The preponderance of very devastating natural disasters in recent times seem to be making nonsense of all the trumpeted successes in scientific and information technological researches that huge sums of money have been spent on. That the twenty-first century is thinking of ensuring longevity through electronically controlled organs in the body but cannot predict volcanic ash or better still stop volcanoes altogether is not far from being scandalous. What use is it that the great nations of the world can produce the state of the art weapons but yet cannot spend that money on research that reduces the incidents of nature’s onslaught on people?
The volcanic ash stand off some time ago leaving aviation experts stunned and getting travelers stranded and angry in most European airports seemed quite devastating. One lesson though is that we all are on this earth together. Black or white, rich or poor one crisis in any part of the world affects us all. At least the recent Vulcanic ash debacle should teach us this simple truth. Can you imagine ash preventing planes to fly? In Africa most of our highways are rugged and so in the dry season there is so much dust on the roads that impair visibility and even cause accidents.
The ashes stuff is actually not funny…it is the reality of life that was laid bare that is the point starkly made to the world. In Africa we are really always travelling through ashes…call it dust. Since most of our roads are not tar marked, we are for half part of the year actually suffering our vehicles to travel through dust that is as hazardous as the volcanic ash. When we talk of refugees, we normally think of the so called third world including Africa. However the volcanic ashes crisis turned many Europeans into either displaced or refugees. Can you imagine passengers spreading their clothes on airport floors and sleeping there? Normally African air passengers who go for the cheapest flight rates spend hours on end waiting for connecting flights.
While the crisis was on, it appeared the greater part of Africa was not directly touched. However it came out clearly that business suffered. There were even threats of job losses since goods or raw materials could not fly. What came out clearly is that the West and Africa need to work more closely. Why not open up industries right in Africa where the bulk of the raw materials are. How good it will be to locate chocolate factories in say Ghana or Ivory Coast.
The hazards of traveling are not only in the air. There are many more deaths that occur on land and sea.
No sooner security is threatened everything else becomes vulnerable and insecure populations can also become very dangerous indeed. What needs to be built and strongly too are relationships… whether as individuals or as a nation. You will recall the immediate couple of months of the economic downturn which some nations are still squeaking under its effects. That whole scenario changed a whole lot of things in the world. You are still wondering if our world will be the same again! What I still ponder on is that if the gap between rich and poor nations continues to widen whether the world will be any better. This is not a question of aid pored here and there but some viable cooperation that will level the playing field a little bit. I am sure we agree that every nation has something to offer to the world. God did not put people where they are today by accident, there must have been a reason. Otherwise why should small Sierra Leone have all these precious minerals that have now attracted investors from every corner of the world?
Sometimes you need to ask yourself whether we could not have survived up to this point if we had no link with any other country in terms of support. I know international relations can become real complex. Can nature really place a set of people in a particular country without making the necessary provisions for survival? I don’t think so. Look at the wars Africa has gone through and still nursing the scars of war. At the height of our war…or can I say their war people adopted all sorts of survival coping mechanisms. We survived and those who died, died. Yes they are dead and we are alive! That is the way of the world.
In recent times big nations seem to be putting their individual nation’s interests first, and we the smaller nations are at a loss. We are most times forced to ride on the lion’s back. You know when this happens you invariably end up in that lion’s stomach. You see the point. Tell me how do we carry on our own agendas? When our chiefs insist on using the same chairs that their fathers used during the colonial times, is it for the sake of culture or colonialism? Think! Is our vulnerability inherently built in our psyche?
Some African countries were affected by the volcanic ash, but was Sierra Leone affected. I felt very much ashamed that hardly any sierra Leonean called the BBC ‘Have Your Say’ to report that we were affected. In Actual fact it shows how disconnected we were from the world’s daily routine. Too bad eh? I think if all vehicles plying our dusty routes are grounded then that will affect us greatly.
One very important thing happening to Sierra Leone over that past five years now is the efforts of past and present governments in marking our highways tar marked.
Interdependency reminds a great fact of life for Sierra Leone. Whether it is Trade or aid it really does not matter. The truth is we will continue for a long time to ride on the Lion’s back. However, life becomes more humane when the relationship is mutual and respectable. This really is hard to come by. Can someone tell me where there is ever an equal partnership in this lovely world? Let us take the situation in the home. The husband is normally considered and backed up by religion and culture to be the head of the home. There are however some homes in which the wives are in charge. There is always an unequal power balance. Somebody is actually always in charge at any given time. We all talk about empowerment. Yes it could be the best legacy for communities. I say legacy for want of a better word.
Now let us look at the hazards of our dusty roads in the countryside. Most of the vehicles plying the rural routes do not of course have ACs and as such take the whole hog when it comes to dust. By the way what amazes me is that most of our drivers actually manage to see through the dust and speed off with careless abandon. You should have known by now that many of our vehicles who ply the agricultural roads go by the grace of God. If you do not believe this, go to Gbindi Park… I won’t tell you where Gbindi Park is; sure you can ask somebody near you. Do you know that even the buffest of football teams in Africa will tend to take the names of the wildest of beasts in the jungle? Take names like Indomitable Lions,
Red Roaring Lions, scorpions etc, etc. this reminds me of the inscriptions on our rickety vehicles… hear them… Road master, Japan Special, and the like! In this big game of survival try to know who holds your future even if you do not know that future. Who really hold your own future? These are the angry and hungry lions that play with your life in a scheming way.
With the launching of the free medical care for Under Fives and pregnant women, Sierra Leone seems to be putting its finger on the critical MDGs. Whether you are impressed or not I think the point here is the political will behind it all. The west may not prevent the recurrence of the volcanic ash but I think with concerted efforts over here we can reduce maternal and infant mortality.
You might want to keep fingers crossed but remember that sometimes those who put shit on you and those who remove it from you might be the same people depending on the motive. When all is said and done, the ash and the dust have a lot in common. Or don’t you think so? By S. Beny Sam