stereo when I heard the news that Sierra Leone's former President and long term UN diplomat Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the man who practically dragged the country from the jaws of hell had died after a protracted period of ill health.

Over the course of several months, the health of the ex-president had seriously deteriorated and there were periodical rumors of his demise, especially when he sought treatment in the United Kingdom.
Post Presidential Work

Ahmed Tejan Kabba, a veteran civil servant, diplomat, lawyer and politician will go down in the history of Sierra Leone as one of the most consequential leaders the country has ever produced and by far the most influential. His prime achievement during his presidency was bringing to an end the savage, brutal and senseless civil war that gripped the country from the early 90s to the early years of the last decade. He is survived by two children and his current wife Mrs. Isatu J. Kabbah (IJK)
Mr. and Mrs Kabba

The Sierra Leone civil war, started by an ex-army corporal Foday Sankoh, supported by Liberian rebel leader Charles Ghankay Taylor with the connivance of Former Libyan leader Muammar Ghadafi and Burkina Faso dictator Blaise Campaore, began on March 23, 1991 with an attack on a small military outpost in the town of Bomaru in Eastern Sierra Leone, after a period of threats by the then Liberian based Corporal Foday Sankoh.

The country's leader at the time Rtd. Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, dismissed the attacks as minor skirmishes that will be swiftly dealt with. However, within the period of a few months, the rebels had almost overrun the border district of Kailahun and their momentum was only impeded by the rapid intervention of Guinean forces in response to a mutual defense pact between the two countries and by the resilience of a small band of Sierra Leone soldiers in Segbwema led by the late Lt. Prince Ben Hirsch, who ultimately lost his life in defense of the area.
Late Wife Patricia Lucy Kabbah

With time, the war went into a dangerous stalemate, with back and forth victories between the country's military and the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) that was to last for the better part of a decade and the passing of the leadership of the country in five hands before its conclusion. The five conflict time leaders of Sierra Leone were Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, Captain Valentine Esegrabo M. Strasser, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, Major Johnny Paul Koroma and Tejan Kabba again.

Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh was ultimately undone by the war, overthrown by a group of young army officers led by Captain Strasser. Strasser promised an early end to the war, but was never able to assert the control he needed to fulfill this promise, as he was surrounded by colleagues whose personalities dwarfed the introverted leader. Later, Strasser's men became to big for him.

Valentine Strasser was eventually overthrown and bundled off to Guinea by his own cabinet, in a palace coup led by his then deputy Julius Maada Bio, who ultimately handed the country over to civilian multiparty rule under the leadership of retired UN diplomat Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
Assumption of Presidency

Tejan Kabbah was ultimately able to use a combination of diplomacy and  his international  influence to appeal for external military intervention that was to finally bring an end to the conflict in 2002 and restore economic order into a country that had practically become a banana republic after years of conflict.

Tejan Kabba was born on the 16th of February 1932 in the Eastern town of Pendembu to a Madingo trader from Gbolon in Kambia, the North of Sierra Leone, Pa Abu Bakr Sidique Kabbah and Madam Damayei from the Coomber ruling family of Mobai in Mandu Chiefdom, Kailahun district. Tejan Kabbah's paternal lineage was from Kankan in present day Guinea. Before the advent of the colony the areas of Kankan and the North of current day Sierra Leone were one and the same.
The Early Days

After his Quranic education, Tejan Kabba attended primary school in Freetown from where he proceeded to Saint Edwards Secondary school, the premier Catholic high school in the country's capital. After graduation from Secondary school Tejan proceeded to the United Kingdom for university studies, enrolling in the Cardiff College for Technology and Commerce, University of Wales.
In 1959 Ahmed obtained a bachelor's degree in Economics. While in the United Kingdom, Tejan Kabba became very active in student politics and eventually became the President of the Overseas Students Society. He also became a member of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, (SLPP) a party allegiance that he held onto his death.

After completing his degree the young Ahmed Tejan Kabba returned to Sierra Leone and joined the colonial civil service as an Administrative Officer and became one of the crop of civil servants that became part of the country's post colonial administration under the  country's first Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai.
On June 12th 1965, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah married Patricia Lucy Tucker who was then an Assistant Secretary at the Prime Minister's office. They had four children and were together until she passed away after his return from Guinea at the prime of his presidency. She was never truly fond of his political aspirations but accepted his destiny and became a mother figure in the country.
Father of Peace

Tejan Kabbah rose through the ranks of Sierra Leone's civil service, but left the country after the army seized power when the Sierra Leone Peoples Party lost to the All Peoples Congress (APC) of trade unionist Siaka Stevens. He went bak to the United Kingdom and studied law, eventually qualifying as a barrister. When Siaka Stevens eventually became president he confiscated Tejan Kabbah's assets in Sierra Leone on the allegation that he had acquired twenty thousand Leones from the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board, even though two commissions had declared him innocent.

