There seems to be an unprecedented level of street-trading in Freetown at the moment. The unspecified number of hawkers that has flooded the major streets of the municipality has left many wondering what has happened to Operation Free Flow mounted by the Sierra Leone Police to rid the streets of street-trading.
During a random survey by Awoko, many residents of the town expressed disgust over the situation, saying the police are giving it a blind eye.
A middle-aged woman, Esther Coker said, “It seems the enthusiasm of the police has died down because the elections are just round the corner.” She questioned why street-trading should be taking place “under the very nose of the Police headquarters and the Post Office”.
Looking furious, she asked whether the police were blind to the presence of the hawkers, who make so much noise that it is “unpleasant to work in the area”.
Another resident, Foday Bangura expressed shock that pedestrians have been forced to walk on the streets as the traders have taken over pavements where they exit.
Foday said if the police wanted to get rid of the traders they could do so “within a twinkle of the eye.”
Almost all those sampled believe the current situation has its roots in political patronage in exchange for votes. They say government and police are ambivalent now because driving the traders away will mean giving their votes to the opposition.
The areas particularly affected are Garrison, Sani Abacha, Ecowas and Wilberforce Streets, back of Law Courts Building and Sam Bangura Building (Bank of Sierra Leone) vicinities. Even Pademba Road prison is now infested with hawkers.
Some traders, among them mango-sellers dump their remaining perishable wares into the drainage. On what had emboldened their resolve to sell on the streets, they told Awoko that they had been granted permission to sell on the streets by undisclosed officials.