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With George S. Khoryama…………..
Very disturbing news came in on Monday this week from Kenema featuring the Ebola Burial Team at the government hospital in that once Ebola stricken epic center. The ungodly and heartrending lawlessness occurred that day when the Kenema Ebola Burial Team took to strike action for non-payment of their two months back log of allowances that are due them.
To punctuate their strike action in a more robust and primitive fashion, they blocked the main entrance to the hospital with two dead bodies belonging to bereaved, aggrieved and helpless families – a scene that manifests the sad fact that money has today become the ruling passion of mankind that for the love of it, man can do anything to have it. The scene further sends home the sad message that the eleven years rebel war only helped to harden the hearts and minds of Sierra Leoneans towards one another. It is reported that the ghastly scene roundly provoked damnation, panic, revulsion and even convulsion among the Kenema public. It has been roundly condemned everywhere the news has been heard.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) Retired Major Palo Conteh speaking yesterday morning on Radio Democracy FM 98.1 on the issue could not be emotional more … and rightly so. He explained the reason for the delay in the payment of the allowances to the effect that the authorities concerned were in the process of correcting some irregularities in the pay system; and that they will pay the Kenema Burial Team no later than Friday this week. And then came the bang: “It is all politics and I have no place for politics in the fight against the Ebola. We will pay them and have them dismissed,” roared the Ebola CEO. The mention of politics from there on remained the chorus for the rest of his comments. When the anchor asked him to explain how political the burial team’s action was, the CEO could not explain but to continue to blame politics for the action of that team.
I agree and sympathize with the CEO’s frustration over the dastardly behavior of the Kenema Burial Team. For the team to have removed the dead bodies from the mortuary and placed them on public display if only to prove a case is unpardonable that warrants not only laying the workers off but should also be charged to court to set a good example. The call by government to fight the Ebola war is a national cause that calls for some sacrifices on the part of everybody. For anyone to use dead bodies as an object of one’s frustration to get at government therefore, is criminal and should be dealt with severely.
All the same I must beg to part company with the CEO on his allegation that the Kenema incidence is political. One thing very observable in the fight against the Ebola scourge is the tendency of government Ebola officials (mostly ruling APC people) to always speak against politics when as a matter of fact, most if not all their actions have been centered around politics. Take for instance the appointments to the various Ebola committees including the presidential. The heads and most members of those committees are the ruling party’s people mostly from the President’s home in the north; so too are the ambulance drivers, the burial teams, the medical doctors, heads of medical teams, etc. Some 90 percent of the entire Ebola workforces including the National Ebola Response Center are ruling APC people. Can CEO Conteh deny this? If this is not politics, what is it?
Few months ago the Ministry of Health and Sanitation disbursed funds under the name ‘Payments for District Response for Fight against Ebola’. The following were how the funds were distributed: Kailahun – Le509, 100,015; Kenema – Le524, 100,000. (These two districts at the time were the Ebola Epic Centers taking all the Ebola cases from around the country); Bo –Le411, 300.000. All the northern districts including Koinadugu that had no Ebola case at the time received more and a blanket amount of Le598, 000,000 each. If this was not politics, what is it CEO Conteh?
Last week end an ambulance driver was assigned to take a seriously sick and pregnant woman to her home at Murray Town. That night the ambulance driver made bold to drop the woman on the road side for dead and went away. That would have been politics if it had happened at Kenema or Kailahun. Not so Mr. Ebola CEO?
The youth in the various parts of the Western Area as well as Western Rural had at one time or another made road blocks to obstruct vehicular movements in order to force Ebola burial teams to go and collect bodies that were either abandoned in the homes or were decomposing in the streets. In some cases the police had to move in to clear the roadblocks. Because these things happened in the Western Area the stronghold of the ruling party it was not politics. It could only be politics when it happens in the south-eastern provinces; is that so CEO Conteh? Have ambulance operators and burial teams not been attacked at various parts of Freetown and elsewhere? So it only becomes political when it happens in the south-east?
The government has closed down market, business and entertainment places in the city and its environs as another way of curtailing overcrowding. Yet, the most crowded place in the city – Abacha Street – remains untouched because of what Mr. CEO? Is it not politics?
Mr. CEO, the fact you have been temporarily detailed to head the Ebola team from the opulent position of Minister of Defence is equally political. The fact that President Ernest Bai Koroma continues to re-circle the same people to various positions in government instead of recruiting jobless but more squalified people out there is political to say the least. After Ebola your job at Defence Ministry still awaits you.
Mr. CEO, be mindful of making statements that have the propensity of creating more problem for you in the dispensation of your duties. You are representing Sierra Leoneans as one people and one country therefore, you need the cooperation of everybody in the fight against the Ebola disaster, the reason more you must be circumspect in your public pronouncements. Meanwhile let the NERC stop delaying the payment of workers. To avoid future Kenema-like incidence, let your office work overtime to ensure that the workers are paid on time. It is only natural that people who work have great expectation for their salaries at the end of the months. Lest I forget; you were emotional on that Monday radio interview. Keep your cool as much bigger challenges are on the way. The Kenema episode may be a tip of the iceberg.

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