Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving: Alas My Turkey Friend

Thanksgiving is here. Tomorrow, millions of Americans will go to their family homes to eat, drink and feast together, happy to be alive, grateful for another year and thankful for being part of this great nation of immigrants.

Alas, the joy of thanksgiving will not extend to those poor big neighborly birds, the Turkeys. Tomorrow at least 45 million of these poor birds will be stuffed, polished and baked, ready for the table of even the laziest cooks in the land.

Benjamin Franklin once called these great birds the "true American originals." Tomorrow, many will end their lives journey on the table of some family already to full from dinner rolls to even eat a full leg. Most of these majestic critters will end up in the neighborhood dumpster or head for the family fridge, to adorn the insides of cold sandwiches for the rest of the month.

Even the Segbwema blogger has joined the turkey craze, but with the Sierra Leone taste, we have found truly patentable ways to ensure that the large bird is well seasoned. I love my brothers in PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But tomorrow I will crave their indulgence,  while I bite deep into the leg of my well seasoned turkey. It is just once a year, so PETA, consider this a minor infringement and give me a ticket.

You see in Segbwema where I was born and bred, there was no turkey. We had our lean free range chickens on Ramadan and Christmas day, or when our elders came to visit us from our capital Freetown. 

So PETA, it is not that I don't care for Turkeys,  I am just listening to my maker who gave me dominion over the fowls of the air and the fish in the sea. On this day I would rather listen to my maker than my vegetarian brother. Who said plants don't have a life too.

Happy thanksgiving in advance to all friends and relatives. I hope you get the Black Friday item of your choice, I will wait for cyber Monday and see if I can qualify for free shipping.
Enjoy this great day.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

President Obama Provides Deportation Relief to Immigrant Families

Immigration Speech
In a prime time address tonight, US President Barack Obama announced an executive decision that would delay deportation of millions of illegal immigrants who have stayed in the country for more than 5 years, have not engaged in any illegal activity and have children who are US citizens or permanent residents.

Contrary to rumors of a unilateral action to change the immigration status of illegal immigrants in the country, the order just provides deportation relief to millions of families who are in the country working underground, giving congress the chance to work on comprehensive immigration reform.

This measure announced today by the President was delayed due to appeals by endangered Southern Democratic politicians in the last election, an act many blame for the failure of many of the democratic faithful to turn up at the polls on November 4th.

The relief measure will be very popular in the immigrant community, but will of course not be welcome by Republicans and their Tea Party supporters, who view the last election as a shift away from the liberal immigration policies of the democrats to their own immigration principle of criminalize and deport.

Republicans however need to be very careful how they respond to this decision, as the demographics of this country are changing very rapidly. The results of the last midterm election reflect primarily one thing; the democratic base stayed away from the polls. This is seen in the extremely low turnout, as on that night many who turned up were those angry with the President. If Republicans mistake this November election for a shift towards their hard line policies,  they will lose the Presidency again in 2016 in grand fashion. They really need to tread carefully on this move by the President tonight.

The Transcript of the Speech is provided below:

My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.
Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.
Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”
Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a deal breaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose.

Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.
Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.

I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

Answering Some Questions on Ebola

An Ebola Virus
A good friend of mine pondered the mystery of Ebola on Facebook the other day. She asked why it was that some people were infected with the virus had people living with them, touching them, yet somehow these other people sometimes never got infected.

There is the popular case of the family that Thomas Eric Duncan, America's first Ebola patient lived with when he came to America.  Mr. Duncan came to America and lived with his host family consisting of his fiancée and her children for some time before he developed symptoms of Ebola. After he developed the Ebola symptoms, he was taken to the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and was prescribed antibiotics and sent back home. He again lived with his fiancée and family for approximately three days before he was rushed the second time to the emergency room, at which time his Ebola disease was well advanced. The copious diarrhea and vomiting had started while he was living with his host family and he had had ample time and opportunity to infect this family. It was learnt that he was even driven to the hospital by his fiancée.
Understanding Ebola

While in the hospital, Duncan's host family were kept isolated in the same apartment he had lived in for some days before they were eventually taken to another location and hazmat crews decontaminated their apartment. However, 21 days later, no member of the host family tested positive for Ebola while two nurses who worked with Duncan and were taking the recommended precautions got infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The question then is why do some people who in contact with Ebola get it while others don't? I will try to provide an answer based on my own understanding of infection and try not to be too technical.

The greatest medicine ever created was not created in some lab by scientists, but exists in the bodies of living organisms. In human beings we call it the immune system, the body's natural defense system to foreign particles. The immune system is so wonderful a defense system, it is truly amazing. It is the body's natural medicine to help defend it against disease.

