[an error occurred while processing this directive]

From Congo to Sierra Leone

Most people would have heard of Sierra Leone and Congo because of the abundance of diamonds, gold and other mineral wealth. If not, then maybe through news headlines describing the atrocities of the wars that have decimated 50,000 people in Sierra Leone and over three million in Congo.

Some may even be familiar with the UN invasion, smoothing the imperialist re-colonization of these two countries. Reports of UN troops and mercenaries abusing local women could be found in some pages of the imperialist controlled media. Yet others have probably seen the self-proclaimed generous white people showing off how they have been saving us live on TV, Internet or radio.

The wars in Sierra Leone and in Congo have benefited only Europe, America, Japan and China and their allies. They sell weapons to opposing camps and extract raw materials in return. Over 75 percent of the government and rebel forces were consumed in trading with imperialism.

Life expectancy in both countries continues to fall as neocolonialism maintains its stronghold on the peopleís mineral resources and brains.

I have not been in Congo for over 15 years. I was excited and anxious about going to Sierra Leone because of similarities in their socio-economic and geographic conditions.

What does it mean to struggle against neocolonialism in an impoverished and traumatized country like Sierra Leone? How heavy is police containment in Sierra Leone, and what is the state of economic development? What do diamonds, gold and other resources mean to the people?

How would my body react to the water, food and malaria-carrying mosquito? How would the African Peopleís Socialist Party be received by the masses of our people in this country?

All my fears dissipated quickly once we landed. The cultural unity between Congo and Sierra Leone was so obvious and profound. Our culture is the same in terms of food, hairstyles, names of people and towns, etc., but most importantly we have the same problem: imperialist domination.

It was November 21 when the British plane we flew in on landed at the Lungi International Airport. I was trying to count planes, and to my disbelief, there were only two planes at that small airport.

We came out of immigration and customs quite quickly, compared to what one experiences with British customs and immigration that specialize in humiliating Africans entering the UK.

Outside, we were met by a group of young men, who were holding Africanists banners with ďUhuruĒ written on them. This was the best welcoming home that anybody could dream of. African drivers with old, worn out cars were pushing each other out of the way to offer their services to potential clients who had just landed.
African workers rights to live and survive are challenged every hour
From the time you hit the streets you are confronted with poverty. Everywhere you go people are hungry. The vast majority of our people in Congo and Sierra Leone live on less than $200 per year.

It is hard to find fat people on the streets of Sierra Leone. The few that we saw were white UN forces being escorted in 4X4 Jeeps.

In the morning, the streets are filled with people walking. Those who can afford to do so, ride the Poda-Poda, the private, local vans that carry people around the country in the absence of proper public bus services. However, taking a ride on a Poda-Poda is taking a chance with your life. They are little more than mobile coffins.

There are also cabs that provide services around Freetown. A cab driver will take as many passengers as he can squeeze in. Itís not unusual to see eight people in a cab, three people in front and five people in the back.

In Kinshasa, when you are in some cabs, you can see the road under your feet. Since the late Ď70s, whenever a bus approached a bus stop in Kinshasa, people would run and grab onto it by the windows as well as by the door, because trying to get on it normally was to be condemned to stand at the bus stop until dawn. You can imagine the nightmare for parents with children and the elderly in such inhumane conditions, unable to run for a bus.

In the evenings, you have long lines of people walking, trying to get home because they canít afford or donít even have access to public transit. You have those who walk one or two hours or more just to get to work, with no guarantee of a wage being paid for several months.

Every time I remember Kinshasa with its Fula Fula bus (its equivalent of the Poda-Poda in Sierra Leone), it reminds me of our lack of freedom. No humans should be traveling, packed like sardines in unventilated buses or vans in the heat of the day. This would defy all rules of public transport safety in any imperialist center.

Africans in Sierra Leone made the same complaints that I have heard Africans in Congo make. Nothing works. The government is corrupted. The workers and teachers have not been paid. There is no electricity for many days. Any opponents to the governments are harassed. The list of problems goes on and on.
Our children are hit harder by imperialist-imposed economics
There are children wandering all over the place in Sierra Leone. Some are carrying loads on their heads to the local market, and others are going to schools.

On many occasions, I would see children, between 5 and 9 years old, with boils on their heads. These signs of infections are coming from contaminated water. It is reported that schistosomiasis (disease caused by waterborne parasites) is endemic in Sierra Leone.

An outbreak of cholera had just killed 40 people out of the 376 infected in the last week of December 2005. Twenty percent of those who died were our children. Lack of hygiene, and overcrowding combined with torrential rain was blamed for this latest outbreak.

If you walk in streets of any city in Congo or Sierra Leone, you will see childrenís hair turning red ginger from malnutrition.

There were many young Africans selling anything they could to stay alive. You have those walking with bunches of clothes in their hands, young girls with bowls of fruits on their heads. They walk up and down the markets in busy alleys.

