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Guinea doles to Sierra Leone: Not Gaddaffi’s rice, but Alpha Conde’s rice

In Sierra Leone, rice is considered a stable food and consumed by every household in the country. To the politicians, it is a political commodity that must not be toyed with by any right thinking government. Voters in Sierra Leone appreciate rice more than any other food substitutes, in the city as well as the Provincial towns and villages, rice is a crucial commodity. Because it is crucial it can be used to determine the political success of a Government or its failure, when a Government is unable to provide this commodity for its citizens. Every succeeding Government has rice as its priority on the agenda list, but the level of consumption most of the time creates what economist refers to as scarcity of the good. In Sierra Leone, rice importation is handled and controlled by individual businessmen and women and most of them are located along Sani Abacha Street and other main streets, who determine the selling price to consumers. Recently, Government lifted the excise duty paid by importers to cushion the price of rice, so that the average Sierra Leonean can afford a bag or half of it per month, considering the provocative salary structure of Government employees in the country. Nonetheless, the suspension of the excise duty on this commodity has not changed its selling price as most people cannot still afford a bag anytime in the month to keep their homes running.

In the past, the Libyan Government of President Gaddaffi has come to the aid of Sierra Leoneans by donation some quantities of rice. Similarly, the Italian Government has occasionally been making some gestures to the people, but with all these gestures and donations the price of rice continues to take a large portion from the salary of employees, not to mention the unemployed who buys per cup at an unreasonable selling price. The demand for rice has always superseded its supply, thus living the consumers at the mercy of the importers, wholesalers, retailers and petty traders. Some would accuse the market forces as the determining factor. Whether that is so or not Government has a responsibility, among other things; which entails feeding its people, providing security for them and others. The list is endless, but the areas of priority include food and security. Other basic according to social scientists are shelter, clothing and food. The aspect of food is so important that it forms part of the necessities of mankind, which cannot be avoided, just like water the gift of nature.

President Gaddaffi is no more in the position he used to be to donate rice and make other gestures to Sierra Leone, his future is known and predictable; therefore for any Government and its people to expect any form of humanitarian aid from him or his Government is a figment of imagination, but will still be remembered for several roles he played in the socio-political and economic development and destruction of Sierra Leone. In 2007, the Gaddaffi rice was used as a political campaign tool to win votes from the electorate. The issue was over politicized and stretched by the APC and misperceived by the public. The SLPP over-reacted and crucified the standard times executive editor for publishing alleged pronouncement of Colonel Gaddaffi, something, which should not have been a political issue that the media house should have quickly and easily corrected and laid to rest. But political maturity, not political age was absent at the time and what should not have been a political embarrassment turned out to be one for the old aged party.

The Gaddaffi rice issue is over and in its place; just months away to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections came another similar donation from a neighboring country, few miles away from Sierra Leone. What prompted the Republic of Guinea to donate about 2,000 metric tons of rice to Sierra Leone is not known. The gesture should not only be seen as humanitarian, as the local adage goes “Beware of the Greeks when they make offer” rice had been a scarce commodity in Guinea since the election that brought Alpha Conde to power and the allegation leveled against the Opposition and rich Fullah Traders is that they have bought all rice produced in China and other parts of the World. This allegation was successfully traded by supporters of the Alpha Conde Government and digested by most Guineans, who could not afford a cup of the commodity for their families. Surprisingly, few days ago the Guinean government has donated what was very scarce to feed its people to Sierra Leone. Although, we would not reject the offer; however we should accept it with caution and say a “Big Thank You” to the Government and People of Guinea for the beautiful gesture. In this vein, the Republic of Guinea may be expecting the Government of Sierra Leone to reciprocate in whatever way, whether to donate Yenga to them or any other form of humanitarian or political gesture.

Now that the 2,000 tons of rice is public knowledge and the APC is aufait with the consequences of donated rice to this country, it should be treated with maximum caution and made available to the public at an affordable price. A selling price that the least Sierra Leonean, unemployed and employed can afford for their families.  In addition, Government should publicize locations that the rice should be sold, both in the Western area and the Provincial towns and no one consumer should buy more than a bag. Revenue generated from the donated rice should be used as seed money for future purchases of rice. Parliamentarians should not be allowed to use the donated rice as a bait to canvass votes from the electorate as they used to do in the past. Government should not supply them with on the pretext that they are going to sell it to their constituents, but creates an environment that the commodity could be easily acquired. The Ministries of Trade and Agriculture should endeavour to put mechanisms in place for the rice to reach every village and town of this country, and avoid falling into a political trap. The Alpha Conde rice should not be the Gaddaffi rice that stained the minds of Sierra Leoneans. Members of Parliament and Ministers should not be the Alpha and Omega of this gesture from the Republic of Guinea.

Read government of Sierra Leone press release               

 

GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, STATE HOUSE

STATE AVENUE TOWER HILL, FREETOWN

NEWS RELEASE

ODE: SH/105/11                                14th SEPT. 2011

GUINEA DOLES TO SALONE

“In consistent with actualizing the socio-political and economic goals of the Mano River Union (MRU), the Government of the Republic of Guinea, through its Trade Ministry, have on (Tuesday 13th September 2011) doled a consignment of 2,000 metric tons of rice to the government and the people of Sierra Leone.

At the presentation ceremony held at State House Freetown, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma expressed delight to receive the Guinean delegation. He underscored the significance of the gift from President Prof. Alpha Conde, stating that it will further consolidate long standing bilateral relations between the sister MRU states.

President Koroma extended his government and people’s profound gratitude to the Guinean Government for the move by practicalizing the MRU’s goals, as a step in ascertaining that both countries can work together.

“We have to work together to unify both countries”, proposed President Koroma.

Speaking on behalf of the Guinean delegation Trade Minister, Mohamed Dumbuya said he was at State House to convey Prof. Conde’s message to President Koroma and felt highly honoured to be received by the Head of State.

Mr. Dumbuya said it is through God’s guidance and direction that President Conde was able to consider Sierra Leone as a good neighbour in a dire need of help and that it was indeed a pride for Guineans to be friend to a nation like Sierra Leone.

The Guinean Trade Minister expressed hopes that with God’s continuous President Koroma take up the next leadership of the sub-region. “When I was at the Kennedy Street Ware House, handing over the consignment to the Sierra Leone Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Richard Conteh, I told the people and Sierra Leone to be calm”, he said.

Mr. Dumbuya disclosed that rice will be available for both countries up to late 2012 and will be cost-effective to enable the people get foods on their tables. He said there are presently rice cargoes off-shore waiting to discharge huge consignments of rice for sale and consumption in Guinea and Sierra Leone”. (Published verbatim)

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