Saturday, September 17, 2016

Organizations and Indigenes Provide Aid for Flood Victims in Segbwema

Segbwema Flooding
Local authorities, aid organizations and area indigenes have started providing aid to the hundreds of victims displaced by the flooding in Segbwema earlier this week.

The flooding which affected many areas of the town close to the Nyeya river, caused many people living in these areas to be displaced from their homes.

Traditionally, many houses in these areas are built with mud bricks. Many of these mud brick houses were either completely washed away, or left standing, unstable, on weak soggy foundations.

The World Food Program (WFP) quickly responded to the crisis during the week with the provision of supplies of rice, beans, vegetable oil and salt, while the District Health management Team (DHMT) responded by providing bed nets to the flood victims. The supplies were to be rationed out strictly, with each affected household receiving 60 kilograms(kgs) of rice, 9 kgs of beans, 3.75kgs of oil and 0.75kg of salt.

Victims at Segbwema Barrie
Food Aid from WFP
The Njaluahun Development Organization (NJADO), an organization comprising mostly of forward looking indigenes of the Njaluhun Chiefdom which was formed to promote local development, has already raised over six million leone in pledges to donate to the affected victims. Prominent Segbwema politician John O. Benjamin, a native of Segbwema, has also contributed to the NJADO effort and provided personal aid to the affected victims.

Battu Sheriff
Some of the flood victims narrated how the crisis hade seriously upended their lives. Battu Sheriff, an indigene of Segbwema toured the affected areas and talked to some of the flood victims for the Segbwema Blog.

One of the victims, Pa Kabineh Conteh, painfully lamented the loss of his entire six year old house. He said he had gotten out of bed that morning to find himself standing in a knee deep pool of water right inside his bed room. He turned around and observed that the back of his house was completely washed away. He was lucky to get out just in time before the house collapsed.

Aid distribution
Pa Kabineh stated that his house was just six years old, built when he convinced his younger brother, who was working for the road construction company ISU at the time, to join him in building a family house. Many people in this area had lost everything during the war. Pa Kabineh stated that he was at a loss, not knowing what to do and was asking benevolent Segbwema citizens to help him rebuild his house.
Abu Jajua Touring Flood Prone Areas

The local MP for the area Hon. Abu Jajua, who is deeply involved in flood response activities, took some authorities around the affected areas start planning work on how they would provide drainage facilities to prevent the recurrence of this type of incident in the future, or minimize the impact of future flooding in the area.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whats with dreams in Sierra Leone?

Lion Mountain

These days in Sierra Leone, many people seem to be dreaming bad dreams, spreading these dreams on social media, and almost all of them want you to take their dreams very seriously. The social media platform WhatsApp has been a real boon to the bad dream disseminaters.

To put things in perspective, I do not underestimate dreams, neither do I discount other peoples belief in the truthfulness of their dreams.  However, I really want these bad dreamers to give other people a break. If you have a bad dream (nightmare) and want to talk it over with your pastor or imam, that is fine, but don't spread these dreams on social media as if you have just received a personal telephone call from heaven verifying the truthfulness of your dream.

Occasionally, everybody has a bad dream.  I do believe even our former Queen Elizabeth II, who was born with a golden spoon in her mouth, sometimes has a bad dream. Even though the queen  has survived more than 300 other leaders since she became queen over half a century ago, there are times when she has the occasional bad dream, even if it involves her sitting alone in the same dining room with Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin Dada.

So if you lie down and see the entire city on fire, maybe the dream is telling you something about your life and not telling you to start making apocalyptic predictions or spread messages on social media that will get other people scared, especially innocent young people with a smartphones. 

There was one particularly irritating dream teller that I unfortunatelydeleted from my phone. It was one in which this dreamy eyed lady was trying to get the whole Freetown scared, because she had had an apocalyptic dream in which she saw the city on fire. It was the longest dream I have ever heard and she seemed to take particular enjoyment in retelling it. She was so confident her dream was true that it was truly irritating. Of course, our people, always gullible, are bound to take these predictions seriously and send them to others, just to spread the dread. 

