By Samuel Ben Turay- (Ataya Base Consultant) 079550982
Sierra Leone is a post war country with a high number of youth unemployment, regardless of efforts made by both governments and other humanitarian organizations in the country to address this problem. Sierra Leone is also a country that has taken security issue seriously due to the recent Al-Shabab threat. This means security should be a concern to everybody or security authorities should include all or some groups in the country to help them with vital information……If so then some of these bases should be considered. Ataya Bases are centres where people converge to drink a Chinese product call Green Tea with its Logo Special Gunpowder. The official name of this product is Green Tea but in Africa we call it Ataya. It is legally sold in Africa. It can be both useful and harmful. Ataya has a lot of health benefits, provided it is properly prepared, as well as health risks, if it is being misused either by not being boiled the right way or excess consumption, or mixed with another product as the case in Sierra Leone. Poor hygiene at Ataya bases has high risks of Cholera and Tuberculosis (TB), although Ataya bases enhance Love and Unity across the country. Ataya is a product that our medical professionals have been condemning for the past years, according to them the product can affect people mentally. But the unfortunate part of the story is these medical professionals have never showed or produced a single person or victim that has gone mad as a result of (drinking the Ataya product) which could have been a case study to make reference to. Since they fail to do so people who drink this product are questioning the professionalism of these so-called professionals.
Current Ataya Bases operating in the country
In a recent survey we discovered some 1,500 ataya Bases in the country out of the number, 510 are in Western Area both Urban and Rural, 366 located in the Northern Province, while 340 in Southern Province and 284 in Eastern Province. Each base has over 30 regular members drink the product. Assuming what the medical people are saying is true…meaning we are talking about over 45,000 to be mentally affected in the nearest future. But if indeed the product is bad then why it is globally sold worldwide? In Sierra Leone our government even collecting taxes from importers of the product. Does that mean the product is good for us? or who is fooling who????
Advantages of Ataya Base in National Development
Take a look at some of the good part of Ataya Bases. Ataya Bases have rapidly replacing Ghettos as most youths now prefer to spend time at the Ataya base than the ghetto, is easy to get the statistics of unemployment youths in the country, it is an ideal place to counsel youths alongside their diverse interests, easy also for government to access and interact with youths, some Ataya-bases are legal entities well managed by a clearly defined structure normally elected, some generate money for their welfare through legal means. They use the proceeds to assist members for Marriage, burial and medical purposes among other gestures and these are also places considered conducive for relaxation. Through the leadership of police boss IG Munu Ataya Bases were called to serve as stakeholder at the dead Operation WID. In 2012 general election Ataya base members were also included into the APC Electoral College working with the 100 man committee for the awarding of party symbols into their various communities. An action tells that indeed the ruling government aware about the existence of Ataya bases in the country.
Disadvantages of Ataya Base in National Development
Indeed Ataya base contributes to idleness, contain ideal youths, sometimes undermines national development through laggardness and sometimes contribute to devious relationships. Have also the potential to decide the political faith of any political party in the bid to secure and promote their interest. They are also easy to be carried out by any criminal.
Advantage of Ataya to people
Improve sexual desire to some people, cures Malaria to some people, energizes people, particularly students for night reading, less expensive to make you fill ok, religiously not sinful, reduces fat(s) to some people making them thin. In my recent visit to the company that produces this product in China I also learned that the product is both useful and harmful. Ataya is very good to drink for many reasons, it cures a lot of sicknesses in the body when it is drink the right way, it also damages your brain like any other harmful drug when its misuse. Ataya is good for blood pressure, good for eye sight, good for bone and vein and also good to keep you awake. At the same time the product has the tendency to damage your brain.
Another benefit of Ataya Bases
Ataya Bases have created jobs for its sellers, the product has improved families of sellers of this product as some ataya sellers have now acquired land, some have built houses and bought vehicles through the business and many of the dealers take greater care of their families through the business.
Today more than 1,500 people take care of families through the business. Assuming there has been no Ataya or Ataya Base where do we expect these people to get means of taking care of their families?
What is happening at Ataya Bases
People in Atayabase are religious tolerance, no high table there -as every member is equal to seat on any bench or table, no injustice- as every member shared the same cup with no limitation to seniority. A practice that clearly manifests love and appreciations for each other, bye-laws are respected, all customers are treated fairly and some Ataya base have full authority over their communities Eg, 18 Ataya-base in Tombo and PWD Bottom Mango Ataya Base in Freetown, both have councillors from their bases.
Why these places need proper attention?
Atayabase members can make and break any society, are places where information are revealed and issues discussed including state matters, are ideal grounds for master minding plans leading to violence, strike actions and social unrest with the potential to derail meaningful development strides, are sensitive places where criminals can be tracked through information sharing and intelligent gathering, are places where the ‘Agenda for Change or Prosperity’ call requires the attention and in cooperation of these youths as a means to gear their minds towards development programs.
Youths found at these places can form part of the security network and contribute immensely to maintaining peace, law and order if their energy can be proper managed. As it is, some of them feel security and development is not part of their agenda as they feel the public perception about them as idlers, criminals and lawless have branded them and in no way they can be counted upon. Due to government negligence less than 2% of these bases or centers do not pay taxes to their councils they located. 70% of these members do not pay their local taxes simply because where these local taxes are sold is far from these bases.
Vulnerability of these members
Let’s pray to the Almighty God to push all communicable diseases far from these places because these members are vulnerable to Cholera and Tuberculoses (TB) through closeness and improper hygiene at these places and also vulnerable to common cold through hand shaking. If for no reasons communicable diseases encounter in these places I cannot tell who that story could be ended.
Cross section of the civilian populace dismissed youths seen at Ataya bases as idlers and dropouts who has no future. This notion leads to stigmatization or anonaminity, these youths suffer discrimination and humiliation and therefore distant themselves from their communities.
The role of these members in national development
Recently these members have decided to form the National Union of Ataya Bases (NUAB-SL) with the mission to address the root causes of war, protests and violence through educating, sensitizing and mobilizing the youth sector; capacity building, advocacy, information sharing, dialoguing and partnership. To assist in strengthening the security sector, consolidating peace by sharing relevant information to combat crime and track law defaulters for all Sierra Leoneans to live in dignity and involve youth in national development. They have also decided to engage medical professionals for proper explanation.