The human body is like a town surrounded by enemies; bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, artificial contaminants, etc. All these enemies are surrounding the town ready to enter and do serious harm. The town (human body) however has a standing army (the immune system) which responds to any attack by external enemies. The wonderful thing is that the army ( the immune system ) knows all the inhabitants of the town and so would not normally attack them. But any time a foreign enemy enters the town, the army sends soldiers known as antibodies to attack them. If the first soldiers are not enough more soldiers are sent until the enemy is overpowered. That is the simple explanation , now let me explain it in greater detail.

The immune system is the body's natural defense to foreign organism such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses. These foreign particles once they enter the body are known as antigens. When an antigen is found in the body the immune system is alerted. The first thing it does is to try to and understand the nature of the foreign particle and send the right antibody to attack it. How this is done is complex and beyond the scope of the Segbwema Blog, but let us just say that antibodies specific to that antigen are produced and they rush and kill the antigen. You can learn more about the immune system by reading the following link

So when Ebola enters the body, antibodies are created to fight the virus. In some people the antibodies succeed in killing the virus and in others they don't. The people who do not mount sufficient immune response to the disease eventually end up dying, as there is yet no artificial medicine that can combine with the immune system to kill the virus. In other words there is still no cure.
Recognizing Ebola

Usually there are protein markers on bacteria and viruses that enable antibodies to find and attach to them and kill them. One of the reasons why Ebola is so deadly is that it has found  a way of shielding its protein markers from antibodies very effectively and therefore end up confusing the antibodies, allowing the virus to replicate rapidly and overpower the body by attacking human cells and destroying them.

There could be a lot of reasons why Eric Duncan's host family remained uninflected. It could be that they were exposed to him when his viral count was low, in the early stages of his infection. Their immune systems were therefore able to mount a rapid response to the virus before it could multiply rapidly in their systems. Living in America also could have helped, as your immune system is boosted by adequate nutrition. The two Presbyterian Hospital nurses were however exposed to Duncan when he was highly infectious, and this could be a reason why they were infected, as they were subjected to a high viral load before their bodies could mount an adequate response.

I really do not want to make this difficult to read, but just want to say that with every disease, everybody has a different response, as our immune systems are not the same. Some people have an immune system that could be compared to the U.S. Military; large and powerful. Some others have an immune system that could be compared to the Gambian army; small and insignificant, only used to scare the local  people.
Later Symptoms

People who have survived Ebola do so because their body has developed so much antibodies that they were able to kill all the Ebola cells. For the foreseeable future, these people will be resistant to Ebola. There are many others who would may actually have the virus in their system but have such a strong immune response that they may never get ill and hence never test positive.
That Food will Kill You

What is crucial is that at the moment the Ebola virus enters the body the immune system is strong enough to mount an effective response or the symptoms are caught at the early stage when there is still room for them to be managed successfully. When an infection is caught in the early stage, the person is kept hydrated and the fever managed while the body expels the virus and the immune system works to overcome it. Though Ebola is so mysterious, it is truly just like any other virus, just a bit more effective than most fending off antibodies.

(C) Sheku Sheriff
Hamline University

Monday, November 17, 2014

Labor of Love: Sierra Leoneans Mourn Dr. Martin Salia

Dr. Martin Salia (RIP)
When,as Sierra Leoneans in USA, we received news that our latest medical doctor infected with the Ebola virus, Dr. Martin Salia, was being flown into Nebraska, USA for treatment, we were besides ourselves with Joy. In a country with very few doctors per unit of the population, the fact that the first five doctors infected with the virus had all lost their lives to the disease after being treated inside the country, had made us think that Dr. Salia's treatment at a world class facility, famous for the treatment of the toughest infections, would lead to a better outcome. Over the weekend, we have been either glued to our TV screens or organizing prayer sessions for him,wishing and praying that he will miraculously pull through.

Unfortunately, it was with the saddest heart I learnt this morning that this wonderful example of human altruism has lost his life to the horrible Ebola plague. Many of us never had the chance to met this man, but we are devastated, as his life history, his faith and his sense of mission was so compelling.

On social media, some Sierra Leoneans are already conjuring up all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why Dr. Salia had to die when all those previously treated at this same facility pulled through. I think it is our responsibility to let our compatriots back home know that from the moment Dr. Salia got here in the United States, he received the best care that medical science could provide, but it was just a little bit too late.

When Dr. Salia came to the United States, his infection was already progressed to a critical level. He had lost his kidney function, was unable to walk and was even barely coherent. 
The Salia Family

He had been sick for some time in Sierra Leone, was misdiagnosed as Ebola negative, and it had taken a full week for another test prompted by his growing illness to reveal that the first test was erroneous, and he was actually afflicted with the Ebola Virus Disease.