These days a cottage industry seems to be developing in Sierra Leone around the dissemination of bad dreams via social media, with unscrupulous dream interpreters being the main beneficiaries. Men of faith have already seriously started thinking about taking advanced classes in dream interpretation. 

People in Sierra Leone should really start questioning everything they read on social media.  Just as people who have serious news view social media as a quick way to reach an audience, so do dreamers, superstitious village bred folks, liars and rumor mongers. 
I Dream of You!

Somebody dreams the sky is red, they would wake up and quickly spread it on WhatsApp, with a warning of dire consequences that would follow if the people of Sierra Leone do not follow that particular dreamers interpretation of their own dream. Some will even have the audacity to declare several days of fasting, causing unnecessary suffering for an already starving people.

So my Sierra Leone brothers and sisters. If you have a bad dream, remember that everybody, even President Ernest Bai Koroma and President Obama, have bad dreams. Deal with you dreams and don't go about trying to scare the hell out of others. It could simply be that you had too much to eat before you went to bed. Let others live in peace while you deal with your bad dreams.

As the Krio people say, " dog dream die nar in belleh."~Dogs never recount their dreams. "Unu leh we yeri far."

Sierra Leone's Internal Affairs Minister Calls for Resumption of the Death Penalty

Rtd. Major Palo Conteh
The Sierra Leone Minister of Internal Affairs, Rtd. Major Alfred Paolo Conteh has asked prison authorities to repair electric chairs and other capital punishment machines in the prison system, in order to resume the execution of prisoners sentenced to death in the country. He believes that the resumption of government sanctioned killings in the country is the solution to the rise in gang affiliated killings in Sierra Leone.

Speaking to the country through radio Radio democracy, Rtd. Major Paolo Conteh lamented the rampant rise in gang inflicted murders in the country and reminded everyone that Sierra Leone still has capital punishment in the country's law books. The minister referenced the "an eye for an eye" passage in the Bible and the local saying, "killing a dog before other dogs will make dogs aware of death" to support his position on the resumption of death. He said that if a human being that has killed another human in such a violent  and "raw" fashion is sentenced to death, there is no need for them to remain in prison for many years being fed by the government.
Ready the Gallows

Rtd Major Paolo Conteh  also stated that even though he was aware of human rights views on capital punishment, he viewed the Sierra Leone case is unique.  The country, he stated, had gone through too much suffering in recent times to allow this spate of wanton killing to continue unabated. He had therefore given strict instruction to corrections authorities in the country to ready the gallows for the resumption of the implementation of the death penalty, particularly for these types of crimes.

Over the past few months, many Sierra Leoneans have been worried about the rise in gang related killings in the country's capital Freetown. Many  believe that the government should take firm steps to go after the leaders of such gangs and curb their practices. The police has already promised financial rewards to anybody who will provide information on the leadership of these gangs. However, there are many in the country who feel that  as dire as the the situation is, it can still be brought under control through professional police and detective work without resorting to the reactivation of the death penalty in the country.

Gang member in Freetown
The first step should be the ban  and criminalization of these gangs all over the city, with strict penalties and mandatory prison sentences for anybody belonging to  or sponsoring them.Many of these gangs consist unemployed and disaffected youths who are used during election periods by politicians to attack and intimidate their political rivals. Some of these youths are promised money, jobs and a better life after the elections. Unfortunately these jobs never appear and the gangs never disband. The gangs assume permanence and become involved in petty and major crimes. The leaders of these gangs and any politician caught sponsoring them should be prosecuted.

Even though the focus on the reduction in gang violence should be a national priority, government should conduct a root cause analysis to determine the main reasons why such gangs attract the city's youths in the first place.

