Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Tuesday...

Today is “Giving Tuesday”. An official day for giving.

December is just around the corner and with Christmas less than a month away the giving season has begun. For most people in the developed world, this is a season of giving and receiving. For the average person in Sierra Leone it remains a time of survival.

On Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 people all over the world are helping launch the first “Giving Tuesday” ever. The idea is simple. Individuals, families, friends, businesses, organizations, communities all join in acts of giving. Let’s join in and do the same.

Many of us live comfortable lives and have a little (or a lot) to spare. I encourage you to give today; to help those in great need. It can be a financial donation, time volunteering, a helping hand or giving of other resources.

If you want to help those with few resources and limited access to the basic necessities such as food, water, education and healthcare in the developing world, there are numerous charities and organizations out there. I happen to work for one of those organizations, called Welbodi Partnership, in a busy 200-bed Children’s hospital in downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone. One of the things we are lacking is an x-ray department. If you would like to give to this project today please do so on our x-ray appeal justgiving page.

Give more, spend better and splurge smarter. Encourage others to give today.

Sierra Leone elections: President Koroma's speech...

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma’s speech delivered at his swearing-in at the State House on November 23, 2012. The speech was made shortly after it was announced by the National Electoral Commission that Ernest Bai Koroma was elected to a second term in office.

“Honorable Speaker of the House, my lady, the Chief Justice, members of the diplomatic and consular core, fellow Sierra Leoneans, by the grace of God, I have again been elected as your president. The people have spoken. And their collective will has prevailed. I give praise and thanks to the almighty god for the great honor bestowed upon me to lead this great nation for a second time.”

“This is a win for every Sierra Leonean. And I thank Sierra Leoneans for bringing about this victory for the land that we love. Sierra Leoneans displayed maturity, patience, and tolerance during the elections. These are enduring Sierra Leonean values. And we must continue to display them to sustain our peace, our democracy, and our development.”

“We deeply appreciate the commitment of the National Electoral Commission, the Political Party Registration Commission, and the security forces. Through the Constitution of this country, and the sacred tenants of democracy, peace and security. We also applaud the many other state agencies, domestic and international monitors, civil society groups, and the media, for their positive contributions to ensuring credible, transparent, and peaceful elections in the country.”

“My fellow Sierra Leoneans, you have given me and my party – the All People’s Congress – the mandate to govern our country for the next five years. You endorsed the achievements we made with the Agenda for Change, and asked us to continue on with the Agenda for Prosperity. This is my new contract with you.”

“We will focus on creating jobs for the youths and on training our youths to seize the immense employment opportunities we are creating in the construction, mining, agriculture, and other sectors.”

“We will continue with the infrastructure development programs. We will continue to attract investment. We will continue to fight corruption. We will continue to protect and promote the rights of every woman, every man, youth, child, journalist, and civil society activist. The time for politics is over. The moment for continuing the transformation has come. This is the time for all of us to embrace each other. In the name of Mama Sierra Leone, let all APC supporters embrace every SLPP [Sierra Leone People's Party] supporter and supporters of other political parties. I am inviting the leadership of the SLPP and other political parties to join the leadership of the APC in moving this country forward.”

“The job at hand requires the goodwill and positive energy of the membership of all political parties. Fellow Sierra Leoneans, democracy respects divisions. Good governance transcends divisions. I will make sure that the fruits of the Agenda for Prosperity are equality-distributed in every district and every region of the country. Our creation of jobs will be for the youths all over the country. Our focus on skills for employment will be for the youths of every political party. We will construct roads in every region, continue to bring electricity to every district, develop agriculture in every chiefdom, and provide free healthcare for mothers and children in every village. The work starts today.”

“We know Sierra Leoneans everywhere are celebrating this victory. But let us celebrate within the law. Let us celebrate with grace, tolerance, and goodwill, that must be the cornerstone of the job at hand. Let us, as we celebrate, be mindful that work starts today. And every Sierra Leonean, from all political parties, regions, ethnic groups, age, and religion, is central to our Agenda for Prosperity. We must therefore embrace each other as we march forward with action, bravery, commitment, discipline, empathy, and fortitude. I assure you all that with tenacity of purpose and with [inaudible] courage and determination, we will sustain our peace, democracy, and development. The future beckons with high hopes for a prosperous Sierra Leone, who’s sons and daughters will live together in peace, harmony, and enjoy the abundant fruits of our labor.”

