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Sierra Leone: Political trailblazer Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr eyes 2nd time period as Freetown mayor

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Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr turned in 2018 Freetown’s first feminine mayor in 38 years. The member of All Folks’s Congress occasion is now working for re-election.

Throughout her tenure nevertheless, she raised hackles along with her type and for tasks she prioritized.

“When you’re assertive, you are described as being cussed. I heard that the opposite day, “she’s cussed”. I am like, “actually?” If this was a person in my place, I do not suppose the place he’d take could be thought to be being cussed. Why am I cussed? As a result of I’ve my very own standpoint? And I am sticking to it. No, no, no, no, decided.”

One among Aki-Sawyerr’s key targets has been to overtake town’s guide taxation system.

With monetary assist from the UK authorities, the mayor had satellite tv for pc photos taken and measured rooftops and different metrics to construct up a digital property tax database.

She claims to have introduced 70 p.c extra taxpayers into the system. She additionally raised charges on these already paying tax.

Arm-wrestling with authorities

However inside days of its rollout, the programme was frozen by the nationwide authorities for practically a yr, and compliance stays low.

“Successfully, town had been working with no income,” she concedes. “And so it wasn’t actually working. And so with the ability to clarify to those who in order for you your rubbish collected, in order for you, you understand, timber planted, in order for you the municipal faculties maintained, when you simply need service, it must be paid for.”

It’s common for Freetown mayors to go head-to-head with the central authorities. However the backlash Aki-Sawyerr has acquired for doing so appears unprecedented.

“That you must know the right way to ship, however you (additionally) need to play the politics,” stated activist Valnora Edwin.

“Sadly, she appears to be falling straight of their lure — she might need a courtroom matter till it is time to nominate candidates for elections, after which she is not going to be appropriate (to run).”

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr has been audited, investigated for corruption and summoned to testify about her initiatives in parliament.

She can be preventing costs of obstructing the police and disorderly behaviour over the arrest of one in every of her metropolis councillors. He is accused of incitement over cost-of-living protests last August that spiralled into anti-government riots.

Sympathizers and opponents

One resident who refuses to pay his property tax is lawyer Chukwuemeka Taylor. He says it’s unfair to lift charges on current taxpayers, whereas offering insufficient providers.

“I’ve to do the roads myself, I’ve to do the drains myself, and I am paying property taxes?”, he stated, accusing her of milking the tax difficulty to enchantment to poorer voters.

The mayor does have sympathisers. “She has a variety of challenges… however she nonetheless is pushing,” stated Marie Bob-Kandeh, head of a market girls’s group.

Final yr, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr offered shades in markets to guard distributors from the new solar. Within the slums, she has labored with donors to assemble public bathrooms and water faucets.

“She talks to you,” stated Nancy Sesay, a resident of Susan’s Bay slum. “When there’s a drawback, she comes.”

However as Aki-Sawyerr’s first time period attracts to an finish, a lot of her agenda has been thwarted by rows and authorized battles.

“My time period involves an finish in nearly what’s it? six months from now. And I am decided that all the pieces that I began, ought to be accomplished so that there is much less probability of disruption. Ought to I not, for some cause, return to the seats, though I am hoping to. No! let’s put that otherwise: I am planning to.”

Sierra Leone’s presidential, parliamentary and native elections are scheduled for June 24.

If Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr plans to remain in Freetown, her occasion is anticipated to faucet her as working mate for the presidency towards Bio, who will bid for second time period.

Requested whether or not Sierra Leone is prepared for a feminine vp, Aki-Sawyerr stated: “I feel folks reply to what they’re introduced with, and in the event that they’re introduced with the correct particular person, they reply to that.”