On February 4th, 2017, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma was in Segbwema and Pendembu on a working visit where he officially opened the newly constructed 84.5 kilometer Kenema – Pendembu road as well as commissioned the construction of the 28 kilometer Pendembu – Kailahun town road project.
During these events, the people of eastern region came out in their numbers to express their gratitude to President Koroma for the construction of the Kenema – Pendembu highway, on the one hand, and the commissioning of the construction of the second leg of the project from Pendembu to Kailahun town, on the other.
This Kenema – Kailahun – Koindu Corridor had been neglected since the days of colonial administration. Despite claims of certain areas of the country being the stronghold of certain political parties, it is actually the APC that has stepped up to the plate in not just road construction but also many other areas of development like water, health, energy, education, agriculture among others.
After decades of perennial road problems along this road corridor, residents of Segbwema, Pendembu and Kailahun town expressed joy and praises for the government for constructing the road and now launching the construction of the second leg of the project, and when President Koroma disclosed that discussions with the European Union on the last leg of the road from Kailahun town to Koindu were at an advanced stage, the people understandably erupted into further jubilation, which reverberated throughout the evening into the cold night.
According to a 42 years old resident of Segbwema, the headquarter town of Njaluahun chiefdom, Jenneh Kangoma, “The road was in a terrible state to a point that it almost stopped all economic activities in the district. As a business woman, the bad state of the road then affected my business greatly and my goods almost perished before reaching the market,” she said.
According to her, the construction of the road has eased the constraints faced by commuters particularly business people. “Everybody is happy. We now have fast movement of people and businesses; it has increased our profit because we now pay less in terms of transportation.”
Another resident, Amos Kai, and Councilor, told our team that the construction of the Kenema – Kailahun highway was a blessing. Before this time, he stated, transportation cost was high and that affected business adversely. “It was very difficult to transport agricultural produce to the market and we are happy that this has been addressed by the construction of the road,” he stressed. Kai called for ownership of the road by the people of Kailahun district and urged against any misuse of the road or do anything that will destroy it.
Alhaji Kallon is 35 years old and lives in Pendembu. He pointed out that the road was narrow and deplorable. Kallon went on to thank God and the Government of President Koroma for the road because it has facilitated business and also reduced the cost of transportation. “This is good for us as business people. We were really suffering because of the bad state of the road but thanks to President Koroma for making sure we have one of the best roads in the country,” he said with tears struggling down his cheeks.
Mohamed Yusif Sannoh is an Imam and is 55 years old. He explained that the road was an eyesore. “It was very deplorable,” he said and noted that people were highly constrained. “No matter the forms of transportation used, whether it was a car, truck or Okada, you have to go through a lot of challenges. People were really suffering. I can now leave here (Segbwema) and go to Kenema or Bo and come back within the shortest possible time,” he expounded.
Imam Sannoh admonished the people of Segbwema to show appreciation for what the government is doing to transform their locality, and urged them to support the government in the development of the nation. “We must all be supportive of government programmes and activities,” he said.
“As a driver, I am proud to have good roads. The road was deplorable and before this project, there were lots of accidents mainly along the Segbwema Hill which was notable for gruesome and fatal accidents. Lots of lives were lost,” said Mohamed Tarawalie, a 46-year-old driver who lives in Bombohun, Kailahun district. Tarawalie noted that good roads are essential in a country, and that the newly opened Kenema – Pendembu road has now increased the earnings of business people because they now pay less in terms of transporting their goods. “It has also shrunk the number of times you visit the garage for maintenance. Maintenance cost has reduced drastically and subsequently the life span of the car will increase,” Tarawalie stated.
But Tarawalie has a word of advice for the people of Kailahun. “I am pleading to the locals to take good care of the road and they should all be public monitors. They should not spill oil on the road and all of these put together will eventually revive the international market that was held in this part of the country.”
However, a member of parliament (MP) representing Kenema district argued that the SLPP engaged in massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country immediately after the war. He noted that his party, under the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, tirelessly embarked on overhauling and renovating the country’s deplorable road network and as he put it, “We had secured funds for the construction of the Kenema – Kailahun road before we left office in 2007,” he confidently said. But President Koroma had asked during the launching ceremony that if the SLPP had really truly secured funds for the construction of the Kenema – Kailahun road, “which part of the bank did they keep the money?” he asked rhetorically.
There’s no secret about the fact that even the current SLPP MPs could attest to the fact that it was this government under the result-oriented and transformative leadership of President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma that funding for these road projects were secured. What the SLPP hopes to gain by peddling fake news about funding for the Kenema – Kailahun road project is anybody’s guess. But the people of Kailahun are thanking this APC government for a job well done because before now, there was little (or absolutely nothing) any political party (except the APC) could show for their stewardship in their communities, chiefdoms and villages.