I believe the main reason for the existence of these violent gangs is the lack of many opportunities for youths in Sierra Leone. The  Sierra Leone government should prioritize programs for youth social mobility in the country, with the help of private organizations and NGO partners. There is a popular saying that, "an idle mind is the devil's playground." Youths in Sierra Leone need positive engagement that will give them hope and keep them away from the things that attract them to gangs.
No Opportunity for Youths

Trade schools, skills centers, and vocational institutes are needed in Sierra Leone to develop minds and help youths in the country to  focus on the future, rather than focus on gangs and cliques. Major Paolo Conteh can resume the death penalty in Sierra Leone, but this will just be a stop gap solution. However, if opportunities for positive youth engagement are not provided in the country, youths will risk even their life to be attracted to those vices that provide them respite from the grinding poverty that is the hallmark of the society in which they were born.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Flooding in Segbwema

A House nearly Buried
The Road to Taima
Heavy torrential rainfall in Segbwema, Kailahun district, Eastern Sierra Leone has caused historic flooding in parts of the town, destroying millions of Leones worth of property.The most affected areas are the low lying areas of the Segbwema sections of Manina and Soso town. With the water rising in the very low areas almost roof level.

From the Daru road to the swamps between Soso Town and Manina, most of the houses that are built around the river Nyeya have been inundated with water rising as high as the knee in many areas.
The Old Railway Station, which is now the main commercial hub of Segbwema is currently buried in brown sluggish water more than a feet deep in many areas.

A man Surveying his Property
The construction of a road through some swamps of the town that are tributaries of the river Nyeya without much provision for water runoff is blamed by independent experts in the town as the main reason for the severity of the flooding.

The river has been historically been know to rise during the rains but most times it has emptied easily into the large Maleh river that divides Njaluahun from Nogowa Chiefdoms. However, the new road has become a major barrier to water flow providing a dam like effect that is restricting the free movement of river water, driving it back into low lying houses and property.
Near Old Railway

Houses along the lower levels of Soso Town and Manina are currently inundated with water, with people waddling through the sludge, knee deep in some areas. Some people woke up this morning, stepping into water running through their bedrooms.

Some of the town citizens are worried that if the underlying problems are not quickly addressed, this phenomenon will be a yearly occurrence.

Segbwema is the home town of Wesley Secondary School, Holy Ghost Secondary School and the famous Nixon Memorial Hospital.

Contacting the Honorable Abu Jajua in Segbwema today, this is what he had to say:

 "Segbwema Blogger, from a technical background, the causes of this flooding, in addition to rapid construction along the river bank of Nyeya  is the fact that ISU failed to consider the historical water flow patterns. I tried to bring this to the notice of ISU in 2013, but they decided to go by the historical map of 60s that showed the river as a small stream surrounded by a very big swamp, but did not consider the flow of water from the higher areas of Taiama section emptying into the swamp."
Segbwema MP Honorable Abu Jajua

"The realignment of the new Daru road that passes along the a major awamp route is one cause and the refusal of ISU to clear the river bed of this stream was another. The width of the stream has been reduced by the road construction, which needed clearing of the stream to allow the free flow of water."

"At the manina swamp axis, the longest swamp in the township has been abandoned and not cultivated for the past four years, possibly causing soil sedimantation and building a strong resistance to water absorption" Honorable Abu Jajua

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tegloma 2016 Phoenix Arizona

Tegloma Convention 2016 Phoenix Arizona

The New Chairman of Tegloma
Julia Hawa Conteh

Board Chairman Thomas Senesie

Last weekend, members of Tegloma International Federation, the largest Sierra Leone nonprofit in the diaspora held their International Convention in Phoenix, Arizona.
Keynote Speaker Dr. Sheku Idriss

The two day convention started with a board meeting on Friday the 2nd September, followed by the main convention on Saturday.
With Tegloma Staff
of Office

The Convention Keynote Speaker Dr. Sheku Idriss, a US medical practitioner of Sierra Leone origin, who is also involved in a lot of individual projects in Sierra Leone, gave a run down of the state of health care in Sierra Leone, proferred some ways forward and appealed to convention delegates to explore ideas to help their communities back home.

The outgoing Tegloma Federation Chairman, Mustapha Sheriff, outlined the main achievements of his three year tenure as head of the organization. He focused on his work to clear the Tegloma land in Bo, Sierra Leone, his administration's response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, his celebration of Tegloma's 40th Anniversary in New Jersey and his work on the Tegloma Website.
MC Sylvester Johnny

Tegloma International Vice Chairman
Elizabeth Saidu Momoh
The heads of the Scholarship and land committees and some executive members also gave reports of their work done over the year. The climax of the ceremony was the swearing into office of Julia Hawa Conteh, the first female Chairman of Tegloma, who was taking over from Mustapha Sheriff as the substantive head of the organization.

