Our New Lungi, Our New Airport: The People of Lungi Blubber

An Analysis By Alimamy Lahai Kamara

The crowd was unimaginably massive! A confluence of indigenes from all direction sewn in hysteria – those in Masoila and Tintafor, who for years had dreamt of the resurrection of Lungi; those in Rutifunk, Kambia, and Lungi town, who for similar years had fought for an un-separated Lungi from its historic image; and those in Kingsway, Banda Wharf and Malokoh, who had advocated the retention of ‘Lungi’ in Lungi so that Lungi lives and lives a flourishing life – thronged onto the airport to cheer commissioning of an edifice that holds the livelihood of a people domiciled in a district impoverished by acute unemployment and a pleasant political inattention.

I saw them; I read their faces; I understood the meaning they communicated: despair excusing hope, anguish excusing joy, and diffidence excusing pride for a township that mirrors the hospitality of a Sierra Leonean people unique in the world.

A school teacher said this to me: “this is all what we have. It is our symbol of hope, a symbol of development, and a symbol of beauty. The airport is not only of economic importance to us, it is part of the history of the people of Port Loko that defines our unique identity of being borne in an area that carries the image of the country, which stands as an emblem of peace, unity and freedom.”

This however suggests a deeper connection overriding social and economic relations rooted in the tradition of the people of Lungi, who might have ritualized the airport over fifty years ago or so and would offer traditional sacrifices annually as part of the broader ceremonies held for the township. This might be why the airport refused to go to Mamamah. The gods disallowed it! Runway of the existing airport terminal was last expanded in 1967, presupposing that Lungi and the airport have come a long way.

Paramount Chief, Bai Shebora Sheba Gbereh III of Kaffu Bullom was happy, extremely pleased that the airport stayed. At the launch of the commencement of work of the new terminal two years ago he said they were overwhelmed with joy for the project. That was the Paramount Chief speaking! He upholds the solemnity of tradition in the chiefdom; he is the symbol of honour and the fountain for all ceremonies held in daytime and in the twilight; and he speaks for the people including deities and ancestors, communicating that the gods are equally happy for the retention of the airport and construction of an ultra modern terminal.

One commentator by the name of Peter Beckley narrated his experience as he witnessed opening of the airport: “it was an experience close to hysteria. A joy that makes you want to scream and shed tears. Its mere appearance takes your breath away, an experience I believe every visitor that passes through our airport in the future will feel.”

What you see, as what Beckley saw, is a masterpiece outlay of interlocking emblazoning components of spacious accommodations craft-worked with the finest artistry known to man to reflect a unique sparkling attraction of an infrastructure holding spellbound the eyes of visitors at every visit and spiraling pride in the minds of the locals for their effervescent edifice.

This is why President Bio said he has delivered; he has served Port Loko; he has rekindled a lost glory for the people of Kaffu Bullom; and he has injected a sense of pride in the people of Sierra Leone, since this is the first time in the history of Sierra Leone a completely new airport terminal has been constructed.

The President sounds bold; he is audacious; and he is gallant. His words are tough, firm and spirited. This communicates his character, indicates his desire, and shows his impression about the airport. He said: “I have done the work; feel free to look at the work I have done and tell other Sierra Leoneans whether you have seen such an airport in Sierra Leone [before]. It is simply one of the best and the most modern in the entire sub-region.” The President is pointing to his legacy upon which he is to be evaluated and graded at a time when hardly any similar investment is taking place or has taken place in Africa in the face of a pandemic that has enchained the world in a cataclysmic debacle. I so join other commentators who share the view that Sierra Leone has become an investment destination. It has made itself worthy, credible, and reliable. Investor confidence is guaranteed. The Summa Group is a reminding example.

At no time than now that the notion of infrastructural development has dominated discussions of development partners, dominated academic presentations across Africa, and dominated government assemblies. In his address at the pre-summit luncheon of the Fifth United Nations conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC) in Doha, President Bio had this to say: “we should therefore be unrelenting in our drive to provide unprecedented leadership and political will, mobilize resources, strengthen our efforts and collaborate closely at regional and inter-regional levels to strengthen global governance, make trade regimes fairer, boost productivity, and invest in infrastructure to foster economic growth.

What is clear in the minds of economists and in fact clearer in the minds of politicians is that infrastructural development is the foundation for the growth and development of any society with the potential to stimulate economic activities and facilitate social harmony through the provision of employment. A well fed man, is a well tamed man!

This underscores the approach of government functionaries at the highest level to continue to make calls at international platforms for investment and for infrastructural investment. President Bio understands this and continues to make incessant calls for economic growth through investment. In his statement delivered during the general debates at the Fifth United Nations conference on LCDs in Doha he said: “we therefore renew calls for debt relief and investment in connectivity and infrastructure that support economic diversification.”

To my mind, the continuous calls made by the government of Sierra Leone for foreign direct investment are being heard. This presupposes that the country has gained respectability among its peers and has restored investor confidence which we have lost long ago. I must restate here that countries in Africa and in the West now treat Sierra Leone as an equal, as a democracy, and as a vital player in the world community of civilized nations. It was on Thursday 9th March 2023 the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly signed a memorandum of understanding for trade and investment with his Sierra Leonean counterpart in Freetown, not even in the UK. Powers, big or small, will now come to Freetown to approve economic and social relations. Sierra Leone is being taken seriously. This is the extent of the advocacy mounted by government about a rebranded Sierra Leone has blossomed. I am so proud of my country. I am, indeed!


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