Poet Oumar Farouk Sesay pays tribute to the Importance Of Personal Responsibility in Sierra Leone


Oumar Farouk Sesay is a leading Sierra Leonean poet. His first volume of poems, "Salute to the Remains of a Peasant" was published in 2007. His second collection of poems, "The Edge of a Cry" was published in 2015 by the Sierra Leonean Writers Series (SLWS). Farouk is a graduate of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.

BECAUSE WE ARE POOR

(For those who use poverty 

as an excuse for our failings as a people)

So, because we are poor, we must quarry 

the mountains, gouge the boulders, let them roll 

downhill. So, when it rains, the entire mountain

 will peel off and cascade down the slope to end 

our life of misery.

Because we are poor, therefore, we must fell the 

hundred years old trees, deplete the biodiversity 

and haul the trees to China for nickels and dime

like a man selling his kidney to buy whisky.

Because we are poor, we must cut down trees 

at the Guma valley reserve to starve the dam of water,

then we demolish reservoirs and obstruct the pipe

network to build our houses on mountains. 

From our mountain top homes, we spew abuses 

at Guma management for not supplying water

 to our homes.

Because we are poor, we must block the drainages,

streams, estuaries, and pathways to create

breeding pits for diseases so when we die of ailment 

We blame it on the witchery of the old woman next door

Because we are poor, we must build our shanty homes 

On water pipes and put our shit in a plastic sheet

And throw our shit to the neighbours' pipe we cut last night.

So, when it rains the shit in the plastic sheet and the leaking 

pipe guarantee that we all fall sick with typhoid

Because we are poor, we must not push our children 

to study and pass exams through a merit-based system

instead, we scrape and “dreg “to pay for “leakages” for them 

to graduate as academic rogues

Or we turn a blind eye to the sex for marks syndicate 

to complete the damnation of a nation in the mighty name 

of our poverty 

Because we are poor it is like a license not to obey

the law or enforce the law. It is a province of Freedom 

with no lines of demarcation to create sanity. 

It is the right to retail justice according to one’s ability to pay.

Because we are poor, we must scoop fuel from

A leaking Bowser, obstruct traffic, endanger the lives 

Of innocent people, so when the fire erupts it kills

Everyone and plunge the survivors into unimaginable misery

Because we are poor, we must not investigate such

 a wanton tragedy to place blame and punishment 

where they belong. We just drape the national flag on 

the coffins of those whose intransigence caused the 

tragedy and the ones they killed. Like the proverbial

pounded chicken, we can’t tell where the anus was 

before the pounding. 

Because we are poor, we must not speak the truth 

to power for fear that we might forfeit the crumbs

they toss in our direction to prolong our agony,

so, we enter anuses instead of a cave to hide our poverty

Because we are poor, we must therefore lack compassion

for each other and we must degenerate to lesser beings 

without self-worth, so when another person is in distress 

we steal their possessions instead of helping them 

Because we are poor, we must sell our inheritance  

And venture through the Sahara Desert to cross 

the Mediterranean in search of greener pastures

 only to die and leave our siblings in deeper poverty 

Because we are poor, we must incinerate this garden

 of Eden, poison the waters of our rivers, give away our 

minerals for a pittance, cremate our heritage and keep 

the ashes for our children in a vase with the inscription:

“We were poor, so we burnt what we had to become nothing”

Really? Because we are poor, we must demean our humanity

And sell our birthrights for coco ebeh?

By Oumar Farouk Sesay

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