Minister Under Fire


The Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Phillip T. Tondoneh has come under severe attack and bashing from the public for openly lashing out at the Mayor of Freetown City Council (FCC), Her Worship Yvonne Aki Sawyerr.

What Mayor Aki Sawyerr described as “unfortunate and sad happening” took place on National Cleaning Day, Saturday 6th October, 2018, when Hon. Phillip Tondoneh publicly accused Mayor Sawyerr of sabotaging President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio’s New Direction Government.

The cause of the altercation between the Deputy Minister of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the Mayor of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), according to report, was due to the latter’s refusal to authorize payment for some trucks that were contracted for the collection of garbage to the dump sites.

When Mayor Sawyerr reportedly insisted that she would not authorize payment for trucks she did not see taking part in the cleaning exercise, the Minister took umbrage at her stance and charged that the Mayor was subordinate to the Ministry of Local Government and must therefore take orders.

Mayor Aki Sawyerr reportedly maintained that the FCC is responsible for the cleaning of the capital city and that even though the funds for the cleaning were provided by the Central Government, she would give account of how the funds allocated to the Council at the end of the day.

“You have no mandate to stop payment of contractors,” the Deputy Minister was quoted as saying, adding that the Major has her limit and that she was sabotaging the President’s agenda.

Mayor Sawyerr reportedly retorted that she was not sabotaging the government but supporting the President’s vision of transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

Another issue the Deputy Minister reportedly picked with the Mayor was the Le5 million which the Council received from Orange for the purchase of cleaning tools. He told Mayor Sawyerr that she would have referred the mobile company to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development instead of accepting the assistance.

The issue of the Deputy Minister publicly lashing out at the Mayor has not gone down well with the Krio Community in Freetown.

Articulating her tribe’s position on the matter, Madam Daphne Christiana Pratt sent a pointed message to President Maada Bio to investigate the matter of the Deputy Minister attacking the Mayor publicly and asked him to take action within 24 hours or expect the Krio Community, especially the women, to come out in support of their sister.

For the understanding of Minister Tondoneh, Madam Pratt explained that the Freetown Mayor has the same status of a Paramount Chief in the provinces. Nobody, she said, dares to stand openly in the provinces and lash out at a Paramount Chief. In the same vein, she said, the Krio Community will not stand by and see a provincial “fit yai” (molest) their Mayor.

Madam Pratt furthered that Mayor Aki Sawyerr was elected by the people of Freetown to take care of their affairs. “Inasmuch as we support your New Direction,” Madam Pratt told His Excellency President Bio, “we will not take kindly your minister insulting and belittling our Mayor.”

“If President Bio fails to take action,” Madam Pratt said, “we the Krio women will come out and untie our ‘lappas’ and spread them on the ground in protest. We will not see your officials molest and intimidate our Paramount Chief.”

She alleged that this is not the first time that current government officials have molested the Freetown Mayor, adding that if President Bio does not act to stop further attacks on their Mayor, they will do something that will not be pleasing to him.

“Enough is enough; nobody molests Paramount Chiefs. It is unacceptable,” Madam Pratt reiterated. She therefore called on the President, if he is truly the nation’s President and not a tribal chief, to do something “or else we will stand up against you.”

The Deputy Minister in his defense repeated his allegation of insubordination against Mayor Sawyerr and said he was not apologetic for what transpired between them on Saturday. Government, he said, is in charge and that Mayor Aki Sawyerr is a subject that does not know her limit. “We give her money for the cleaning. The cleaning is a time-bound project that is centered on efficiency,” he explained, adding that Mayor Aki Sawyer is intransigent and does not respond when summoned by the Ministry. “She refuses to be supervised,” he said.

The Deputy Minister denied that the cleaning exercise in Freetown has been politicized and that his confrontation with Mayor Sawyerr was not a misogynist or one who hates women, as alleged by Campaign for Good Governance’s Madam Marcella Samba Sesay.

In her explanation of what took place between her and Minister Tondoneh, Mayor Sawyerr clarified that she has no acrimonious relationship with the Central Government.

“I am not trying to sabotage the vision of His Excellency, the President. I am elected official and what I want is collaboration. Let us get done with this and work together,” she appealed.

On her role and responsibility as City Mayor, she explained that she had sought clarification, stating that it is FCC that has the responsibility of cleaning Freetown, adding that what she was doing on Saturday was implementation. The Local Government, she said, coordinates while FCC implements.

She therefore stated that they would not go into next month’s cleaning without clarification about the role and responsibility of the FCC in the national cleaning exercise.

Meanwhile, Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law in Sierra Leone (CARL-SL) and Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) have come out with statements condemning the Deputy Minister’s attack on the Mayor, noting that the Mayor is the political head of the municipality whose powers should not be usurped by the Central Government.

Their statements maintained that national unity should be the focus, with gender equality and participation a strong feature of the country’s governance structure, adding that anything that undermines national unity should not be tolerated but must be condemned outright.