by Vickie Remoe

Back in the Wide-eyed days of Valentine Strassers’ NPRC military rulership, the youth taking ownership of their communities began to dedicate themselves to beautifying and cleaning exercises. From painting murals in honour of the forefathers of modern Sierra Leonean history to planting trees and cleaning gutters; somewhere between the nostalgia of all this ownership came the National Cleaning Day Saturdays. It came into law that on the last Saturday of every month that Freetownians far and wide should pick up their brooms, curl their backs, and bend down low majestically stroking the earth to gather and dispose of their rubbish. The evolution of the National Cleaning Day was connected with the Citywide need of the young, old, and the disenfranchised of Pa Shekie and Momoh’s APC regimes to reclaim a piece of what was for so long denied them; civic participation.

The youth dedicated themselves many times without pay to changing the face of the city and I believe for the first time in a while we as the wider Freetown community began to take more pride in our environment. I even remember a recirculation of the Sierra Leone 50 Heroes Booklet…Or was it commissioned at that time, I’m not sure. For some odd reason Pato Banton’s Go Pato comes to mind as the song that captured the upbeat feeling in the city at the time, especially the line where he says “ to all the youth I stand and salute cause they stay in line with the reggae root”. I also recall that during this same period “One Love, Respect” was a popular manner in which people greeted each other. Yes, in the early days of the NPRC people where hopeful, eager for change, and willing to do the necessary to contribute to it.

But almost 15 years later, is the National Cleaning Saturday recently re-implemented by the new government as useful to the current post war, post overcrowded, post lack of sufficient dump trucks, post Youth Employment Scheme Freetown. I hear that the National Cleaning Saturday is in the hands of the Vice President’s Office and not Freetown City Council that is generally charged with cleaning the city. Conceptually, getting the people to stop everything they’re doing one Saturday a month to clean their surroundings is good but when the rubbish removed from the gutters ends up as mounds on major street roads then one has to wonder if this very good idea has not gone totally sour. Without adequate planning and resources the National Cleaning Saturday becomes not only counter productive but a waste of time and energy. The Cleaning Day needs to be accompanied with a City-Wide public education campaign spearheaded by the Ministry of Health, and an effective mechanism for disposing of the rubbish that people gather.

Right now in Banana Water, my very own neighbourhood; when people gather rubbish whether cleaning day or not, they dump it in the ocean. The rubbish stays exactly where they put it; on the banks. People have reclaimed what previously was sandy beach to turn into homes…there is a whole community leaving at Olohshoro on reclaimed land from the ocean. Many of them not only lack running water but also toilet facilities. Hence, the ocean is home to their doo doo and their dump. A friend recently pointed out to me the economic question of the National Cleaning Saturday…If no one is allowed to leave their homes until midday on an important business day as Saturday, imagine how much money is lost in revenue on that day alone to the businesses and the government who loses out on tax payer leones.

This is a new government and more importantly it is the people’s government even more so than the NPRC regime was: a democratically elected one. City dwellers that almost unanimously voted for this APC government will I’m sure be as willing to follow any well thought out and implemented cleaning system that is put in place. But let us not hold on to the relics of time, and hand me down solutions such as the National Cleaning Saturdays. Our new government should use this unique opportunity to find a lasting and maybe even revenue generating means to keeping the city clean. Personally, I would start by imposing a fine on any man who unzips his pants and pees onto a wall or a gutter….Nor Piss Na Ya. Freetown is being pissed on by the gallons everyday by men and boys who think that because it can be whipped out easily that they should. What if women started opening their wrappers and butuing to piss all over the country…An equal rights campaign to not be out pissed by the men. If we are going to piss on our country lets do it together, Di man dem piss na di right, di uman dem na di let. Amin

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