Thursday, May 29, 2014

Institutionalized Theft at QE II Quay in Freetown Sierra Leone Reaches a New Low

Peagie Woobay Foday
In the last four weeks thieves at the Sierra Leone's QE II Harbor, popularly known in the capital Freetown as "Water Quay" have raided items belonging to the Peagie Woobay Scholarship Fund (PWSF), A  philanthropic organization founded by a Sierra Leone national in Sweden Peagie Woobay Foday. Many young people in the Sierra Leone diaspora are outraged as she has involved many of them in her fundraising and promotional activities.

I first met Peagie Woobay in Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone. She was a young vivacious ball of energy who made you proud to have a girl child. She was very small but has always acted big. She reminds me of another young woman Halima Tambi who was also very small and energetic. They were in college at the same time. 

When the Sierra Leone civil war led to the great migration of young Sierra Leoneans into the refugee diaspora, Peagie Woobay was among the thousands of Sierra Leoneans who were lucky to make it out of the country and find a peaceful home in Europe.

Over the past few years Peagie Woobay now Foday by marriage, became increasingly concerned with the plight of young girls in Sierra Leone. A country with no laws protecting young girls, grown men routinely impregnate school girls. Poor families turn blind eyes to relationships between their daughters and men old enough to be their grandfathers. The high degree of poverty and gender discrimination in employment opportunities also means that poor families prefer to invest in the education of their male children at the expense of the females. Girls are often taken out of school after primary education and those who go to secondary schoosl have to survive the lusty moves of teachers, civil servants and men with the mentality of billy goats, in a society where people turn blind eyes towards pedophilia and men see the conquest of young girls as proof of their vitality.

Even university students are not immune to these advances. When we were in Fourah Bay College, the girls dormitory at Lati Hyde Forster could be mistaken for another government facility, given the endless parade of civil servants and ministers in and out of the facility.
Fund Board Member Khadi Mansaray

Peagie Woobay, a graduate of Fourah Bay College who herself became pregnant at the age of 15 but persevered to attain university and graduate level education decided to do something to help reverse this negative trend. She launched a nonprofit, (NGO) the Peagie Woobay Scholarship Woobay Scholarship fund, the purpose of which is "to raise funds to help educate a lot of girls in her native land Sierra Leone, West Africa thus empowering them for their future and making them into powerful drivers of progress."

The Peagie Woobay Scholarship fund has board members in Sweden, UK and the USA. The foundation operates in all the main regions of Sierra Leone and undertakes the following:

  • Pay tuition and fees for secondary school girls, helping them with uniforms, books and the motivation to stay in school.
  • Establish and operate day care centers in Moyamba and Kabala with plans to increase the number of day care around the country.
  • Provide free food for children in the day care centers.
  • Provide education to girls on the risks of teenage pregnancy and the drawbacks of early marriage.
  • Help girls get access to preventive services to enable them stay in school.
  • Establish resource centers for girls to train them in vocational skills such as sewing, IT and computer skills, basket mankind and weaving and provides microcredit to teenage mums to give them a fighting chance in life.
Financial Advisor Foday

Peagie who is an extrovert by nature and very driven has manged to get support for her cause among the Sierra Leone community spread across the globe and skillfully used social media to propagate her efforts and recognize those involved with the scholarship fund.
US Rep Charles Hubbard

Unfortunately, Peagie Woobay has also attracted negative attention- that of established criminal syndicates that are now operating at will at the Sierra Leone Ports Authority. (SLPA) 

The Sierra Leone Ports Authority criminal syndicates were notorious in the 80 and early 90s. However their activities were severely curtailed in the military era and under the regime of President Ahmed Tejan Kabba as marine traffic to Sierra Leone at the time declined precipitously. However, as marine traffic has increased with peace and Sierra Leone has once again descended into a new era of institutionalized corruption, the "Water Quay" criminal syndicates are back with a vengeance, Many members of these criminal syndicates are ports authority employees who collude with ports security to break into shipping containers and transport items out of the harbor under the cover of darkness.

The Peagie Woobay Scholarship Fund which usually lists the supplies they are shipping to Sierra Leone has now become a prime target for the criminal syndicates at the harbor many of who trace the scholarship fund shipments and help themselves as soon as they are at the harbor, even though they are well aware that the items are meant to help poor disadvantaged girls in the country. A few weeks ago thieves carted away some items shipped to support the Scholarship Fund activities in Sierra Leone
Truck Before Shipping to Freetown

This week however, the bold and brazen theft of the entire cab of a Nissan King Cab truck vandalized at the quay has outraged well meaning Sierra Leoneans all over the world. The Nisasan truck when shipped to Freetownby the PWSF  had a cab at the back and was completely intact. When the cab was cleared yesterday at the quay, the cab at the back had miraculously disappeared, the metal light and fog lights at the front were gone and the truck was almost laid bare. Peagie expressed immense outrage, but has vowed that blue collar thieves employed at the quay are not going to stop her work in the country. However many other Sierra Leoneans engaged with the Scholarship fund are outraged at this senseless and selfish act. Many are outraged that Sierra Leone has once again descended to this level of criminality which should have ended with the war.
Truck After Clearing with Cab Gone

The Segbwema Blog will continue to monitor the investigation, as authorities at the Quay have been alerted to this criminal outrage. Some Sierra Leoneans have already started to call for an overhaul of the ports authority. However, given he fact that the current President appoints only his cronies to top positions at crucial facilities in the country, not much is expected to come out of this insane atrocity.

Sierra Leone was just a few years ago seen as a beacon of democracy and reform in West Africa, but sycophancy, corruption, greed and nepotism have once again seen the country start to slide into the ranks of chaotic nations even though the mines are now working at full capacity and new mineral concerns are springing up across the country. 


Unknown said...

This is not an isolated case, it is a norm and trust me, I'll be surprised if anything comes out of it. I understand Paeggy's plight because I have witnessed so many incidents over the years and I have lost count.
The problem is, who do you complain to and how much is the complaint form?
There so called agents (self-employed)but appointed by either NRA or government officials pretend to help you out and ensure that you are close to madness. After making both official and non official payments, you will be faced with security issues as the Agents and Water Quay officials on the ground turn a blind eye, when your goods are been looted by thieves. I witnessed an arrest where a thief was handcuffed but he was released shortly afterwards, as we saw him roaming the vicinity.
Peaggy I really do hope that you recover your goods. Something needs to be done in that 'city of help yourself', the situation is getting out of hand.

Mohamed Joseph said...

I don't want to accept the notion that "because nothing was done in the past when it comes to such acts, nothing will come out of this global outcry for Peagie and the girls missing item". There is an end to everything just like there is a beginning and this could well be the beginning of the end for those sycophants and their masqueraded bosses. We must as a country hope and believe that such acts must be completely eradicated, at least to gain the confidence of well meaning inverstors who are easily scared away by such reckless and selfish acts.

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