Sierra Leone Trip – April 2013 Day 7

23rd April 2013 | Posted in Nigel's Blog

Tuesday 23rd April

Up early and devotion today was saying if you have a dream, are you prepared to count the cost.  Good question, the scale of the challenge I am setting here goes deeper.  What can be done in the face of such overwhelming challenges?  The need is on every corner, one crying out for attention before another.  See the street beggars, so many with every form of pathology on offer, help often goes to the most demanding, yet the alternatives for desperate people are hard to find.

Met with Alpha, Deputy Minister of Lands who was just thrilled with our draft thoughts and said he would help us with land in whatever way  he can.  They explained how to ask for Land and said with our proposal of course they will give it!  (well we shall see indeed).  He confirmed the surveyors view that Moses Grandfather would know he could not sell us the land which finalised the decision that we have to simply ask for the money to be returned, along with the 2 goats sat in Alison’s compound!

We then went to the Joule Africa office but after sitting in a Jam not moving for 10 minutes walked for 20 minutes into town.  The centre of town had been closed as the court was adjudicating on the oppositions motion that the November election was a fraud and they feared violence.

From the vantage of 3 floors up and behind black windows we watched as the SLPP (opposition) crowd chanting and making violent gestures came up the road.  The water canon was brought up and the police gradually emerged to hold back the crowd.  After about 15 minutes and impossible looking discussions, the police fired the Tear gas (or some smoke) and the crowd ran away!  Police then brought individuals they had arrested away.  Sad to see 5 police just punching their lady captive repeatedly in the face.  Not nice.  Soon all calm and quiet though.

Then met with Sheka Tarawalie, Deputy Minister for internal affairs, great chap and friend of Terrys.  He confirmed the best approach to take on the land and was happy to intervene if for any reason there were difficulty recovering the money.

Then to see Moses, who was at home and explained that following our investigations we could not proceed with the land purchase and that we would like our money back.  He seemed to almost have been expecting us to say that as he would usually get emotional but all was very calm.  Must be God moving in response to the prayer before we went.  He said he would get on it straight away and return the money within 7 days.  We agreed that he would therefore have it to give to Alison by next Tuesday 31 May.

Then back to town, another walk where cars don’t move and then to see Patrick, who is a tremendous help at Joule Africa.  It was great to see Mary, Abu and others there who make me so welcome.  Then talked through the issues with Patrick gaining insight as to the way forward.  He noted Habitat for Humanity had been in Sierra Leone 10 years and is yet to build a house?  One great suggestion to consider was to look at housing key workers and building homes on school properties where they have land and the teachers commute massive distances.  He noted the board here would be independent of the board in the UK and policies joined by an MOU.  He would give me lawyer and Surveyor recommendations.

My main conclusion from the meeting was that there are so many extraneous costs in this country I need a significant fund before starting out.

Then to see the INGO registration department.  There they were very helpful but the rules and requirements are somewhat a lot!  Key thing though was its fine to use a for profit company’s base in the UK to set up an NGO here.  There was bizarre tautology in that to set up you must have at least 5 employees but of course you can’t employ them as an entity if you don’t exist.  No doubt there is a way.  Forms and information in hand we left to get a drink at a restaurant called Bliss.

We then met Andrew Sesay and returned to where the families had had their houses knocked down to find more information.  They had had no formal or informal notice, simply one day the bulldozer appeared after many had left for the day and literally destroyed everything.  People were given no notice to get their things out and lost virtually everything.  They tell me 1,000 people lived there and many had since gone to stay with friends and relatives.  Children stay with friends overnight and about 50 people sleep out in the open.  They said their greatest need was for tarpaulins as the rains are coming and they need some shelter.  As I listened to the story of how they went to see the president and no one needs to know who was responsible.  Yet the police accompanied the bulldozer!  The desperation was quite shocking, some were angry but most seemed resigned to their fate.  It really brought tears to my eyes as I left.  We have to do something, even if a little.  Determined to see what money I have left and at least start some shelter for the rains.  The politics seem so challenging yet see an unempowered people at the hands of the powerful, regardless of rights and wrongs is, injustice at its worst.

Then went for dinner with some pastor friends of Terry’s with football on in the background and back to bed.

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