Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 August 2020.
Last Friday, Senior officials at the Sierra Leone Civil Authority (SLCAA), the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA), and the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Country Planning (MLHCP) held discussions with key decision-makers in the city of Bo, southern Sierra Leone about the introduction of domestic commercial flights in the country, after visiting the disused Bo airstrip which is being considered for the resumption of domestic flights.
Ministers say that the resumption of domestic flight operations in Sierra Leone will contribute immensely to the development of the country’s tourism industry.
Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Sadiq Silla said that the primary purpose of their meeting in Bo, was to engage community leaders and have a consensus on the way forward for the reclamation of the Bo airstrip for the reactivation of domestic air operations in Sierra Leone.
From the industry’s perspective, the Director-General of the Sierra Leone Civil Authority (SLCAA), Moses Tiffa Baio spoke about President Julius Maada Bio’s vision to build an economically viable civil aviation system that would be effective, efficient, competitive and sustainable.
In order to achieve this and make Sierra Leone an aviation hub in West Africa, he said there should be an increase in air connectivity, especially domestic flight operations, that would facilitate the movement of people, goods, and services within the country.
“Our airports, whether local or international, should be preserved as priceless national assets. Air transport operation brings development and steady growth in a country. Reviving these domestic airstrips will be a great gain not only for the government, especially in the area of boosting tourism, but also for the people of Sierra Leone, especially in providing alternative form of transportation to the road networks,” the Director-General said.
Minister of Lands, Housing and Country Planning, Dr. Dennis Sandy said: “We have come a long way in restoring dignity in the land tenure arrangements of Sierra Leone. Since 2018, the Bo Airstrip and Reservation have become the property of the government and encroachers have been compensated. Sustainable development projects require a collaborative approach and that approach must be reflective of the nation’s interest,” he said.
Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. Kabineh Kallon, said that Sierra Leone is one of the few countries that are not conducting domestic flight operations. He mentioned that his ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with some aviation companies who have expressed interest to revive domestic air operations in Sierra Leone.
He noted, however, that the challenge is on reclaiming the respective airstrips from encroachers. He concluded by noting that relocation of airstrips would be difficult as many factors would need to be taken into consideration, especially in meeting the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Standards and Recommended Practices.
Paramount Chief of Tikonko Chiefdom raised concern about the neglect of the airstrip over the past two decades and admitted that the Authorities responsible for protecting the airstrip had been weak in enforcing the law to prevent encroachers from embarking on massive construction.
He further advised that those who have been compensated should be re-engaged and the development of the airstrip should also go ahead without any further delay.
After the engagement, the team inspected the Bo Airfield at Torwama in the presence of the Paramount Chiefs of Tikonko and Kakua Chiefdom, the Resident Minister South, the Ministry of Local Governments and Rural Development and erected a security post to prevent further encroachment.
By: Abdul Rashid Thomas
Africa's Leading Airline Consultancy