“God bless you all.”

Thanks to @tlupick for the transcript.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: Official results...

At around 18:25 hrs the official presidential election results were announced:

     1 314 881
          22 863
             8 273
             6 144
          28 944
          12 993
        837 517
             5 069
             5 044

In exercise of the powers conferred on the Returning Officer by section 52 of the Public Elections Act, 2012, I hereby certify that 1,314,881 valid votes were cast in favour of the candidate ERNEST BAI KOROMA at that election:

AND ERNEST BAI KOROMA therefore received 58.7% of valid votes cast in the election
ERNEST BAI KOROMA has been duly elected president of the Republic of Sierra Leone at the Presidential election of 2012.

Any citizen of Sierra Leone may challenge the validity of the election of the president by petition to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, within seven days after the declaration of the presidential results.

Dr. Christiana Thorpe
Chief Electoral Commissioner/Chairperson
National Returning Officer

Sierra Leone elections: Christiana live...

18:20 hours: At this moment I am sitting on the balcony with my colleague, listening to the radio. We were told the election results would be announced at 17:30 hrs. It's now 18:21 hrs and we are listening to Christiana Thorpe. 

She is about to make the announcement.

More soon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: Official update...

At 8 pm there was an official announcement on the radio made by Dr Christiana Thorpe. The announcement had to do with NEC's response to various allegations by two political parties, rather than an announcement of the final election results. For more details on the allegations, read the pdf version here: UPDATE ON ELECTION RESULTS TALLYING AT REGIONAL TALLY CENTERS,(PDF VERSION)

There was an update on the election results and tallying at regional tally centers, which was as follows: The Commission hereby wishes to inform the general public that 99% of all polling stations results have now being received at the Regional Tally Centers in Kenema, Makeni, Bo and Freetown. Out of the 9,493 polling stations, 90% of (8,544) polling station results have been processed. The Remaining 10% of polling station results have been quarantined and may require opening of affected ballot boxes and recount of the ballot papers.

Sierra Leone elections: Waiting for results...

The rumor going around this afternoon was that the presidential election results would be announced at 5 pm today. Then 6 pm. Then 7 pm. It is now 7:36 pm and nothing has been announced. Ugh. And I was supposed to go out tonight. Not sure if I should still go with a small chance they may still announce results, or stay put and be 100% safe. I wish they would officially announce when they will officially announce the results. This could go on for days. The problem is, I think that if they do announce it in the evening, they would probably enforce a curfew as well, in which case I wouldn't want to be stuck out. Oh elections. I shouldn't complain. As long as everything stays peaceful, I should be happy. Soon it will all be over and life will carry on as usual. Please pray for peace and that the two main parties will be gracious and that they will accept the results. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 19, 2012

SL elections: Yes, I snuck out...

Yes, I snuck out on Saturday November 17th, 2012, the day of the presidential elections in Sierra Leone. My colleague and I assessed the situation and deemed it safe to leave the compound and walk 5 minutes up the road to the polling station. The village was interesting. There were about 50 people gathered around the big tree chatting. It was the only place we could see vendors selling cucumbers, fruit, fish and groundnuts. They had obviously planned their site well. And then there were a couple of voting stations with about 30 people waiting in line to vote. It looked orderly and there was a good atmosphere. I saw one of the guys I know from our area and he said hi. He showed me his dyed finger, proving that he voted, as well as his 'clipped' voters ID card. Everyone was given 4 ballots: one for presidential, one for parliamentary, one for local council chair/mayor and one for local council councillor. The voters told me it was pretty straight forward. There were a couple of police officers around and now and then a vehicle would drive up with 'national observers' in them. What was remarkable was that no one was wearing the colors of the two main political parties - there was no red or green in sight! Apparently it had been announced the previous day that people were not to go and vote wearing party colors. Going down towards the other end of the road we were surprised at how quiet it was. I have never seen the roundabout and streets surrounding it so empty. It looked like a ghost town.