Those people who have taken time to study the clinical course of the Ebola infection in considerable detail would know that the first week in which he was misdiagnosed was critical to his eventual recovery, as that was the time when aggressive moves would have been made to either introduce antibodies into his circulatory system through transfusion or the new experimental treatments, and he was kept steadily  rehydrated to counter the emesis and diarrhea that are the body's natural response and weapon used to eliminate or flush the virus from the system. Unfortunately for Dr. Salia, this crucial week was lost due to the false negative test given by one of the Ebola teams in the country and by the time his diagnosis was confirmed it was already a race against time. 

With the moment of his diagnosis and his eventual evacuation to the USA, Dr Salia was already in the advanced stage of the infection and the prayers of the whole country and the best medicine available was unable so save him, such is the virulence of this dreaded disease.

A deeply religious man with a missionary fervor for his work and mission in life, some of us will rate this young man high among the real heroes of this West African Ebola crisis. He left the comfort of his family and possibly a lucrative medical career in the USA to go back home and provide his services to a country and people that he believed needed him most. His own words are a testimony to his love for mankind, his people and his immense sense of altruism. Today as Sierra Leoneans all over the world mourn this brave soul, nobody feels his loss keener than his wife Isatu and their two children here in Maryland, USA

It was very heartbreaking today to hear his son talking about his dad's sacrifice and the faith that had led him pay the ultimate price, as a labor of love to his distressed people far away from the comfort of the United States of America. In a land of corrupt and selfish men, he was a gem of a human being.
Landing in USA

For Sierra Leoneans back, here in the USA, and throughout the global diaspora, this is another irreplaceable loss that will further continue to thaw away at the foundation of our country's fragile health care system. After this crisis we will have a long way to go to build up our country again and the effort of all will be required.

More importantly today however, we have learned that Dr. Salia's family is going to be saddled with the huge medical cost of his evacuation and treatment that will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as his wife had promised to take the responsibility for his treatment. As Sierra Leoneans here in the USA, I think we have the strength in numbers to come to the assistance of this family and help save them from a future of eventual bankruptcy and poverty. 

New Ebola Center in Sierra Leone
Our government back home can decide to help the family pay for his evacuation and treatment and not leave the burden on this family as soon as the CNN camera lights are turned away. If our government lacks the money, our foreign office can appeal to the generosity of the American people and Obama administration to help cover the cost of Dr. Salia's evacuation and treatment and write it off as part of the larger US war on Ebola. At the end of the day we are all tax payers here in America. If this fails, I believe it is our responsibility, all of us Sierra Leoneans here in the USA to raise funds through our associations and organizations to help relieve this family from this tremendous financial burden in the midst of their great personal tragedy. It is time that we as a people stand up and do what is right for a brother who gave up his comfort and life to care for the least among us.

This time instead of just heaping the blame on someone else let us all unite to help a family in distress. As the Almighty Lord said, "blessed is the hand that giveth, than the one that taketh. Rest In Perfect Peace Dr. Salia.

Sheku Sheriff, USA

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thinking About the Ebola Orphans in Sierra Leone

Ebola Orphans 
I  was born and raised in Sierra Leone. Though we grew up in the best of times, things were still tough. Parents had to scrape to make ends meet. Parents had to go without food to ensure their children had some. Those were the best of times in Sierra Leone, before the horrible war, before the displaced camps, before the great diaspora migration.

Then the war came in 1991, things fell  apart in Sierra Leone and anarchy was set loose upon our country. Things never became the same again. No, never.

When the war was over, the devastation in our rural localities was visible. The grief was palpable, the desolation ubiquitous. The hopelessness was omnipresent.

Our farms lay fallow, schools closed,  our young amputated,  our hopes displaced. Our family houses piles of rubble. Our family heirlooms piles of ash. Yet through all this we survived, fractured but not totally broken.

We had plans. Yes we had dream. We had plans to be scientists,  economists, lawyers, professors. We all wanted to become somebody. We all wanted to be that man who was welcomed in his village with drumming, for whom the goat was killed. We wanted to marry our childhood sweet hearts, but alas, it was not to be. 

We were chased from our homes by men devoted to revolutions they could not comprehend. Like a flock without a shepherd, we were scattered across the globe like unwanted sheep, living for years in displaced and refugee camps, our children growing up without education,  never knowing the dignity of growing in settled homes, destined to lives of pettiness,  crime, ignorance and political thuggery.

Then came this dreaded Ebola, like an evil clown in a coffin, an unwelcome stranger who has overstayed his welcome, the guest from hell who just won't go away.

Ebola has brought fear, suspicion, loathing and death. Ebola has come to kill the parents and leave the children orphaned.