The Chief of Tegloma Arizona chapter Winifred Jusu and his chapter members did their best to keep the delegates properly accommodated and fed and were able to host one of the best conventions in recent memory.
Tegloma Arizona Chief
Winifred Jusu

Tegloma Secretary General
Amos Allie
The handing over ceremony was skillfully conducted by the Board Chairman of Tegloma, Mr. Thomas Senesie of Tegloma Ohio chapter.

The convention ceremony was followed by a dance ans award presentation ceremony in which the outgoing chairman gave awards to mainly people who had supported him while in office.

Tegloma Minnesota Delegation
On Sunday, there was a house picnic at the Arizona president's house and those who did not go back to their home states had a great time partaking of her generosity.


Friday, September 9, 2016

The Bad Guys on the Internet

The Internet is rapidly changing the information landscape in Africa, much to the chagrin of despotic leaders.

In countries where information is tightly controlled or where the primary sources of information are pro-government propaganda outlets, citizens have for years been fed healthy doses of deception, half truths and sometimes outright lies. For the citizens of these countries, the Internet provides a way for people to go through government censorship and get information from credible international sources. They are able to use social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to share information directly, eliminating the use of third party information outlets.

For some African countries, the Internet, especially the use of social media is becoming a major headache.

Recently in the small West African nation of Sierra Leone, the country's half literate information Minister Mohamed Bangura* promised to block social media in the country stating that he did not care about the consequences and scornfully referred to on human rights organizations advocating for personal freedoms, as "human left." Thinking of course that the opposite of civil rights was civil lefts.
Even though Mohamed Bangura may just have been blowing hot air and likely has no clue about how the Internet works, people in Africa need to be aware that the Internet, for all its advantages, poses some real dangers. Such dangers include the proliferation of computer viruses which can damage expensive computer viruses, the spread of the phishing scams in which people lose tremendous amount of money by either exposing their private information to scam artists. People sometimes respond to offers that are too good to be true, or fall for other variants of Internet Scams perfected in Eastern Europe, USA and even West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana, Nigeria of course being the more notorious.

On a recent trip to Sierra Leone, I went to an Internet Cafe to try and see whether a check I was expecting had been deposited into my bank account. Before checking my account, I quickly browsed the installed programs to see what type of antivirus program was installed on the computer. There was none! I just quickly  browsed some news sites and left. No way was I going to expose my banking information on a computer without any form of security.
As mobile technology proliferates in African countries allowing Internet access through mobile phones, few people are aware of the potential dangers such a rapid expansion presents to individual users. I have therefore decided to outline quite a few of the common problems that could end up being a headache for the trusting use. The list is by no means exhaustive.
I hope my people in Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa benefiting from the spread of the monile web become cognizant of these dangers.  From the Minister in our capital Freetown, to my Uncle Amara in our hometown  Segbwema, nobody is too sophisticated to fall for the clever scam artist.
The following are some of the morw common scams to be aware of while using the Internet:

The Help Me Move Money Scam

This scam was perfected in Nigeria. It is usually a convincing letter from a very important sounding person who has access to a large amount of money which he wants to deposit in your account for protection. You will of course receive 10% of the money. It could be the "Son of the late President Abacha, Barrister Goodluck Jonathan, Engineer Joseph Smith, etc"
The only thing you will have to do is to send your bank account information and send some money to facilitate the transfer. If you fall for this trap and send some money, they will ask you to send more, until they either bleed you dry or put you in a huge financial hole by the time you realize what's going on. Many have fallen victim to this particular trick, some losing all their lives savings.

The Work from Home Scam

Many people would love the opportunity to sit at home and work from the comfort of their own living rooms while making respectable weekly amounts of money. Scam artists are also aware of this and usually send people emails offering jobs that would pay a large amount of money for people to either shop from home, forward packages, forward emails, close envelopes, enter data, etc, all from the comfort of their home. There is however a catch, as the potential home employee  needs to pay for the training materials needed to learn how to make use of this wonderful opportunity.