Sierra Leone elections: Tallying process...

On Monday 19th November 2012, the Chief Electoral Commissioner and National Returning Officer made an on the spot visit to Regional Tally Centers in Bo, Kenema and Makeni to monitor ongoing tallying of elections results by courtesy of UNIPSIL.Since the commencement of the result tallying process on the night of Saturday 17th November 2012, the exercise has been conducted on a 24 hour basis by three sets of data center staff on three shifts of eight hours each. Political Parties, National Elections Watch (NEW), other national and international observers that were accredited are observing the process.

Out of a total of 9,493 polling stations 7,175 polling station results (75%) are now being processed.

Eastern Region
The Eastern Region has a total of 1,985 polling stations. Results for 1,511 have been received and are now being processed.

Northern Region
The Northern Region has a total of   3,302 polling stations. Results for 2,055 stations are now being processed.

Southern Region
The Southern Region has a total of 1,908 polling stations Results for 1,402 polling stations are now being processed.

Western Region 
Out of a total of  2,298 polling stations, results for  2,207  are now being processed.
Two Political Parties, All Peoples Congress and Sierra Leone Peoples Party agents have been in attendance to observe the tallying process.

Based on the progress of receipt and tallying of elections results in all regional tally centers, official declaration of elections results will commence within the next few days.

Sierra Leone Elections: NEC statement...

In the link below you can find an official statement from the National Electoral Commission in Sierra Leone.

Here are some of the highlights (in my opinion as summarized from the above press release):
  • Polling officially closed at 5:00 PM in 98% of polling stations nationwide. However, voting went on in the remaining centers after the close of polls. In most cases this was due to larger voter turnout, late commencement of polls and technical problems. 
  • Generally, polling was reported to be orderly and peaceful in almost all polling stations nationwide. 
  • In Kambia District polling was disrupted in ward 135 due to honey bees! The polling station was relocated and polling went on peacefully.
  • In two wards in the Western region, voting was disrupted due to election malpractices. Arrests were made.
  • Reconciliation and counting of ballots commenced immediately after close of polls at polling station level. After counting of ballots, copies of relevant result forms were handed over to all political party agents and observers present for each election in all the polling stations.
  • Results in Tamper Evident Envelops from polling stations were collected by polling centre managers at centre level and handed over to the relevant ward coordinators for onward delivery to NEC officials at districts and regional tally centers. Tallying of elections results commenced immediately as elections results were received.
  • The elections results from polling stations in the Western Area were received at the Regional Tally Center, Wellington at 3:40 AM on 18th November 2012. Imputing of data began immediately and is ongoing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: Voting don don...

Instructions seen around town
It's 5:30 pm. Voting stations have closed. As far as I can tell it's peaceful outside, at least in Wilberforce. I have not had phone calls, emails or text messages telling me otherwise. Lumley calmed down and my friend voted by about 10:00 am. I even snuck out of the house with a colleague and walked up and down our road - first to the village where the voting stations are and then down to the roundabout 'Bottom Mango'. 

The village was interesting. There were about 50 people gathered around the big tree chatting. There were some vendors selling cucumbers, fruit, fish and groundnuts. And then there were a couple of voting stations with about 30 people waiting in line to vote. It looked orderly and there was a good atmosphere. I saw one of the guys I know from our area and he said hi. He showed me his dyed finger, proving that he voted, as well as his 'clipped' voters ID card. Everyone was given 4 ballots: one for presidential, one for parliamentary, one for local council chair/mayor and one for local council councillor. The voters told me it was pretty straight forward. There were a couple of police officers around and now and then a vehicle would drive up with 'national observers' in them. What was remarkable was that no one was wearing the colors of the two main political parties - there was no red or green in sight! Going down towards Bottom mango we were surprised at how quiet it was. I have never seen the roundabout and streets surrounding it so empty. It looked like a ghost town.

Now the voting is over, it's time to wait for the results to trickle out and then the final results to be announced officially, which can take up to 10 days. Keep praying for peace. 

Sierra Leone elections: Election morning...