What will happen to this orphaned generation?  Without parents who will ensure that they are fed?Who will even know that they are hungry. Who will care for them? Who will send them to school?
When all the news is old and stale, when Ban Ki Moon is old and gray, when Ernest Koroma would be but a name, when CNN and BBC would have moved on to vover other troubles, where would these children be?

This morning I woke up, thinking about the Ebola orphans in Sierra Leone. I know my country,  I know my people. There are no social safety nets for the young in Sierra Leone. The only safety nets we had growing up were our parents. To grow up without parents in Sierra Leone is a life no Sierra Leonean even wants to imagine. Even when our parents were there, life was a struggle. Those were the days when people's salaries could feed their families.

Today workers in Sierra Leone are among the poorest on earth, receiving very little for the work they do, that is if they get paid at all. Families with work today can't even feed their children. So what will happen to children who don't even have breadwinners? Who will think of think about the orphans when the world would have forgotten them?

Yesterday we heard that $5000.00 was going to be provided for families of health care workers in Sierra Leone. What about families of the common person struck by Ebola, who were no health care workers? Who will feed the children,  who will send them to school? Is this another lost generation?
What are we going to do as a nation to ensure that these Ebola orphans do not go through life destined for poverty and prison?

Today I woke up, worried about the Ebola orphans of Sierra Leone, wondering how I can help, in my own little way. I am truly sad this morning,  thinking about the Ebola orphans of West Africa,  of Sierra Leone.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Major Snow Storm Hits Minnesota Tomorrow: Advice for New Immigrants

Minnesota Winter Zane Avenue
Brooklyn Park
Tomorrow here in Minnesota, we will be hit very hard, as the first weather event of the winter comes in the shape a major snowstorm that is expected to wallop us with significant amounts of the wet stuff from Monday morning to late Tuesday. Between Wisconsin and Minnesota, we are expecting to be hit with anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of cold biting snow. The Canadians have done it to us again!
Highland Park, Saint Paul

Tomorrow morning, the snow will start in parts of Western Minnesota and is forecast to spread outwards very rapidly and fall very heavily. The late morning drive will not be pretty as we are expected to receive a constant snowfall rate between 1 to 2 inches per hour.
Segbwema Blogger in Snow
The Mild Stuff

 A major snowstorm on two of the busiest days of the workweek is bound to be bad, and all we can hope and pray is that the impatient and reckless drivers will pick the next two days to stay at home.

To my Sierra Leone relatives here in Minnesota you know the drill. To those who are just coming from Sierra Leone and have not been here with us for a while, here is the drill.

  • Get a small bag of sand, some torchlight, thermal underwear and a small but reliable blanket, in case you get stuck. Have these in your trunk.
  • Make sure your cellphone is fully charged before you leave the house and if you have been receiving disconnection notices, call your phone company and beg them for a two day extension.
  • Get a small shovel and a flashlight. Have these in your backseat. If your tires are smooth you have till the morning. If you really don't have money to buy new tires the next two days, consider using the bus or light rail.
  • Have a trail mix snack, some beef jerky and a bottle or two of water with you.
  • Most importantly dont forget your hat, warm socks and snow boots.
  • We hope you don't have to use any of these but if you do good luck.
    Snow Behind Our House Last Year
I may wish we were in Sierra Leone, but then there is that Ebola. God bless our people in West Africa as we prepare for two tough days.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rumors of David Tam Baryoh's Release Refuted by Sierra Leone Government Spokesman

Abdulai Bayraytay
Abdulai Bayraytay, a spokesman for the government of Sierra Leone has refuted rumors that the detained radio journalist David Tam Baryoh has been released in Freetown.

David Tam Baryoh who has recently been very critical of some of the actions of the government was picked up a few days ago and locked up in the country's maximum security prison Pademba  with notorious criminals he helped to apprehend.

The Sierra Leone Association of journalists (SLAJ) has been critical of the detention of David Tam Baryoh and expressed fears over the condition of his health. David Tam Baryoh is described as being hypertensive and those who saw him at the Pademba Road detention facility when he was arrested described him as looking visibly sick, constantly clutching at his knees in apparent pain. There are reports in the British Guardian that he was allegedly beaten up upon his arrest.

Government spokesman Bayraytay, speaking this morning on Radio Democracy in Freetown, stated that Tam Baryoh's detention stemmed from a direct executive order signed by President Koroma under the public state of emergency regulations recently approved by the country's parliament which is dominated by his political allies. The  public emergency regulations, according to the spokesman, gave the President broad powers to control any activity seen as undermining the fight against Ebola in the country.
David Tam Baryoh

When pressed as to why David Tam Baryoh had been arrested under the public state of emergency,  Bayraytay replied that Tam Baryoh had been arrested for incitement. When prodded further as to what actually the incitement was that had caused the journalist to be arrested by an executive order, the government's very eloquent statesman stated that the police was still investigating the nature of the incitement.

