By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
Just when the country is preparing for it independence anniversary on April 27, making it 58 years from colonial rule, the country is again divided over the name of a bridge in West of Freetown.
President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday officially commissioned the Sengbe Pieh Bridge linking Lumley and Juba Communities, west of the capital, Freetown, prompting outcry from certain sectors.
The 1.8 meters bridge which cost US$2.4 Million was built in five months with support from the Governments of the People’s Republic of China and Sierra Leone.
Responding to the public outcry, the Freetown City Council (FCC) acknowledges the numerous calls of concern it has received from residents of Freetown regarding the renaming of the Wallace-Johnson Bridge, stating:
“We have today been informed by State House that Wallace-Johnson Bridge has not been renamed, but that it was the ‘new bridge’, which is an extension of the Wallace-Johnson Bridge that was named by His Excellency the President today.
While FCC congratulates His Excellency President Maada Bio on the commissioning of the ‘new bridge’ as it will help to ease traffic in the Lumley, Juba environs which in turn compliments Her Worship The Mayor’s #TransformFreetown initiative, we can confirm to Freetown residents that FCC was not consulted in the ‘naming or renaming’ of part or all of the expanded bridge.
FCC is aware that the mandate to name and/or rename streets, roads and bridges in the Municipality rests with the Council.”
History of Independence Day in Sierra Leone
Since the 15th century, Sierra Leone had been an important staging post for European colonists. The region reputedly got its name from a Portuguese explorer who named the shape of the local hills after a lioness – Sierra Leone.
The British began to take an active role in Sierra Leone as both a trading port to send slaves from and as a place for freed American slaves to live following evacuation in the American War of Independence. The capital, Freetown, was founded as a home for repatriated former slaves in 1787.
British colonial control of Sierra Leone began in the early 1800s. After 1807, when the British Parliament passed an act making the slave trade illegal, the new colony was used as a base from which the act could be enforced.
The first Crown Colony Governor of Sierra Leone, T. P. Thompson, changed the Colony’s name from Freetown to Georgetown because he felt that the name ‘Free town’ had been perverted to the purposes of insubordination and rebellion. — Christopher Fyfe; A History of Sierra Leone; p. 112.