7:05 am Going to vote in Wilberforce

4:45 am - I asked a friend to let me know when he goes to vote. He calls saying he is waiting in line at his voting center in Lumley. There are hundreds of people waiting already.

6:32 am - I talk to my friend again. I can tell there are a lot of people. The place sounds very noisy. Only 28 minutes to go. On my street I only see one or two people heading to the village.

6:56 am - The voting stations are about to open. I look onto my street and see small groups of people heading up to the village. The voting station is in the community center. It’s only about a 5 minute walk from my house.

7:00 am - Voting polls are scheduled to open. I assume they have.

7:31 am - I call my friend in Lumley again. The centre opened but they started calling for those with last names starting with a certain letter to come forward. Everyone is confused. The line broke and it became somewhat chaotic. My friend tells me the authorities are sorting it out. He's waited there for 2 1/2 hours and will continue to wait until he has voted and then head home.

9:25 am - Wilberforce is still calm. I can see people coming back from the community centre. They seem happy to have voted. Meanwhile, others are still making their way up to the centre. Osman calls again. Lumley is still crazy. A new line has been formed but it seems like they are still not doing a first come first served voting system. Hopefully they sort it out. It doesn't sound like there is any violence, it just sounds unorganized.

10:04 am - No news. Everythings seems to be going on as usual. Children playing on the street. A compound playing loud music. Little shops selling goods. In the compound opposite mine the men are tuned in to the radio, listening to what is happening around the country. 

For the most part I think expatriates are staying indoors today as a precaution. I know some people will likely head out later in the day or definitely tomorrow. Others have a three-day lock down. I'm in today and will work on an audit, and do some cleaning and baking. Tomorrow, I'll be outdoors again, unless we are officially told to do otherwise. There is a vehicle ban today so I suspect the streets are fairly empty, other than lines of voters. Stay peaceful Salone.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Attitude change and sustainability...

This morning I had a brief conversation with my colleagues about bringing in a lab technician from outside of Sierra Leone to help develop the lab at the hospital. The first questions asked was: How can you make sure that all that person has accomplished is sustained once they leave again? Now that is the million dollar question. The simple answer is: I can't be sure.

I think that there are a number of factors contributing to the suboptimal lab services at our hospital. Think of training, availability of consumables, systems for writing/reporting/distributing results, motivation, equipment issues, etc. Personally, I think our lab has a lot of potential, even with its somewhat limited resources. I think that part of the problem is the lack of systems in place - for requisition of consumables, accountability of staff showing up to work, getting results back to the patients etc. Some of the systems really aren't in place, others are in place but ineffective and others are in place but people aren't motivate to use the proper channels. I actually think a lot of this comes down to staff attitude and motivation. I believe if you are motivated, you can get so much more done. If a system doesn't exist, you build it. If it doesn't function, you try to improve it. 

I think that we have reached the point that some long-term help would be beneficial but I agree we have to make sure this makes a big impact while that person is at the hospital which will continue once they've left. I would hope that this person could provide the hands on training needed not only to improve the efficiency and quality of the laboratory tests and put systems in place, but also to motivate people and get people excited about their job. To get technicians to realize that they are not just working with specimens, they are working with patients. Children who need a proper diagnosis in order to receive appropriate treatment. That's what we need to try to get across to them. And if we can get their minds thinking in that way, maybe sustaining good practice won't be so hard when outside help has come and gone. What do you think?

Sierra Leone elections: Independent Observer...

Taken from the Independent Observer 16 November 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: reflecting back to 2007...

In 2007 I was also here for the presidential elections. I was just looking at some of my blog posts from that time. I hadn't remembered how close the votes actually were. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if we have a run-off again. We'll know within two weeks of the voting. I also forgot about some mild unrest in town in the run up to the run offs. And the announcement of a peace rally held two days prior to the run-offs. And that we had to stay on the compound after the run-offs before the results were announced, for a day due to some unrest.

In 2007 it took 14 days for the first results to be announced, and they were as follows: APC 44.34%, SLPP 38.28% and PMDC 13.89% It took another two weeks for the run off elections. The run-off results were: APC 54.6% and SLPP 45.4% 

I enjoyed a stroll down election memory lane. If you are interested, look at blog posts from August and September 2007:


Sierra Leone elections: SLPP in the stadium...

