By S. U. Thoronka……….
Moyamba is both the Headquarter Town of Moyamba District and Kaiyamba Chiefdom in the Southern Province of the Republic of Sierra Leone. It is about one hundred and twenty-five miles from Freetown travelling through Mile 91, but less than eighty miles through Rotifunk. Before this time, the district was known for ginger production, rice farming and large scale artisanal fishing in Shenge and Plantain Island. Moyamba Town was both a commercial hub for fish-trade in the South and even beyond as well as the epicenter for the girl-child education. Harford School for Girls; the first provincial secondary school which was established in 1900, later produced the first provincial female politician as (Minister of State) and Paramount Chief of Kaiyama Chiefdom,
late Madam Ella Koblo-Gulama. I am talking about a period during which almost all the schools in the district were established and managed by the Evangelical United Brethren (E.U.B) Mission in Sierra Leone.
A man, who hailed from Moyamba at Borbor-Kombor a similar name that could be only heard around Kroo Town Road in Freetown, would like to take this opportunity to share some experience with his contemporaries that are still alive in comparison with the present day Moyamba. Those were the days in the African setting when age was characterized with respectability within the community. How dare you call in those good old days, either your elder brother or sister by name without a prefix that is to say, using either ngor in mende, korthor or thara in Temne? Before now, Moyamba was a place where tribalism was not a problem among the inhabitants as both Kaiyama and Yoni Chiefdoms still shared common boundary, and because the proximity is an added advantage for co-existence, the Temnes and Mendes undoubtedly intermarried.
This was demonstrated by the late Paramount Chief of Kaiyama Julius Gulama whose daughter got married to a Temne the late Paramount Chief of Marampa-Masimera then, Bai-Koblo Pathbana who were blessed with three children, O’bai, Sorkor and Gilo. But Gilo later died in America before the demise of their mother the Paramount Chief Ella Koblo-Gulama.
Like I said earlier, Moyamba was a commercial hub where Middle East immigrants the Lebanese and Syrians to be precise, acted as import and export agents in both manufactured goods and local cash crops. The railway was fully operational from Freetown in the West through South to Pendembu in the East, covering a distance of 2271/2 miles. Of course in Moyamba we had for example Zain Jaward,”Dorti” Morowa,George Anthony, Pa Assad, Sharaff to name but a few, these were all British protected citizens who were issued trade licenses at the expense of the locals so to speak. But all is now history, as there is not a single Lebanese or Syrian in Moyamba District doing large scale business as usual.
Madam Ella Koblo-Gulama succeeded her father P C Julius Gulama before I started school at the then E.U.B One Coppor Corner, now U.M.C.Central Primary School. During those years I was able to experience a lot within the township and even beyond. Under the leadership of Madam Ella Koblo-Gulama all major streets in the township were covered with tarmac. And for the very first time in a generation the whole of Moyamba got clean and safe drinking tap water, installed by Taylor-Woodrow a British Construction company and managed by Sierra Leone Water Works. That was perhaps why P. C. Ella Koblo-Gulama never compromised the issue of revenue, especially in the area of local tax collection in her chiefdom. I could vividly remember as a little boy when I accompanied my mother to the market one morning, and little did the people in the market know that the Paramount Chie Ella Koblo Gulama was around to collect the local tax together with her chiefdom police officers. When she eventually appeared in full view of the people in the market, those without money took to their heels for fear of being caught and detained in cells, where defaulters pay twice the actual amount. It was during the reign of Madam Ella Koblo-Gulama that Moyamba was also electrified, those were the good old days when we used to read under electric poles from Salina, Sembehun Road, KweluRoad, Makeni Road,Yoyema Road , then Service Street, Taninehun to konkowo Road.
There was a very popular town crier called “Number” who used to convey messages from the chief to her subjects, he was bi-lingual meaning he could speak both Mende and Temne and was very humorous. Everywhere Number went during official errands or at leisure, he created fun and people either gave him money or food in appreciation of his jokes, fun and folk tales.
There was also a popular leper in town called Mbaykay who made himself a senior beggar, and on Fridays he led all the paupers in town together with those from the surrounding villages to beg for alms. They visited places like Harford School, the Catholic Mission, Market place, the Lebanese shops and the houses of other important personalities in town. Mbaykay made sure that whatever was given as alms he collected as head beggar and at the end of the day he shared among his colleagues, but whether the process was equitably done is a matter for conjecture. However, after some time a kind of mistrust developed among his colleagues so much so that each of them decided to go his or her own way, that is to say everybody for himself and God for all.
It so happened at one time, that people perceived to be cannibals were in Moyamba town, and almost immediately the alarm for awareness was raised by the town crier warning people to stay indoors at dusk. But Mbaykay the leper took advantage of his physical and social status as an outcast who thought he was untouchable and decided to sit in his veranda late at night. Disappointingly, however, when the cannibals saw him seated he was immediately bundled into a waiting vehicle without further questioning and drove away to an unknown destination. Few miles off the town, the nasty stench of Mbaykay’s leprosy had almost filled the vehicle when the alleged cannibals started asking questions about the offensive smell in the vehicle .That was when the leper thought to himself that the only way for him to gain freedom was for him to confess. He then turned to his captors and said, the person you took as a captive is a rotten leper. He was eventually told to alight from the vehicle and given some cash to pay his way back to Moyamba Town, where he later narrated his encounter. I decided to bring forward this information to ascertain the veracity of the claim that I was born and bred in Moyamba and only a handful of my contemporaries could remember this particular event.