After briefly practicing as a lawyer in the United Kingdom, Ahmed Tejan Kabba eventually joined the United Nations as deputy Chief to the West  African Division of the UNDP and was with the organization for 22 years.During his tenure at the United Nations he served as UN head in Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. After returning to UN headquarters Tejan Kabbah became the head of UN's Eastern and Southern Africa Division. During his long service with the United Nations Tejan Kabbah held manu senior administrative positions and made many connections that would later prove invaluable in bringing an end to the brutal civil war in his country. He eventually retired from the United Nations in 1992.

In 1995 some members of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party invited Dr. John Karefa Smart to be the party's leader, but he declined. Many turned to Tejan Kabbah as an alternative, as the party was looking for a leader that was not from its southeastern stronghold. Eventually Kabbah won the leadership of the party, in a contest between himself, popular lawyer Charles Margai, among others.

In the first multiparty elections in the country after many years on ene party and military rule, the SLPP led the field of 13 political parties. In the runoff election between Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP and Dr. John Karefa Smart of the UNPP, Tejan Kabba won with 59% of the votes and was sworn in as President on March 29 1996. He later won reelection and survived several military and rebel insurrections.

President Ahmed Tejan Kabba made it the main mission of his Presidency to bring an end to the country's protracted civil war. As soon as he assumed power, he expandded on the overtures to the RUF that had been initiated by Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and worked assiduously to secure a peace deal with the RUF. 
The Long Road to Peace

Unfortunately for President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the RUF leader Foday Sankoh, a belligerent individual who had control over large swaths of the country only wanted to sign these agreements to give his organization the space and time to rearm and reorganize, after a series of bruising encounters with the country's military and civil defense forces. While publicly signing peace treaties with the government, Foday Sankoh was simultaneously sending orders to his battle group commanders to intensify the attacks on innocent civilians. The war then took a dangerous turn, with amputations, decapitations and disembowelment becoming and adopted pattern of RUF tactic and strategy intended to intimidate the populace and undermine their confidence in the ability of the government to ensure their security.

Foday Sankoh dreamed only of becoming President, as his friend in Liberia Charles Taylor had become. He would disrespectfully reject peace delegations and became increasingly arrogant in the face of the new international recognition, erratic and unpredictable. Eventually he was arrested in Nigeria for gun running.

Even in the face of Sankoh's recalcitrance however, President Kabbah remained steadfast in his peace overtures. Eventually Foday Sankoh returned to Freetown with powers that were almost vice presidential. It was in Freetown at the time that his men opened fire on a group of demonstrators, a serious miscalculation that was to be his undoing. He went into hiding, was eventually captured and imprisoned facing charges of crimes against humanity. He later died in captivity, a dread headed broken man, sick, unsightly to look at and never able to achieve his presidential dream, in spite of all the concessions Kabbah made to him, just to restore peace and quiet once more in Sierra Leone.

In addition to ending the war, President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah went to great lengths to rebuild the civil service, bring about national harmony, reduce tribal tensions in the country, secure the forgiveness of much of the country's foreign debt, reform the country's notoriously corrupt police forces, restart the reconstruction of the much delayed Bumbuna hydroelectric dam, introduce a social security system through NASSIT, secure funding and contracts for the reconstruction of major roads, and oversee the disarmament and demobilization of thousands of armed militias and their reintegration back into civilian life. Much of the foundation of the successes of the present government in terms of infrastructure were acquired under President Kabbah. He was not however a leader that sought  praise, but was only content with carrying out his duties as he had done through all his years with the diplomatic service, a characteristic that makes him markedly different from the current President. However Kabbah also had much international exposure.

In the heat of multiparty political campaigning there were those who had a lot of negative things to say about President Kabbah, including the current crop of the nations leaders. However, most truly enlightened individuals easily regard President as the most influential leader in the country's history. Even though his rule was characterized by problems that were so great that any man with lesser determination and experience would have buckled under the pressure, he was able to restore peace, sanity and some modicum of decency back to a fractured nation. 

Those of us who are schooled in Economics and Public Administration view Tejan Kabbah as one of the most exemplary leaders of contemporary Africa. Drawing on his experience and connections, he was able to take an African economy on the verge of economic and social collapse and bring it back to a decent level of socioeconomic stability.

Tejan Kabba was never able to combat the deep and widespread poverty in the country, consumed as he was by security issues. During his tenure, the mines lay idle, agricultural lands were in rebel hands, the tax base was at a very low level and the country was rocked by insecurity and instability. However he brought hope to many and was instrumental in ensuring that the main perpetrators of the mayhem in the country were brought to justice.

Though a lot of Sierra Leoneans may have mixed feelings about President Kabbah's economic performance, none can doubt the love he had for his homeland and his democratic credentials. President Kabba lost two of his adult male Children after his Presidency and is survived by a son, daughter and current wife Isatu J. Kabbah, another political firebrand he married after the death of his first wife.
I will miss President Kabba and pray that God reward him greatly for all the things he did.

Sheku Sheriff
Saint Paul
Minnesota