A new tactic of rapidly reducing population in opposition strongholds is now the main political tool employed by the New Direction dispensation.
The tactic is tacit as strongholds are permanently impoverished to force people to move in economically viable communities mainly ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) heartlands.
The tactic is deliberate as Sierra Leone awaits the April, 2020 census, a subtle, but major determinant of election victory.
Closure of mines and factories, deprivation of essential services especially electricity among others spots of the main opposition tremendously reduces population there.
The absence of such social services in communities creates poverty for the masses, and most that cannot put up with the situation flee to seek fortunes elsewhere. Endemic Poverty, no doubt, is a push factor of migration either internally or externally.
The northern APC strongholds of Lunsar and PortLoko towns once flourishing communities are now shadows of their glorious former selves. The towns are now ghost towns owing to the closure of mines in Lunsar community. During the mining boom in Lunsar community, thousands from various parts of the country move to Lunsar to get a share of the economic windfall.
The mines created thousands of jobs taken over mainly by Sierra Leoneans owing to the Local Content Policy the country prides itself with. Social services such as electricity, banking, health system were brought to the residents’ doorsteps making for a comfortable and decent living.
In their corporate philanthropies, mining companies constructed schools, health centres and other facilities for the locals. The companies also foot school bills of Wives and children of employees of the companies.
Pupils were also motivated to attend schools by sponsorship through scholarship. Mining companies especially Sierra Leone Mining Company Ltd. used to provide funds for the purchase of fuel to ensure electricity in the community.
Lunsar community, once a dark town for decades was a bright town in the good old days of the Iron Ore boom, and many Sierra Leoneans were lured. PortLoko town which through which the rail passes and also hosts the port for ships to take the ore abroad enjoyed the beauty of the mines in Lunsar town.
Jobs were created for a good number of jobless youths in PortLoko community. Most of the mining company’s labourers, cleaners, safety workers, data analysts and technicians, secretaries among others are people from PortLoko.
Currently, the two communities are desolate owing to closure of mines, and sometimes intermittent waves of intimidation by government forces. The high level of poverty and intimidation has forced people to leave for other communities to eke a living and to live in an environment of safety.
Moriba Town, popular known as Rutile, will host a lot of migrants from opposition strongholds as Rutile and bauxite mining is in full swing in that part of the country. Moyamba district in which Rutile community is located is an SLPP stronghold.
In other eastern communities, large-scale and artisanal mining activities are carried out uninterrupted. Owing to the struggle for livelihood, those communities will also host bunches of northern migrants to swell up population in those parts of the country.
As the migration ploy is sustained, government hopes to make good points in the up-coming census. It is alleged that since the New Direction Government came to power, mining companies in the southern and eastern communities have never been shut down to attract more population in their strongholds.
However, northern towns where the New Direction is apparently making impressive political inroads has not been left out in the PAOPA dividends. An airport terminal project amounting to USD270 has been launched in the Lungi community with a potential of creating 2,000 jobs for the youths.
The contractual agreement has already been signed by the contractor, Summa Group of Companies. The project is about the construction of a new terminal for accommodation to a teeming passenger population.
SLPP stalwarts have eulogized the project as one that fulfills President Bio’s promise of bringing back life to the aviation sector and expanding the state’s revenue base. Government officials say it is a suitable alternative to the construction of an international airport that will plunge the country to another huge debt burden.
The project is one that sets to transform Lungi community, a move that will surely attract youths from various parts of the country.
To some critics, the move is not about revamping the sector, but a ploy to bring in population to Lungi, a town that is slowly imbibing the PAOPA ideology. Lungi has shown to be a swing community in its recent voting pattern, and has become the envy and admiration of the New Direction.
Government has developed a sustainable plan of penetrating Lungi community by depopularising the former government. The launching of the Airport extension project is one that renders the former APC Government odious to minds in the community.
In its struggle for a place in once an opposition heartland, the New Direction Government exploits the skepticism, poverty and ignorance of the local community through propaganda. Government has succeeded in demonising the proposed relocation of Lungi International Airport to Mamamah Village also in the PortLoko district.
Residents in Lungi have been brainwashed into believing that the relocation campaign would have sounded the deathnell of Lungi had the move gone as planned. SLPP Government has previously sowed a seed of discord between Lungi town and its regional headquarters of Makeni, the home of the former President in its move to transfer a 1.65KVA thermal plant.
The relocation led to the deaths of six people who were among those who protested the relocation move. The killers were never investigated making it appear that a licence has been granted for more killings.
Government argues that the thermal plant is a standby generator, and there is no need why Makeni should have such facility while Lungi which hosts the country’s main international airport lingers in darkness. Despite resistance put by the youths, the thermal plant was brought by use of force regardless of how many lives that would have been gunned down.
Those who protested against the killings through the slogan: ‘MAKENI LIVES MATTER’ were arrested and detained. Stakeholders in Makeni city including the Mayor, Sunkarie Kabba was threatened with an arrest and detention.
Former President Koroma has constantly become a key target for arrest, but government seems restrained by the resistance and reprisals that would follow. Owing to diabolic activities by government, residents in Lungi community have are yet to see eye-to-eye with Makeni City where they have been made to believe that the man behind their ill-fate resides there.
As the bad blood continues, the ‘New Direction’ has come to be seen as the only source of hope for the Lungi Community. Kambia in the north is also another stronghold that is being penetrated by the New Direction.
Quite recently, a mining company has been launched there to improve livelihoods in the communities. Kambia too is a swing district that has shown loyalty to the SLPP for years especially in the Tejan-Kabba era. As the New Direction is in tight depopulation campaign, it is up to the opposition to emerge as a larger man and reverse the trend.