Unfortunately, Moyamba started retrogressing steadily when the Paramount Chief Madam Ella Koblo-Gulama was deposed on trumped up political reasons after the 1967General Elections, followed by the installation of a caretaker Paramount Chief pending a proposed chieftaincy election.
The Chiefdom experienced the worst in administration after the chieftaincy election under the dictatorship of Siaka Probyn Stevens; President of the Republic of Sierra Leone was manipulated in favor of Chief Body Blango a perpetual alcoholic. Henceforth, the systematic manipulation of chieftaincy elections in Kaiyamba Chiefdom became the norm rather than the exception. Samuel Gulama (Ngatay) a schoolmate and younger brother of Madam Ella Koblo-Gulama considered to be the heir apparent became the first and second victim of political vendetta. At the material time, the name Gulama was associated with SLPP; as a result the chieftaincy election was politically manoeuvred in favor of P C Body Blango a perceived friend of the Government then. He (Ngatay) suffered a similar fate in another chieftaincy election and lost to his nephew PC Foday Gulama, this time he was victimized by his own people, majority of the Gulama linage, who widely perceived him to be APC sympathizer.
During the reign of Chief Blango, it was a field day for the so-called educated elites who thought that the only way forward for the chiefdom and the district was character assassination of well placed Government functionaries who were transferred to the district. Those engaged in such wicked behavior were P.P.Lawrence, B.S.L. Cole and hosts of others. They were in the habit of writing letters to State House, complaining Government officers who they could not easily manipulate to succumb to their selfish demands.
And since the President then, Siaka Probyn Stevens relied on information from his informants deployed in every part of the country; his government gradually began to lose the most efficient technocrats. Consequently, development took a nose dive and Moyamba unavoidably fell prey to such maladministration. The road to Shenge in the Kargboroh Chiefdom which was in constant maintenance, and used to supply fish protein to Moyamba and the rest of the country was recklessly abandoned by Government. Fish from Shenge and Plantain is now transported direct to Tombo in the Freetown peninsula from where they are distributed to the rest of the country. Unfortunately it was not Kagboro and Kaiyamba chiefdoms that were only affected by the appalling condition of the road, but Taemedele and Bagruwa Chiefdoms as well. Both chiefdoms played key role in promoting the economic activities in the district, especially during the good old days of P.C. Charles Yimbo of Taemedele Chiefdom and P. C. Soluku of Bagruwa Chiefdom (Nancy Tucker fame). Agriculture which is the main stay was later neglected; and as a result, the youth population began to leave the town for greener pastures in the urban areas.
The existence of Body Blango as Paramount Chief of Kaiyamba Chiefdom did not in any way create positive impact in terms of development, but rather things went from bad to worse after his demise, as another regent chief took over. The former Inspector of Schools Mr. L. A. S Lamin was another alcoholic not different from the late Paramount Chief. However, due to his ineptitude, he had cause to delegate most if not all of his functions to allow him live a comfortable life in alcoholism. Unfortunately, the advent of the ten years rebel war transformed Moyamba into a ghost town and who knows how Moyamba would look like after the Ebola outbreak. My question then is, will Moyamba regain its former glory? Your guess is as good as mine, more so as Sierra Leoneans are full of ’’ bad heart’’ to borrow the words of late President Kabbah. Moyamba Central Constituency now Constituency 81 has not benefited from successive representatives and their political parties or governments, the likes of Daniel Kelfala (A PC) and Edward Sesay (APC) not to even mention Musa Tarasid Tarawalie (SLPP) under the past government of President Kabbah now James N. D. Alie (SLPP). None of these can show meaningful legacy of their stewardship as MPs other than misery. Irrespective 0f which Government is in power, a representative of the people should be able to create positive impact by making meaningful contributions in Parliamentary debate, and honestly perform oversight functions without fear or favor. Disappointingly, a good number of MPs can only concur and support proposals or suggestions emanating from their colleagues. If oversight functions are carried out diligently and honestly by MPs irrespective of which political party one belongs, the issue of corruption in our society would be minimized and perhaps render the Anti Corruption Commission (A CC) redundant. Now that a Constituency Development Fund(C D F) has been established by Government for MPs to take development to their areas, how many of them will be honest enough to even disclose this information to their constituents? All that Moyamba could boast of at present in the absence of safe drinking water is maintenance of roads within the township while the entire township is as dark at night as a grave. But shamefully enough a good number of Moyamba descendants are still unaware of the tactics of selfish politicians, whilst they continue to pay patronage to political parties of their forefathers to the detriment of their own betterment and the development of their community. Unless and until the people decide to put party politics and color aside and start looking out for people that are patriotic and development oriented as representatives of the down trodden, Moyamba will continue to retrogress. In that case one would tend to be pessimistic about the chances of developing such awareness in a country where statisticians say the illiteracy rate is about 80%, whereas regionalism and tribalism are also major determinant factors in party politics. Not to even mention poverty a classical disadvantage as voters do not have independent mind in making informed decisions. Some MPs have already refused to inform and disclose to their constituents the intent and or purpose of the annual disbursement of the CDF. There is no guarantee whatsoever, that MPs will not secretly save such funds to buy votes in the near future and continue to make empty promises.
By S. U. Thoronka……….