By Septimus Senessie in Kono…..
The Acting Mayor of Koidu City, Aiah Bartholomew Baima Komba, is at loggerheads with civil society organizations after labeling them as evil.
Councilor Komba, who called civil society groups as “evil society”, accused them of being responsible for all the violence that’s occuring in Kono district. He was speaking over the week end [Sunday 26 June] on the issue of the controversial mining at the Congo Bridge in Koidu.
The mayor said his Council had nothing to do with “the illicit mining activity” there.
Congo Bridge is located at the entrance to Koidu Town. The bridge is thought to be sitting on a vast wealth of diamonds. Local residents have therefore engaged in illegal mining around it so that multiple holes have been dug, thereby undermining the bridge’s foundation. The road happens to be under rehabilitation and some local stakeholders argued that unless the area is totally mined out, the new bridge being built will remain under constant threat of destruction by the illegal miners. This decision to mine the place has divided Koidu.
“My council has nothing to do with the illicit mining at Congo Bridge and you should therefore disassociate the council from it,” Mayor Komba said at a meeting in the Sahr Musa Sessie Gbenda Hall in Koidu. It’s the latest in a series of town hall meetings held over the thorny issue.
Komba assumed mayoral position of Koidu City almost three months ago, after the elected Mayor, Saa Emerson Lamina, was suspended indefinitely over alleged financial misappropriation. Lamina has since been exonerated by a 32 page audit reports from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development which laid the blame on the finance and Procurement Officers of the Council, according to a leaked document seen by Politico.
Civil society activists angrily reacted to the Acting Mayor’s comments and they are demanding a public apology.
Momoh Gbonkor Bangura, Executive Secretary of the umbrella body of civil society groups in Kono District, the Civil Society Network (CSN), said it was “unfortunate and uncalled-for” for a public official like the mayor “to publically launch a mad attack on a decent and a well focused institution like the civil society that has no interest in their political infighting in the district.”
Bangura added that the mayor must tender a public apology or risk losing the amiable relationship that existed between his council and the civil society in the district.
The mayor, in his comment, threatened to ban civil society groups which continue to incite violence.
“I will blacklist and ban this evil society in the district if they continue to incite the public against my council,” he said. He said he would “name and shame the evil society” anytime they criticized his Council.”
But a defiant Bangura dismissed that, saying no institution or individual had the right to ban any civil society organization for performing their constitutional role.
“If holding public officers accountable is an incitement to them, then we will continue to challenge them and incite the public against them when they fail to deliver on their promises to their people,” he said, adding: “no amount of threat or intimidation can stop us from performing this role.”
Councilor Komba also accused civil society of being the masterminds of the problems in Kono district due to their bias judgment against certain individuals and institutions in the district. He said civil society should serve as “a solution centre for societal problems” and not as “an incitement centre” against state institutions.