Primary and secondary school children of all ages are either toting filled or carrying empty jerry cans (what in local parlance is called ‘five-gallon rubber’). Mostly boys are seen dragging along makeshift carts on the main streets while others are stealthily banging gates here and there in the same manner in which US Marines do house-to-house search in Iraq. Public taps are being invaded by the affluent who are armed with green hoses that are shoved into the mouths of taps unto dozens of ‘five-gallon rubber’ in their jeeps or Mercedes Benz cars. The kids have to wait for these affluent people until they are done—albeit impatiently. Is the above a picture of water crisis in Darfur? Or Niger? Or Mauritania where rainfall is as scarce as finding diamonds at Siaka Stevens Streets in Freetown? No! It is happening in Freetown—the hub of Sierra Leone where rainfall is aplenty. Everyday the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC), which is responsible for providing water in the capital, is outliving its usefulness. The current state of water affair in Freetown is beginning to make the privatization of GVWC such a wonderful idea.
If there is ever going to be a practical miracle, that will be the day when the people of Okaymorie, Sorie Tong, Sumalia Tong, Leicester Road and some areas in central and west-central of the capital see running water from their taps which are now adorning their compounds and houses as furniture. Even those who have the little privilege of having running water in their houses, they have to make do with water infested either with worms or other particles. So many Freetown residents now have to rely on sachets or bottled water—afraid to take a sip of Guma’s product.
If we are living in the desert we would have understood. But what we can’t understand is why there is water scarcity in a country where rainfall is aplenty. We will refuse to hear arguments of illegal connections, wastages or people refusing to honour their bills.
We believe the reason for the endemic water crisis in the capital boils down to outright ineptitude and inertia on the part of Guma. And we will not let the management of this non-performing institution ram down our throats any illogical arguments as to why we should not be getting clean pipe-borne water in the city. We want the management of ‘Mr Sorie Guma’ to tell us whether this man is alive and kicking or dead. If dead, we are ready to foot the bill for the casket and even write his epitaph.