As mentioned in an earlier post, where we live is not far from the majority of government buildings. I thought it might be interesting to show some of the many signs of government that are here in Kenema.
First a little background on Sierra Leone. General elections were held in Sierra Leone on 7 March 2018 to elect the president, parliament and local councils. The incumbent president, Ernest Bai Koroma was not eligible to run again as he had already served the maximum of ten years.
At the time of the general election, no presidential candidate received the 55% of the vote required to win so a run-off election was held on 31 March between the top two candidates, opposition leader Julius Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party and Samura Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress. Bio was subsequently elected with 51.8% of the vote. This is important because the previous president (Koroma) was not particularly liked in Kenema, and therefore he was never able to carry the vote here. One of the reasons the roads are so bad, according to the locals, is that President Koroma punished Kenema because they did not vote for him. But the people here love Bio and more than 88% overwhelmingly voted for him in the run-off. The result? The people of Kenema won along with Bio, as his promise to fix the roads is beginning to be fulfilled. The improvements have pretty much stopped because it is the rainy season, but in November or December the paving of the roads should pick up again.
One last thing I will say about the government. The Ebola crisis really set the country back a couple of years. Things are better, but progress is slow. Most of the trade is with China and I worry that China is getting the bigger benefit. China builds toll roads and then Sierra Leone agrees to give them tolls for 27 years to pay for them (and then some). China gets minerals to create titanium and Sierra Leone gets very cheap (in every sense of the word) goods from China. In the end, the government is left with scarce financial resources. Difficult to levy property taxes when the people just don’t have the money to pay. There is still corruption that keeps big companies out of the country. The current government is working on it and making some progress, from what I can tell. Many of the people with stable jobs work for the government, including teachers, but I understand they are often paid up to 3 months late because of lack of government funds. Many teachers work for peanuts, hoping to eventually land a full-time job. It makes life difficult.
As we go walking around Kenema, I have snapped a few pictures of the many government signs and buildings that we pass. Here is a healthy sample.
I actually have a favorite “sign of government”. I doubt there will be any need for an explanation as to why I selected this one.
The President has a house here, it is near where the picture of the sign in the collage above was taken that says “Office of National Security. It is an extremely nice home. It too is a “sign of government”.
Okay, just one more series. I will tell you more about the water supply in the weekly highlights below. You can see the title of each of the buildings as you run your mouse over the picture.
On Monday morning we went for a long walk together that took us up a small rise at the
foot of one of the nearby mountains. From there we had a beautiful view of Kenema and the surrounding area. All in all we walked a little over 4 miles, but loved every minute of our adventure to discover things we had not previously seen. This including walking in between houses with people on porches wondering what two white people were doing wandering in and among their homes. We just waved to everyone and said good morning and they quickly returned the greeting with smiles and waves of their own. LaDawn is especially good at greeting strangers and I think she just melts their hearts. How we love the people of this city!
One of the things that happened on Monday was we had our water tanks cleaned out by the “Dass Max Cleaning Agency”. Dass and Max are two Young Single Adults who have started their own cleaning and trash removal company. They do a great job. The water that we use (and drink) comes from the Kenema Aquifer, that I think is fair to say perhaps not the cleanest water in the country. Fortunately whatever it is that ends up in our tank sinks to the bottom or stays on the top. Our water comes out of spigot that is about 12 inches off the bottom. We have a three filter system that the water goes through before we drink it, but we do shower in it and wash our dishes and clothes in it. We were happy to get the tanks cleaned!
On Monday evening we went out to the IDA Branch for family home evening with the Young Single Adults. The lesson was taught by Adama Benjusu, who is also the first counselor in the District Primary Presidency. She taught the “Law of Chastity” and did a terrific job. She was straightforward and did not pull any punches, but did it in a very respectful and appropriate way. One of the things mentioned during the lesson that was new to us is that there is something here that is called “show-face”. This means that a young woman brings home the young man to meet her parents, or vice-versa. Among some, this “show-face” event constitutes sufficient commitment to begin have sexual relations. It was made clear to everyone during the lesson that this is not the Lord’s standard and the “show-face” does not constitute legal marriage. We were all edified from the lesson.
On Tuesday morning we met with Joseph Aruna, one of the District Councilmen. He is responsible for Public Affairs as well as Seminary and Institute and looks over the Kpayama Branch. Br. Aruna is solid gold. He works as a news director of a local radio station and does a tremendous job helping to bring the church out of obscurity here in Kenema. He has only been a member of the church for a few years, but his testimony
and commitment is deep. In the afternoon we went back to the Kenema Branch for another music lesson, reviewing what we taught the previous week and then giving them a test. Strange enough, they loved taking the music test! It really helped them to see what they were learning and was something they could take home. They begged us to prepare another for this coming week! We love their enthusiasm to better understand the hymns of the restoration.
On Wednesday I spent most of the day working on a guidebook for the District Councilmen to present to President Cobinah. It is often hard to comb through the handbook of instructions to understand what the calling of a District Councilor entails, so by using the handbook of instructions, the Tomball Stake Handbook and a High Council Handbook from President Clawson’s home stake of Palmyra New York, I was able to pull together a 5 page document to help clarify their roles and responsibilities. We presented this to the Councilmen on Friday at their monthly Council meeting and I think
it was well received. On Wednesday evening President Cobinah and I went over to the Dauda Town Branch and there provided some training to a wonderful branch presidency. How I love these men for their gentle faithfulness. This is the same training we have given before and once again it was extremely well received.
On Thursday we attended the District Meeting of the Hanga Road District. Elder Adjety is the District Leader and his companion is Elder Holi. The others are Elder Isaac and Elder Gray, Elder Bledsoe and Elder Allen. Elder Gray and Elder Bledsoe are brand new and both are acclimating extremely well. We were both very impressed with the quality of the meeting, the professionalism of the Elders and their commitment to understand and implement Preach My Gospel as it was intended to be used. We loved being with these wonderful servants of the Lord.
On Friday I attended the District Council meeting as a guest of the District Presidency and went over the new guidebook with them. How I am coming to love these men who are so dedicated and inspired in their own individual ministries. It was wonderful to be with them. After the District Council meeting LaDawn and I met with Sister Tiangay Kamara, the District Young Women’s president. What a wonderful example for the young women to follow. She is a returned missionary who served in Nigeria. She has been home about 6 years and is just now finishing her teaching degree. Fortunately she has a job lined up at a private school so she will have a good job. We talked about how we might help her and her presidency train the branch young women presidencies next month. It was a wonderful discussion and I think she and LaDawn agreed on an excellent training plan.
Today was the District day of Service. Each of the 8 branches selected a service project and then went out this morning (it had rained last night and was sprinkling on and off
all morning) and got the work done. I don’t know what the total number of participants was because we only made it to three of the 8, but there were between 40-50 people at each of the sites we visited. If you multiply that by 8 that means we had about 400 people, each working between 3-5 hours. That’s a lot of service in one day!
We ended the day with one last practice with the Burma Branch choir. Tomorrow is their branch conference. One of the sisters in the choir made matching bow ties for everyone. Love the enthusiasm of the Saints here!
So yes there are many “signs of government” throughout the city of Kenema. Signs of past failures and future hopes. There are also “signs of self-government”. These are the men and women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who day in and day out have self-discipline, devotion, discipleship and duty etched in their hearts and evident in their actions. What an honor it is to be counted as two among many.