That Saturday Cleaning – What an APC admission of failure!



It was former APC President Joseph Saidu Momoh who openly admitted he had failed, words that were to haunt him for the rest of his life. The APC of today has not said as much, but that cleaning last Saturday, in which citizens were compelled to either join in the cleaning of public places or stay indoors for half the day ( Sierra Leone News On Cleaning day police/soldiers enforce patriotism ), was a similar admission of failure. After six years in power the government has confessed to the people that it really has no idea how to clean the city in a civilized, efficient manner. Its last resort is to a tactic employed by the youthful, military coupists who overthrew Momoh in 1992. At the time this was supposed to be an emergency cleaning program to wash away, symbolically and literally, the filth accumulated by the then APC regime. Twenty one years later, and after attempting various approaches to the problem, the government has fallen back on the same tactic employed by its immature predecessors, with all the human rights violations contained therein.


Cleaning is supposed to be a daily exercise, done in a quiet, systematic and efficient fashion. This is one of the most basic tasks a government needs to organize. It’s a task that is organized efficiently in countries all over the world. Except in Sierra Leone and a few other places. What would one call a couple who could not organize the daily cleaning of their home and yard, who left garbage lying around for a week or even a month before disposing of it. Filthy and useless? What then should we say about a government who does the same thing in its own space?


A great many Sierra Leoneans supported the exercise last week, and believed it was their civic duty to do so. They were sadly mistaken, because monthly, or even weekly, cleaning is not the answer to the problem. It is the problem.


For many years now, successive governments have been unable or unwilling to commit the necessary resources to clean Freetown. We would suggest a new approach and a new mindset is needed, one that would reduce the financial demands on Government in this area: There is no real reason why government should pay for (as opposed to monitor and enforce) the final disposal of household and business garbage. This cost should be borne in full by the very households and businesses that generate the garbage. Why should government pay for the disposal of the remnants of your Saturday foofoo? Requiring garbage generators to pay in full for the costs of garbage disposal not only reduces the financial burden on government, but also tends to increase the efficiency of the garbage business (less garbage generated, more garbage disposed of privately on site, more sorting of garbage by households and businesses).


If the great burden of household and business garbage can be lifted off Government, it can then turn its attention to the “environmental garbage” – principally the rubble and silt that washes down from the hills and clogs the gutters, streets and bays.