Even when the journalists interviewing the smooth talking Bayraytay asked him why the journalist could not stay at home while the investigations into his alleged incitement were being conducted, he just kept on repeating the incitement allegation over and over and could provide no substance, but kept making reference to how the President now has emergency powers to arrest to control Ebola.
Bayraytay  further made the totally ridiculous and completely absurd statement that in America somebody who had threatened the President was arrested.  He however could not tell how David Tam Baryoh had threatened the President.

Listening to Abdulai Bayraytay's totally lame defense of the arrest of David Tam Baryoh made me sick to my stomach this morning. These were the same people who when in university at Fourah Bay College had been so vocal about human rights and generally behaved as if they were the next set of Mandelas.

Abdulai Bayraytay in Fourah Bay College  was always one of those at the forefront of complaints against all forms of government excesses. He always had the latest quotations from the leading human rights advocates around the world. That this same person would now, just because he happened to be near power, argue in favor of the same human rights violations he had condemned so vigorously in university was pretty appalling. This was hypocrisy at its peak. Our revolutionaries have now become the spokesmen for our tyrants.

Malicious Sylvia Blyden rejoicing
How can you arrest a respected journalists and lock him up in a maximum security facility on charges of incitement you are yet to investigate? Does Bayraytay think that everybody in Sierra Leone is a moron or is he just appealing to the President's illiterate supporters in the country or those who are now so blinded by party politics that they no longer see wrong as long as it is committed in the name of APC.

Bayraytay spent the whole time talking about Sierra Leone being one of the country's respected for press freedom. Respected by whom? The few journalists in the country who are not under government employ to print propaganda are routinely harassed and even attacked with not even a statement from the government. Were journalists not recently incarcerated just for using the metaphor of a rat to describe the politics of the President? Give me a break about respect for press freedom.

It should be the responsibility of decent people in Sierra Leone to call for the release of David Tam Baryoh.  Though he is a very controversial figure and an opportunist,  he is a citizen of Sierra Leone and that is all that matters. For people like Sylvia Blyden who are rejoicing because her enemy is in power. I have only one thing to tell her. If you don't fight Ebola when it is killing your enemy,  don't be surprised when you become the next person infected.

Rumors of David Tam Baryoh's Release

President Ernest Bai Koroma
It seems as if the Sierra Leone government of President Ernest Bai Koroma has caved under mounting domestic and international condemnation and quietly ordered the release of radio journalist David Tam Baryoh, a journalist who was once close to the authorities in Freetown, but had recently fallen out of favor due to his close association with the country's Vice President, a man who the President now considers a pariah.

Like a thief in the night, David Tam Baryoh was reportedly quietly released under the cover of darkness. With an intention of hanging on to power beyond his constitutional mandate, President Koroma has over the past two years elevated those brave enough to go against public opinion and openly advocated for the change of the constitution to extend his mandate and quietly dismissed or marginalized those in his party who he views as not dancing to his tune or may be harboring Presidential ambitions of their own.

David Tam Baryoh
If the release of David Tam Baryoh is true, it may not be unconnected with the scathing indictment of the growing tyranny of Koroma by a major British Newspaper, which condemned him for jailing a journalist who questioned the ineptitude of the government in handling the country's Ebola crisis in the country and also queried the selective enforcement of quarantine in the country. Many people are now realizing that the Ebola crisis is being used as an excuse to suppress political opinion and impose an unwarranted state of emergency in the country. Already several people close to the Vice President have been rounded up under the emergency regulations.

The report in the British Guardian that David Tam Baryoh had reportedly been beaten and jailed was a major development, as the British public would not want to see their soldiers fighting Ebola in a country presided over by a tin can despot who is busy trampling on press freedom at a time when his effort should be on fighting the plague that is devastating the lives of the citizens of his country. Koroma would not want the world to add political intolerance to his list of recent failures, as his handling of the Ebola epidemic in his cash strapped country has been nothing short of catastrophe.

David Tam Baryoh would not want to make much trouble for Koroma, a man whose largess he had been enjoying until recently. There was already talk that he had told his lawyers not to pursue legal recourse but to find a negotiated settlement to the situation away from the country's judicial system, a wise move given the fact that Sierra Leone's courts invariably rule for whoever is in power. President Koroma is also very generous to his journalist friend and Baryoh may not want to see this well run dry, so he has decided to settle the matter under cover.
Vice President Sam Sumana

Many Sierra Leoneans are watching in amazement as a country that was just seven years ago seen as a beacon of democracy in West Africa is slowly sliding back into an autocratic state where police brutality is growing rampant, press freedom is under threat, the parliament has become a rubber stamp, poverty is increasing in spite of new found mineral wealth and the President is modifying democratic institutions to create a one party tyranny.