At this moment thousands of SLPP supporters are in Freetown's national stadium awaiting the arrival of their presidential candidate, Maada Bio and vice presidential candidate, Kadie Sesay. Earlier this afternoon supporters were seen parading from Bottom Mango, Wilberforce down to Lumley. At about 14:30 hours my friend joined them and walked via Lumley along Wilkinson Road all the way to the national football stadium in Brookfields. Hundreds of people walked along Wilkinson road, blowing whistles and vuvuzelas, dancing and singing. My friend reports that "everyone is enjoying themselves, I didn't think it would be so much fun". Two hours later, they are seated in the stadium, listening to various speeches and continuing to make a joyful noise. For now, everything is peaceful and friendly. Former president Tejan Kabba and various other SLPP candidates for councils are also present; everyone is waiting for the arrival of the candidates. My friend tells me that screen shots are being shown in the stadium of Maada Bio making his way to the stadium from Kissy Road and Kadie Sesay making her way from Lumley, both with a trail of people behind them. The waiting continues. I can only imagine the explosion of noise and celebration that will take place when the SLPP candidate enters the stadium and addresses his supporters.

Sierra Leone elections: rallies and provisions...

Okay, so after writing my post yesterday it became much more noisy outside. I think the SLPP supporters started their rally 12 hours early. I made a call to Lumley and all I heard were whistles and loud music in the background. I can only imagine what it will be like today. Up until last night I've kept saying everything will be fine. But I was speaking to a friend last night and he said that today could be interesting. It's the biggest and final rally day and it's the opposition party that’s out on the streets. It could get a little heated here and there . I’m still hopeful for peaceful elections but when the Sierra Leonean I know best says he’s getting a little concerned, it makes me wonder. People say as long as the elections are fair, it will be fine. But, will the party that does not win automatically assume that the elections were not fair and put up a fight? Or will they graciously step down and accept defeat? Time will tell. I did buy provisions yesterday and will buy a few more things today, just in case. Rice, flour, sugar, water, oil, telephone credit, canned foods, fruit etc. Keep praying for peace here. I think that likely which ever party will win, Sierra Leone will move forward.

This article displays SLPP’s views and talks about issues like economic pressure. It’s true, prices have gone up over the years, but maybe they would have no matter who was in the lead. It’s always hard to say if another party/president would have led the country in a better direction or not. I think every leader is going to have a challenging time ensuring economic growth, stability, employment , no corruption, etc. Let’s face it, there’s an awful lot that needs to be done here. May the best candidate for this time win and let’s hope everyone views the election process as being fair! 46 hours from now the polls open...


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: campaigning...

Right now I am sitting in my flat, wearing a green shirt and very much aware of the fact that I should change clothes before heading out tonight. In the era of political campaigning one must think about the colors he/she puts on. 

It's a bit strange to think that elections are on Saturday. Everything seems quite normal today, which is a good thing. Having said that, I just called Osman who is upcountry and was driving through Bo and all I could hear were whistles and shouting. Today is an SLPP rally day in Bo! So, lots of noise there. Tomorrow is the final day of campaigning/rallies and in the urban Western Area it is designated to SLPP. So- it will be a very busy and noisy 'GREEN' day tomorrow. 

I guess I should be wise and get enough water, basic food items, phone credit, etc. just in case things go haywire. However, I really think we'll be okay. Fingers crossed and many prayers said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's all relative...