The Stranded Relative Scam
In this scam you receive an email from a distraught relative who is going to Sierra Leone but has missed both his flight and lost his wallet in London. He doesn't even have an ID card so he wants you to send money urgently to London in care of a friend William Smith. Your relative sounds so distressed that all you want to do is help, even though you are not even aware that he left for Africa. The relative sounds so distressed that you do not even bother to take a phone and call that relative to verify the information.  It is only after you have already sent the money that you will realize that you've just been taken for a ride. Sometimes is so embarrassing you are ashamed to tell anybody.

The Lottery Scam

This was one of the earliest forms of the  Internet scam, but it now declining in popularity. You receive an email that your name has just been drawn as the winner of a grand Internet lottery in the UK or some other far flung country. Congratulations, you've just become a millionaire! You now imagine that your relatives in Makeni or Kenema are finally free from financial stress for a long time. All you need to do is send all your personal information and your bank account number to receive this sweet hand of providence. You do not even think. All you want to do is be the big man you've always dreamed of. Alas, the next day when you go to the bank your account has been drained. You just fell for a trick.

Questionnaire Scam

Sometimes you receive an email with a link to complete a survey or answer some questions about a product. As soon as you click on the link, the originators install spyware on your computer which tracks and steals your sensitive information. Your accounts and other sensitive mad private information may all be collected and these people can even obtain loans in your name, because they know everything about you.

Suspicious Activity Scam

Sometimes you get an email from your bank that there is suspicious activity with one or more of your accounts. The email asks you to click on a link and access your account. As soon as you do this the scammers now have access to your account and can do anything they like. So never respond to any letter from your bank asking you to click on a link. Banks do not do this. Some of the letters are so genuine you won't even doubt their veracity. Scammers are very smart crooked people

Your Computer is Infected Scam

Sometimes you visit a website and suddenly you get a message that your computer may be infected by a virus. You receive an offer for a free scan and the scan reveals that your computer is of course infected and would be cleaned for some amount of money. You pay that money and you are assured that your computer is now clean, only that it was never infected in the first place and you may  end up getting malware are on your computer.

So my African folks, as we all continue to enjoy the benefits of the web, never forget some of its dangers and try to install security software on your computers. It could end up saving you some big money in the future.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

African Leaders Watch Gabon as Plans to Derail Democracy Continues in Africa

President Ali Bongo

On Wednesday August 31, 2016, Gabon's President Ali Bongo, the son of the country's late autocratic ruler Omar Bongo, was narrowly declared winner in presidential elections in the small African Country. He was declared winner over  opposition leader and former AU Chairman Jean Ping by slightly more than 5000 votes.

Some members of the electoral commission quickly cried foul citing irregularities. The country's official opposition has so far refused to accept the results asking for a recount of all the votes.

Opposition supporters, incensed by the election results, quickly took to the streets, setting buildings on fire and damaging the country's parliament. Even international observers have called for a recount and asked for a detailed publication all polling station results.
Jean Ping

What has truly incensed the opposition are clear examples of blatant electoral fraud in many regions of the country. For example in the President's home province of Haut-Ogooue, electoral turnout was reported at about 99% of registered voters, with the President winning over 95% of the vote in the area, even though the opposition leader clearly had a large number of supporters in the area.

The European Union has joined the chorus of calls for a recount and on Monday, the country's Justice Minister Seraphin Moundounga resigned, citing the refusal of the government to organize a recount of the votes.

However, the country's President has obstinately refused calls for a recount, instead stating that all further decisions on the matter be referred to the country's judiciary, many of whom are his loyal allies. He has also mobilized security forces to resist opposition protesters, resulting in many deaths and arrest.The opposition leader has yet to refer the matter to court.
Protests in Libreville

This evening the West African News correspondent in Libreville reported that the situation is slowly calming down, with banks reopening and transport vehicles getting back on the streets.