Meanwhile the Ebola scourge continues in the country with the only good news being that now that the international community is sending an influx of resources to tackle the outbreak, new outbreaks seems to have stabilized, at least according to official figures.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Vice President's Relatives Hunted Like Stray Animals in Sierra Leone,

David Tam Baryoh
Being Processed at Pademba
These days in Sierra Leone, the friends and relatives of Sierra Leone's Vice President Chief Sam Sumana, live in mortal fear of their lives as they are pursued and hounded down like stray animals by security forces acting on the orders of another Kono Minster, Karamoh Kabbah, the deputy Minister of Political and Public Affairs. Vice President Sam Sumana whi is currently seen as  one of the main obstacles between President Koroma and his third term agenda, the President's cronies have decided on a campaign of intimidation of the Vice President's relatives, using the fight against Ebola as a political prop.

Before appearing on the political scene in 2007, Sam Sumana was a Minnesota Metropolitan State University business major graduate who convinced some business men in Minnesota to invest in diamond mining in his home district of Kono, with him in charge.  When he got back home, Sam Sumana established his diamond business and had to opportunity to meet an ambitious politician Ernest Bai Koroma who had emerged as the flagbearer of the then opposition All Peoples Congress. Sam Sumana invested heavily in Koroma's campaign and was rewarded with the offer of being his running mate. They eventually were declared the winners of the 2007 election and the rest as they say is history.

After a four year term, President Koroma was again reelected as President on an Agenda for Prosperity. Though the election results were contested, the challenge was rejected on legal technicalities and the Koroma administration was returned to government. The relationship between the President and his vice had however eroded during the elections and both men were now mutually suspicious of each other and the situation has continued to deteriorate. The President has promoted the political adversaries of the Vice President from his home district to ministerial positions and largely kept the VP on the sidelines of national affairs.
Vice President Sam Sumana

In 2012 the President's newly appointed Special Executive assistant, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden launched a vicious attack against  the Vice President and those close to him, using her Awareness Times newspaper to pour some choice adjectives on his head.  Instead of calling him VP Alhaji Sam Sumana, she shortened his name to VP ASS, a very derogatory term in Sierra Leone. In spite of all these attacks, the Vice President had largely kept out of the public brouhaha. The Special Executive Assistance to the President soon grew too big for her britches, became too loud and grew quickly irrelevant. She was recently forced to resign.

The political malice between the President has however deepened as the Ebola crisis has worsened with the President now personally being in charge of all Ebola donations in the country. Recently a reputable international accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick withdrew their accounting services to the Ebola fund over questionable financial practices.

Last week supporters of the Vice President began to be publicly arrested in Kono on the pretext of engaging in riotous affairs. Prominent among those arrested were the Vice President's sister Sia Sam Sumana and a norious government political thug named Adamu Ezei. The Minister of Political and Presidential affairs Karamoh Kabba personally traveled to Kono to supervise these arrests which he said were sanctioned by the VP himself.
Karamoh Kabba

The most prominent supporter of the Vice President in the country however is David Tam Baryoh, a journalist who hosts a popular weekly radio program called monologue that was in 2012 used to embarrass the members of the country's opposition, by pretending to be a neutral program. As the members of the Koroma support group have peeled away from Vice President Sam Sumana, David Tam Baryoh who considers the VP his kinsman has stood by him and is now seen in less than a favorable light by members of the government. Earlier this year Tam Baryoh was arrested and whisked away to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) over some text messages between himself and the Aviation minister Balogun Koroma

Over the weekend sources in Freetown state that Tam Baryoh had discussed the ongoing issues in Kono on his radio program which was temporarily suspended during the year. On Monologue, Tam Baryoh had objected against the closure of colleges citing the fact that traders were allowed to interact in certain areas of the capital Freetown in even larger numbers. He also questioned the selective regional enforcement of the Ebola quarantine in the country and  discussed the role the VP had played in bringing the President to power.
The Road to Kono

It seems as if David Tam Baryoh's recent Moonologue program on the pro-government star radio hit some raw nerves as he was yesterday arrested and is currently being detained at the country's maximum security Pademba Road Prisons, one of the most notorious prosons for human rights abuses in West Africa. This morning a group of journalists who went to see David Tam Baryoh were not allowed to see him on the pretext of an Ebola protocol. He was reported to be looking very poorly and constantly clutching his knees in apparent pain.

