Friday, 16 November 2012

Sierra Leone Presidential elections tomorrow!

The elections are tomorrow and the country is literally buzzing in anticipation. Since the beginning of last week pretty much the entire community have been proudly wearing their voter ids around their necks day and night.

The two parties going for the presidential leg of the elections are APC (All People’s Congress) represented by the colour red and SLPP (Sierra Leone’s People’s Party) represented by the colour green. Since I have arrived back there has been at least one rally for each side every other week either in Freetown or smaller towns’ along the peninsula. A typical political rally looks a bit like a St. Patricks day parade, lots of colour (Green or red, depending on the party), lots of drunk people and the odd man dressed as a woman and woman dressed as a devil...... Ernest Bai Koromo the incumbent president is set for a landslide win and after quizzing many people in the community the consensus is that he is a fine man and has done a lot for the development of the country in the past four years.
From doing my own research the phrase 'lesser of two evils' rings home. Mr. Koroma appears to genuinely have the nation’s interests in mind but this is Africa and therefore the corruption is at times more open and obvious than in our own countries. The brutal civil war here ended more than a decade ago but it seems the development of the infrastructure and job creation didn’t really take off until Koroma got into power just under four years ago. After the war ended there was an awful lot of international funds being pumped into the country but little evidence of how this money was benefiting the people was to be seen. This visible development since Koroma gained power has secured him a place in the hearts of many. The oposition leader Mr. Julias Maada Bio was the leader of SLPP duing the war when the second Coup that overthrew Strasser and most people are opposed to turn back the clocks to the horrors of the lost decade and looking forward to seeing further development of their beloved country.
Tomorrow registered voters will have the opportunity to choose their new president, the District Chairman (Mayor), their MP and local Councillor. It is expected to be a very proud day and unlike in Europe there will be no secrecy, with each member of the community dressed explicitly to express their preferences. There is little to no trouble expected in the lead up to the elections, despite the high security measures being imposed by NGO’s and International businesses and schools throughout the country. Many NGO’s have been closed for business for some time already and will remain closed for up to six weeks with their employees either on leave or on lock down in their compounds. From where I am sitting this seems over cautious and a little sad but I imagine it has much to do with protecting liability.  

The plan for tomorrow is to don my red T-shirt and head up to the community center to enjoy the buzz, get some photos and maybe even have a glass of poyo and a bit of a boogie with the locals.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, there has been some sad news with the loss of our building team’s first external contract. The news was broken earlier this week after a month or so of trying to find a solution to a grossly miscalculated budget and time frame. Unfortunately for both Tribewanted and Orphund there was no simple solution to be found – money don done! Thankfully one beautiful earthbag building, one block of colourful compost toilets and one bucket shower has been completed before the money ran out.
On a positive note the Orphund team have not given up on their dream to have the first eco-orphanage in Sierra Leone and plans for a quick fix concrete structure to house the kids have been stopped. Fund raising will resume and hopefully the eco-building will as well before the end of the year. In the meantime an important lesson has been learned, we hope, and the building team are back on site restoring and rehabilitating our accommodation before the tourist season reaches its peak in the coming weeks.
Alusain breaking stones

Ali fixing the pulley in our new bucket shower

First earthbag orphanage building in Sierra Leone

The Orphund and Tribewanted building teams outside the new compost toilets

In other news I am very excited to have tracked down a heroin of mine that I met the last time I was here. This lady, Hannah, has one of the most amazing stories of survival and strength in the face of incredible obstacles and since I met her here in February of this year I have wanted to write about her story and harness her strength to inspire and empower other Sierra Leoneans especially her fellow women. We have planned to catch up next week so watch this space....

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