Freetown, Baby!


Pa Stevens by jc2010sl
March 29, 2010, 4:00 pm
Filed under: society, travels

For a man who ruled as dictator for two decades and created a kleptocratic state, Shiaka Stevens is held in surprisingly high regard in Salone. He’s still seen as a “Father of the Nation” figure by many, and referred to affectionately as “Pa”.

The National Football Stadium bears his name, and the main artery running through Freetown is called “Shiaka Stevens Street”. Foday Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front which started the brutal civil war, also named a street after himself, but that was quickly renamed when the rebels were driven from Freetown. Stevens’ name doesn’t carry the same stigma.

On the way to Lakka beach yesterday I thought I’d take the small detour up Juba Hill to see his old presidential residence. Kabasah lodge was built with Government funds, but in a classic piece of theatre, was handed to Stevens as a birthday “gift” from the nation when he retired.

It’s fantastically located at the top of one of Freetown’s hills with incredible views across Lumley beach and over Goderich town. It brought to mind the perfect image of a late 70’s African dictator’s presidential pad – the swimming pool, veranda, and sweeping staircases. The sort of place Roger Moore would have looked at home in a safari suit.

A Pool with a View

The gradeur is long gone now though, and a few families have moved in to what is essentially a squat.

Wash day at the Steven's residence

In some ways it stands as a symbol for the fate of Salone itself – a testament to Steven’s greed and theft, and the destitution he ultimately wrought on the country.

There is talk of turning the place into a luxury hotel. Whether this happens will be another sign – but this time for the future of Salone.

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