Upon reelection, President Koroma had promised that in his second term he would not be so friendly to journalists. The harassment of journalists over trivial remarks is slowly becoming the hallmark of his second term, even as the Ebola infection makes the work of journalists so important in the country. In Sierra Leone today journalists face a stark reality. You are either with the President and enjoy his largess or you are against him subject to censor and intimidation. Meanwhile Ebola continues to kill the innocent. 
Adumu Arrest

A fifth Doctor Dies in Sierra Leone: How is Politics Guiding the Ebola Response?

Dr Godfrey George
Yesterday, Sierra Leoneans received the sad news that the fifth local doctor infected with the Ebola Virus in the country passed away in Freetown. Dr. Godfrey George was in charge of the Kambia Government Hospital in the north of the country, a region of the country that was relatively free from the infection in the early stages, but is now the hotbed of the infection together with the Western Area. Dr. George felt sick in Kambia, came to Freetown and lost his life to Ebola.

Many Sierra Leones at home and abroad are wondering why all the doctors in the country who have been infected with the virus have died from the infection, while doctors and some health care workers in countries like America infected with the same virus have largely survived. All the American doctors who have been infected with the virus, including all the nurses have survived, while all five Sierra Leonean doctors have died.
Dr. Sahr Rogers

The loss of these top doctors are a severe blow to a country like Sierra Leone which has about 1 doctor for every 50,000 people. So it is important for health authorities in the country to ask what the Americans are doing right that is not being done in Sierra Leone. People should not start saying it is God's wish, God loves Sierra Leoneans and Americans the same. That is what I believe.

Dr Olivet Buck
Following the news here in America closely, we have learnt that some of these American health care workers and some people infected with the virus in Liberia received some experimental drugs. What effort has the Sierra Leone government made to get some of these experimental drugs, if any? The last time we heard that the fake nanosilver drug that was claimed to be a cure for Ebola, but was rejected in all other countries, was accepted by the authorities in Sierra Leone against expert advice. Is this ignorance and overt political interference in the fight against Ebola hampering the war against the disease in the country?
Dr Modupeh Cole

Right now the fight against Ebola is being led by Paolo Conteh a former soldier with no medical experience.  The overall response is presided over by President Koroma with very little medical
knowledge. Is it not time now to hand over the Ebola response to qualified medical personnel, even if it has to be expatriates, while government provides logistical and financial support. Is this not what the late President Kabba would have done?

In America, Dr. Bradley who got infected with the virus in Liberia has now donated his blood, which has the Ebola antibodies, to several people who were infected and they were all cured of the disease. Since Sierra Leone has so many Ebola survivors, is there any plan in place to create a blood bank of Ebola survivors' blood that could be used in newly infected cases and could offer a source of antibodies before the infection progresses? 

Ebola survivors have also developed antibodies to the Ebola antigen. This confers immunity to the virus on those who have survived. Are there any plans in Sierra Leone, like in other countries to train Ebola survivors in managing infection in new cases and be paid for doing so? This would greatly relieved the burden on local health personnel who have been brutalized by this infection.
Dr. Sheikh Umar Khan

We have also learnt that electrolyte rich oral rehydrating solutions are vital to keeping residents hydrated and maintain their internal chemistry that is destabilized by the excessive diarrhea and vomiting that is characteristic of Ebola and is the main reason patients die from the infection. How far has the public health authorities gone to acquire oral rehydrating solutions?

President Koroma really need to forget about politics for the time being and hire competent people to deal with this crisis. People like Stephen Gaojia may have all the political acumen in the world, but there are enough Sierra Leoneans with no political affiliation but with more public health care knowledge who would do a far better job of handling this crisis. President Koroma thinks like a hammer and imagines everything to be a nail. There are some problems that cannot be solved by politics, but by careful knowledge based decision making that considers all options, settling for the best. We hope this President will forget about politics for now and help save the life of his people.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Political Unrest in Sierra Leone's Kono District.

Notorious APC Thug Adamu
Arrested in Kono
Vultures feeding on Vultures in Sierra Leone

Those who hail from Kono district in Eastern Sierra Leone are no strangers to the name Adamu Ezei

A country with a long history of political thuggery, Adamu is a notorious brutal political thug loyal to Sierra Leone's ruling All 
Peoples Congress (APC) party who in the past was given free rein to harass and intimidate members of the political opposition in the diamond rich Kono district. With the support of the country's top politicians, he was only willing to carry out is campaign of violence with ruthless efficiency.