Ali Bongo has ruled Gabon since the death of his father in 2009. His father had ruled the small mineral rich country for 41 years and was known for his womanizing, flashy suits and flamboyant lifestyle. The opposition leader Jean Ping was for many years a close political ally of the late Omar Bongo and has held many international diplomatic positions.

Copyright © 2016 West African News

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tegloma Women Break the Glass Ceiling

New Tegloma Federation Chairman
Julia Hawa Conteh
For the first time in the 40 year history of the Sierra Leone organization Tegloma Federation Inc, a woman has been elected and inaugurated as its Chairman and leader 

The new Tegloma Federation Chairman Julia Hawa Conteh, was a former President of the Tegloma New York Chapter who tried unsuccessfully three years ago to become the first female Chairman of Tegloma. Upon the vacancy of the position by Alfred Jamiru, the election that was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was won at the time by the outgoing Chairman Mustapha Sheriff.  At the time, Mustapha Sheriff had just finished serving on the board of the Board of Directors of the organization and had served in various administrative and board positions. He was seen by many as having the experience to lead the organization and his campaign that year was very effective. He was elected to a two-year term as Federation Chairman. 
Inauguration by Board Chairman Senesie

At the end of Mustapha Sheriff's first term, Julia Hawa Conteh tried again for a second time, banking on Chairman Sheriff's growing unpopularity among some members of Tegloma. However Mustapha Sheriff, with the help many of his close allies in the organization, launched a formidable campaign for reelection and created formidable obstacles to her electoral challenged. 

A few months to the election, they closed the main communication forum of the organization with the excuse that they were cleaning it up, effectively preventing any campaigning on the forum by the female challenger.

In an acrimonious election held in Sacramento, California on Memorial Day weekend 2015, the two candidates surprisingly had a tie, with each managing to garner only 50% of the votes. According to Tegloma tradition, when there is a tie for the Chairmanship of the organization, each candidate vying for  leadership serves a single year of the two year mandate. Mustapha Sheriff therefore had to serve one more year and hand over to Chairman Julia Hawa Conteh this past weekend.
Team Conteh

Vice Chairman
Elizabeth Momoh
On Saturday September 3rd 2016, outgoing Chairman Mustapha Sheriff handed over to the historic female Chairman Julia Hawa Conteh, at a colorful ceremony in the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

 Mustapha Sheriff's supporters were decked in green, while Julia Hawa Conteh's supporters were dressed in orange and gold. The ceremony was presided over by the organization's new Board Chairman Thomas Senesie, the former chief of Tegloma Ohio Chapter.
Mustapha Sheriff in Minnesota 2013

Mustapha Sheriff at his final convention in Phoenix, outlined some of his major successes; including the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Tegloma as an organization in New Jersey, the revival of the Southern California Tegloma chapter, a timely response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, the establishment of a land committee to develop detailed plans for the Tegloma Land in Bo, Sierra Leone and the awarding of 50 scholarships to students in all the regions of Sierra Leone.
Sheriff's Supporters

Unfortunately, many view Mustapha Sheriff's administration as the most divisive in the history of the organization. He formed a plethora of committees that he populated mainly with those who supported his reelection bid, many of the committees bypassing the authority of executive members he disagreed with. He developed an unhealthy working relationship with the Board of Directors and became so obsessed with winning a second term that he effectively marginalized all who did not support his reelection bid.  Under his leadership chapter conflicts were exploited for electoral advantage and the chairman is leaving behind a legacy of deep divisions in certain chapter that a new administration will have to work very hard to mend.

The new Chairman faces substantial challenges keeping unity in Tegloma. She not only has to work hard to tackle the rift in chapters, she may also have to a potential challenger for her position in 2017.

Regardless of how the future plays out, she will go down in history as the first elected female in the history of the organization. Many people are hoping that Julia Hawa Conteh keeps a focus on Tegloma developing meaningful small scale projects to help people in rural Sierra Leone, rather than a focus on a future challenge to her position.

The Vice chairman Elizabeth Momoh of Tegloma Minnesota Chapter will continue in her position and serve in the same capacity.

West African News © 2016

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