By Foday Moriba Conteh
In an interview on Radio Democracy 98.1 Good Salone Program on Wednesday 5th February 2020 the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Tamba Lamina, disclosed that the Ministry will be coming out with a white paper to be presented to the Cabinet on their findings for either the District Headquarter Town of Karene District should remain in Kamakwie or moved to Batkanu which many citizens consider as a move by the New Direction to score political gains and not in the interest of the people of this country.
During the interview the Minister said that stakeholders in Batkanu requested for him to visit them in order to listen to their submissions on the said issue, adding that some of the submissions put before him by stakeholders of Batkanu were that if the name Karene District is changed to another name they should not have asked for Batkanu to be the Headquarter Town but because when it remains Karene the Headquarter Town must be Batkanu because it has been so during the colonial era rather than Kamakwie.
Basically, many see their submission as baseless and have no concrete evidence for the District Head Quarter Town to be moved to Batkanu.
In a snap interview with residents of Karene District they disclosed that the action to move Karene District Headquarter to Batkanu is clear that the New Direction doesn’t want to practice decentralization or to develop that part of the country. They maintained that it was clearly manifested during the President’s Thank You Tour when he visited all district Headquarter Towns leaving Kamakwie as the Headquarter Town for Karene District as if it is not part of Sierra Leone. Residents further disclosed that the First Lady also launched the Hands Off our Girls Campaign in all the other districts also leaving Karene District out of her campaign.
They claimed that besides the marginalization and discrimination now they want to move Karene District Headquarter from Kamakwie to Batkanu which in return has the tendency to create division within the District.
They believe that the choice of Kamakwie over Batkanu might have been politically motivated and that Batkanu deserves the status of a headquarter town more than Kamakwie given the fact that Batkanu had once been the headquarter town of the Karene District of colonial times. They say they have colonial relics in Batkanu to substantiate their claim.
In could be recalled that throughout history capitals of the world have changed depending on their relevance during the relevant period under review. It was all Rome in the first century but it shifted to Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the fifth century as the population of that city reached a million people.
Baghdad grabbed that position in the tenth century. At the end of the fifteenth century Aztec’s Tenochtitlan ruled and of course London was thriving as the world’s most important city in the nineteenth century as it was the first city to reach five million people.
In Ancient Egypt where historical relics of relevance (not tombstones of rogue colonial administrators) are not in short supply, cities have been moved, the historical relics notwithstanding. The first capital of Ancient Egypt was Thinis. Some of the later capitals include Memphis, Thebes, Avaris, Akhetaken, Tanis, Sais and Alexandria.
A renounced historian told this medium that for the sake of argument the British administered the Protectorate in order to put into perspective the claim that Batkanu was the headquarter town of the then Karene District. In 1900, he said the Protectorate was divided into districts: Bandajuma District with Bandajuma Town as it’s headquarter town, Karene District with Karene Town (not Batkanu) as its headquarter town, Koinadugu District with Falaba Town as its headquarter town, and Panguma District with Panguma Town as its headquarter town. In 1901, the headquarter town of Karene District was moved from Karene Town to Batkanu because it was realized that Batkanu had become economically viable and more centrally located, adding that the boundaries of the Karene District of colonial times are never the same as the boundaries of the new Karene District and that the new Karene District is made up of parts of Port Loko and Bombali Districts.
He said on the map the new Karene District is 9.070855- 12.847177 making it one of the longest districts in the country. Because of the difference in boundaries, Batkanu is no longer the central location of the new Karene District as the new district stretches onto the Guinean border in the north.
“To say that the choice of Kamakwie by the past Government might have been politically motivated is a demonstration of narrow- mindedness. It is this kind of argument that Socrates, in his wisdom, had in contemplation when he said, “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” Kamakwie is geopolitically, strategically placed and its central location in the new district gives it an edge over any other town. Its multi-ethnic character is an ace. The town is well positioned as it stands astride the trade routes between Kambia, Falaba, Koinadugu, Bombali and Port Loko Districts,” he enlightened.
Many believe that Kamakwie offers better educational and healthcare facilities with five secondary schools (two senior and three junior) and a vocational institute. The town have one of the best hospitals in the country, the Kamakwie Wesleyan Hospital founded in 1959 by Wesleyan missionaries and this hospital has not supported the people of Karene District only but the entire country compared to Batkanu that doesn’t have all these facilities to become the Headquarter town for Karene District and that Kamakwie has been completely transformed by rapid changing economic and social developments as a result of its proximity to Guinea
“There cannot be a greater mischief to the country and its people than propagating wrong notions concerning the country’s colonial past. Many reject with all their might the bold attempt to mislead the country and take the greatest exception to any calculated attempt by a selected few who think they can overtly exploit political affiliations to rewrite the history of the country in order to give life to their unpatriotic whims and aspirations,” residents lamented.