From leading attacks on innocent civilians, to throwing human excrement on perceived enemies, there has been no act of wanton cruelty too small for Adamu to perform, with the full backing of the Kono big bosses. All complaints against this notorious thug have been summarily dismissed as he was seen as a prime government asset in a district whose loyalty was equally divided between the ruling party and the opposition. Kono is a district that has provided more to the economy of Sierra Leone than any other district in the country, but it has been also one of the most neglected as the wealth of the district has benefited mostly people who have no affinity to the area. Adamu has been a primary tool to keep the peaceful people of this district under control through a systematic campaign of ruthlessness. 
Embattled Vice President Sam Sumana

Unfortunately for Adamu, he seems to have taken the wrong side in the long running conflict between Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma and his Vice President Chief Sam Sumana. It seems at the moment that Adamu's luck may have temporarily run out.

In the campaign to find someone to replace President Ernest Bai Koroma at the end of his tenure or to find people willing to risk their reputations to advocate for another term for him in spite of the fact that he has reached his constitutionally mandated two term limit, the Vice President, who has a very weak base of support in the ruling party, has been completely marginalized and largely ignored.

Since 2013 the Vice President has stopped representing the President at state and international functions and even in the huge national fight against Ebola in the country he has been totally  sidelined. Reliable sources in Sierra Leone state that the ambition of the Vice President to succeed his boss has been the main problem, as President Ernest Bai Koroma wants to either stay as President for more terms or he wants to be replaced by someone in his inner circle, or someone who would be more pliable, the list of which does not include Vice President Sam Sumana.
Karamoh Kabba (sonkor sonkor)

To further weaken the Vice President, his public adversaries from his own home district Kono, the home of the President's own wife, have been awarded ministerial positions in the government and are now closer to the President than the estranged Vice President. The Vice President's political adversaries from Kono such as Balogun Koroma, Diana Konomanyi and Karamoh Kabba are all ministers in the country now, and are just too willing to jump at every available opportunity to publicly humiliate Vice President Chief Sam Sumana.

Over the past week, the political tensions and rivalry between the Kono politicians reached a new high when the sister of the Vice President Sia Sumana was arrested along with many people seen as supporters of the VP in Kono. These arrests were publicly  endorsed by the Deputy Minister of Political and Public Affairs,  Karamoh Kabba, who said that the arrests were actually ordered by the Vice President for what Minister Kabbah called the recent "sonkor sonkor" or riots in Kono.

According to Minister Karamoh Kabba, there had been people doing unlawful rioting in Kono headed by the notorious Adamu who is close to the Vice President. The story is that Adamu's mother had been infacted with the Ebola virus, but he had refused to hand over his mother to government authorities who he no longer trusted. It was rumored that his action has caused a lot of people to bwe affected and he was therefore a wanted man.  Adamu and his supporters it is rumored have been doing unlawful assemblies in Kono and Karamo Kabba said that the Vice President himself had given orders to the police Local Unit Commander (LUC) to arrest them. This statement was denied by the Vice President in a telephone conference with Kono descendants in the diaspora and he said that Karamoh Kabba was behind many of the local instability in the region.

According to Minister Kabba, the Vice President's sister,  had unfortunately been among the rioters and had also been arrested.The government had also put a bounty of 5 million Leones on the head of Adamu who was said to be on the run and was to be considered very dangerous. Minister Karamoh Kabba said that people should see Adamu as a threat, as he was armed with a gun and likely infected with the Ebola virus, since his mother had recently died from infection with Ebola virus disease and Adamu had been in contact with her.

 Karamoh Kabba himself had traveled to Kono to ensure that these arrests were made. He said he was just carrying out the orders of the Vice President.
President Ernest Bai Koroma

This morning the Segbwema blog was informed that Adamu, who according to the minister was infected with Ebola was arrested in Kono. Those arresting the alleged Ebola suspect did not have on any hazmat suits nor were they wearing gloves or any other protective gear.

People in Kono probably knows that Adamu was not infected with Ebola, yet the country's  Minister of Presidential and Public Affairs would not hesitate to go on radio and make this outrageous claim, even though he knew that this would contribute to the overall confusion surrounding a disease that has taken such a heavy toll on the lives of the ordinary citizens in the  country.
Ebola Deaths Continue

Sierra Leone, poor as it is, does not deserve this current catastrophe masquerading as a government. President Koroma's inability to control his appointees has made the country the laughingstock of West Africa. From the scandalous behavior of the recently resigned Special Executive Assistant to the President Blyden, to sending the country's football team to games with different sets of match officials sent by the government and the members of the country's football association, to ministers raping students for scholarships or the President's special assistant forging his signature to engage in corruption, Sierra Leone after so many years of war and turmoil deserve so much better.

Sierra Leone as a country deserves so much better and people are just praying for the day this temporary insanity will come to an end. Meanwhile we will keep monitoring the situation in Kono for our audience in the diaspora.

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