On my way back from the hospital I realized (again) that I complain too much. You see, this morning I planned to go to the opening ceremony of a new Chinese built hospital, however, when I got into the Land Rover, it wouldn't start. The annoying thing is that we had used it twenty minutes earlier to get to the Children's hospital, without any problems. Of course, this breakdown meant that instead of going to Jui Hospital, I would be stuck sorting out a car. Oh well. Actually, I wasn't thinking 'oh well' at the time. I was pretty frustrated and grumpy but looking back, it really was not a big deal. Fortunately the car was fixed by 3 pm and around 4 pm we were able to drive away from the Children's hospital to head West. While driving up King street I noticed a car that had ended up in the ditch. It looked like it would be stuck there for a while. At least that didn't happen to us. I realized right away that I shouldn't complain. Whoever owns that car is far worse off than I was this morning! You see, it really is all relative. I really can't complain. It's time to look at the bright side of life. Time to focus on the things that go well and make me smile, rather than the things that go wrong and could potentially make me grumpy. So here are a few things I'm happy about tonight: 

  • the mechanic that fixed the Land Rover
  • our driver who has never driven us into a ditch
  • a run along Lumley beach (although tough since I haven't been running for months)
  • the amazing sunset
  • Osman picking me up and dropping me off at home
  • and so much more.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Slums & Cholera...

Kroo Bay is just one of the slums in Freetown. Look at pictures published by the BBC on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-20166740 to get an impression of a slum and why cholera can spread so quickly. Health education and preventive measures are needed. Fortunately cholera numbers have greatly decreased

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: 1 week to go...

It's really is just another Saturday in Freetown but there is a slightly different feel to today as this is the Saturday before the elections. A week from today people will be casting their votes. My feeling is that everything will be peaceful but people are being cautious. Some of my expat friends were buying their supply of water and food today for the next few weeks, just in case. The US embassy held a 'town hall' meeting and said they expect everything to stay calm, but if something happens, it will likely be between the election day and the day the results are announced. If a party claims to have won, prior to the official announcement, that could cause trouble. So it's really the week post election day that warrants some more cautiousness. I'm going to the British High Commission this weekend for a meeting to find out what their insight is. The plan right now is to go to the hospital (on the east side of town) on Monday and assume it will be fine. I think Tuesday through Friday however, we will work on the West side of town. On election day itself I'm not sure what I'll do. Some NGO's will have lock downs - so their staff is not allowed to go anywhere. I don't think we've come to a decision yet, but it's probably wise! What happens after election day is yet to be decided. So, prayers are welcome for a peaceful next couple of weeks! There is another APC (red) rally tomorrow and a final SLPP (green) rally on Thursday. Let's pray that whatever party wins will be able to move Sierra Leone forward in a way that is beneficial to its people.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: 2 weeks to go

Two weeks from today Sierra Leonean citizens will be lining up at polling centers to cast their votes for the Presidential elections. So far, there have not been any major problems and everyone is hoping it will stay that way. There have been various rallies over the past few weeks, with the two main parties (SLPP and APC) attracting large crowds of people. In Freetown, the rallies have been loud but peaceful. For the most part, people seem to be having a good time. Around town their are billboards with large pictures of presidential candidates. People are wearing shirts in the color affiliated with their political party. Songs on the radio convey messages around making sure the elections are peaceful. And posters have been plastered on walls throughout town encouraging people to know the person they are voting for (not just the party color), ensure there is no violence, highlighting the importance of good governance, etc. Two weeks and counting. Lets commit to no violence.

Exam Day: The results...

Friends and family already know this of course, but for those of you following this blog and the excessive posts about the exam, I thought I should write something about the results. Unfortunately, after two weeks I found out that I did not pass the exam. I was disappointed of course, but not entirely surprised. It is a tough exam. There were about 280 candidates of which 85 passed. So, a 30% pass rate and I was not among the 30%. I am sure I simply didn't answer enough questions because the negative marking threw me off.

So, for the past 4 weeks I have not studied. I think I picked up my embryology book once, before the results were even out, just to do some reading. Now I have to decide whether or not I will re-sit in April. Part of me says I might as well. I've already studied a lot, gone through it once, so should give it one more go. The other part of me wonders why I want to put myself through all of this again and the many hurdles to come! The thought of failing again is not pleasant. However, I also don't to give up. So, very likely I will start studying again very soon and give it one more go. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime it's work as usual. Well, kind of as usual. I am off to Ghana this week for a conference that the West African College of Physicians is putting on in partnership with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. The focus is on postgraduate training, which is one of Welbodi's main interests. I will be attending with two colleagues and am hoping for a fun week and lots of useful networking and a visit to Korle Bu hospital and two of our residents there!

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~