$11 Million Worth of Vehicles?? What about Medical Supplies?

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Libya Donates $11.1M Worth Of Vehicles to Sierra Leone
To keep his promise of helping to rebuild war-torn Sierra Leone, the Leader and people of the Great Libyan Jamahiriya recently donated 40 forty-seven seater buses, 10 Water Bowsers, 6 Skip Trucks and 13 Garbage Collectors/compactors to the government and people of Sierra Leone.A team of government representatives from Libya headed by the Minister of Cooperation, Mr. Mohamed Taher Siallah were in Freetown on Saturday, 16h September 2006 to officially hand over the vehicles to the Government and people of Sierra Leone. (Sept 17 http://www.statehouse-sl.org/)

President Kabbah Inspects Vehicles and Buses Donated By Libya
As a boost to the Sierra Leone Government’s post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts the Government of Libya through the Leader of the Great Jamahiriya, Col. Muammar Gadaffi has donated equipment and buses to the Government of Sierra Leone. A total of 40 fifty-seater buses, 10 Water Bowsers, 6 Skip trucks and 13 Garbage collectors/compactors were given as gift to Sierra Leone from the Government and people of the Great Jamahiriya of Libya. The donation of these 69 vehicles in all represents the new friendship that now characterizes relations between the two countries.On Thursday 7th September 2006, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, accompanied by Vice President Solomon Berewa, Government Ministers and officials, Mayors of the four provincial municipalities of Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Koidu, members of the civil society including journalists inspected the buses and specialized vehicles at the Military Headquarters, Cockerill, Freetown. Also present was the Libyan Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Mr. Alie Talesi. (Sept 7 http://www.statehouse-sl.org/)

MY THOUGHTS ON LIBYA’S DONATION TO SIERRA LEONE

Theoretically, we should be happy that the government and by default the Sierra Leonean people have received $11.1 million worth of Vehicles from Libya. And there is a part of me that can see the positive aspect/intention of the gift and the possible “good” that can come from this gift. However, it is in my nature to be skeptical and ask questions. First off, $11 million is a lot of money that if managed properly could go a long way. Heck even if it is mismanaged it could go a long way. But what will $11 million worth of vehicles change/improve in a country like SL under the current status quo?? I hardly believe that the average Sierra Leonean if asked would have invested $11 million in govt/service vehicles. Recently, I was fantasizing about winning the lottery in NY. I had decided that the first thing I would do if I won the lottery was to build hospitals in Sierra Leone (especially in underserved areas in the provinces) and also send 1000 Sierra Leoneans to study medicine in Cuba….I digress. The point I’m trying to makes however, is that this money could have been spent on more important and responsible things. The problems with gifts such as these is that the government rarely has the resources to upkeep and maintain such machinery so that after several years they end up in junkyards or spewing black smoke on the streets of Freetown.

My other issue with this donation is that it makes me wonder about Gadaffi’s interests in Sierra Leone. I wonder what he may be getting in return from the powers that be in Sierra Leone that keeps him so happy as to constantly be showering us with gifts. Furthermore, it’s not like Libya is the richest country in the world so that when Gadaffi gives us 11 million in gifts I think of Libyans who may be living in poverty and distress and I wonder, why not use your 11 million to help them Gadaffi? As I write this I am reminded of Sembene Ousmane’s film where the main character Guelwaar in a speech to his fellow country people explains that “ if you want to kill a proud person, supply all her everyday needs, in the long run, you will make her a slave…I tell you that any little pride and shame that we had left was consumed by this aid; any pride that we had left has been consumed by this aid…If a country is always taking aid from another people, that country, from its children, from generation to generation, will be able to say only one word. Ask me what word, thank you! thank you! thank you! (translated from wollof). For how long shall we be the recipients of gifts/aid??

Finally, I have to wonder as to the timing of this gift. With elections around the corner it seems as though there is very little the government cannot do. Though I am pleased with developments such as the passing of the dual citizenship bill and the distribution of bed nets to name just two, how much of these efforts are as the French would say faire semblance. They want it to seem as though they have done a lot in the last four years so this gift could be just one act in the play. SLPP the development maker, SLPP for the people, SLPP saving grace of Sierra Leone. Despite these displays however, I am one Sierra Leonean who is not persuaded, na di same soup!!! I want consist gradual efforts towards change and development that includes the majority of Sierra Leoneans not flashy one time displays of our governments relationship with one of the most dictatorial and opportunistic leaders in Africa.