Disabled children on the streets ask for some change as another youngster is selling breads. These are the people who are sentenced to a life of hunger and diseases, because no matter how hard they work, they cannot change their conditions unless they win power over imperialism and neocolonialism.

Each child I saw in Sierra Leone reminded me of my own adolescence. Most of us never had a medical book and had never seen a doctor or a dentist as part of any preventive medicine. I knew malaria was in all of our neighborhoods, but I had never seen a single sign of a medical campaign against it or its root causes.

I saw water wells everywhere we went in Sierra Leone. I was surprised to see that even sections of the petty bourgeoisie, despite their wealth, did not have access to tap water nor electricity from the national grid.

We were a bit lucky, because our time in Sierra Leone coincided with dry seasons. In rainy seasons, the roads are impracticable. It is just a nightmare for the people.
Police state continues to expand in Sierra Leone
Police presence is overwhelming. No matter where you go, the police are never far. This expansion of the State is an indication of imperialismís effort to maintain the status quo in Sierra Leone. A policy for massive police recruitment is in place.

Road checkpoints are regular, and money has to be paid in most circumstances. It is worst when you go into rural areas. Barriers are erected at the approach of each town or some villages, where travelers and poor tradesmen and tradeswomen are regularly victims of police extortions.

On our journey from Freetown to Conakry, we were stopped 13 times. Every time, we had to pay the police or the soldiers. There is neither freedom nor dignity for the people. We are treated as prisoners in our own land.

In Guinea, the police stopped us, got money from us, and asked us to give one of their officers a lift to the next village. That is common.

The police and the army are there for the purpose of protecting the sell out African petty bourgeoisie, who are collaborators and facilitators of the imperialists in their looting of our countries. The ongoing effort to rebuild and expand the police and the army will primarily serve to protect the interests of foreign merchants and exploiters made up of Lebanese, Pakistanis, Indians and Malaysians and the British, American and Chinese imperialists who are in Africa for their own selfish development at our expense. The police are being trained in anticipation of the great workers and peasants struggles that are clearly on the horizon.
Diamonds in Congo and Sierra Leone mean development for Europe, U.S Japan, China and other parasitic imperialists
I had never been on a road so bad as the one from Makeni to Kono. Halfway to Kono, the road became impracticable. The driver had to negotiate his way around potholes. A distance of some 270 miles took about six hours to travel because of the poor state of the roads.

You could conclude that neither diamonds nor white people travel on this road. It is mainly the masses of Africans who travel to and from Kono.

When we got to Kono, as expected, there was a checkpoint where we were asked why we were going to Kono. We managed to get through.

You could see straight away that diamonds never brought prosperity to the people of Kono. This region is a major supplier of diamonds to the world, but there was no evidence of wealth when we went to see areas inhabited by workers. They were deprived of all modern basic necessities, just like in Congo (there is no tap water nor national grid for electricity for workers who dig diamonds in the Kasai region of Congo).

The only people in Kono who live in luxury are the imperialists and their mercenaries, who are housed in the hills. Most of the workers live in mud houses with zinc roofs that hold the sunís heat until late at night, making life unbearable.

We saw open mines, which have already been bled dry by white imperialism, now filled with water and turned over to Africans. Seduced by the dream of possibly making it out of these conditions Africans work them. It is possible to work for three days and not find a single diamond.

The degradation of the land caused by diamond mine exploitation is serious cause for concern, because the vast open ditches they have created are sources of breeding mosquitoes and contamination of water that is a direct threat to the existence of local farmers and peasants.

Many of our children are in these mines and do not go to school. They canít afford schools fees for many of children because imperialism uses our diamond resources to develop Europe, America, Australia, and now Japan and China. The literacy rate is about 25 percent in Sierra Leone.

Such is the legacy of over 150 years of British domination in Sierra Leone.
Yeshitelism is the answer for Sierra Leone
It is clear that the symptoms of imperialism are the same between Congo and Sierra Leone because we share the same relationship with imperialism. That is why we require the same solution, and the building of the African Socialist International is its starting point.

Let us put an ASI program of political education on the ground that educates us to the necessity of building a single organization of African workers that will include not only the mine workers in Sierra Leone and Congo, but also the workers and poor peasants in Angola, South Africa and other places in Africa and African communities around the world.

Our immediate task is to organize community development programs to address the problems imposed on us by imperialist economics and false ideologies. These programs must bring solutions that build for an international African worker power State.

Our people must understand that the way to fight against malaria is to fight imperialism. When we are fighting against corruption, we must be fighting imperialism. In fighting for elections we must be fighting for a workerís program, and fighting for a workerís program is to fight against white power imperialism, led by the US government.

All power to the workers, land to the peasants!
Put the theory and practice of Chairman Omali Yeshitela into the heads of African people!
Build African Socialist International!
[an error occurred while processing this directive]