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Why Batkanu Deserves Karene District Headquarters?
One of the legacies of the former President Ernest Bai Koroma-led All People’s Congress (APC) Government was the deamalgamation of notable chiefdoms mainly in the Northern Region as well as the creation of two new districts in the same region in addition to the existing fourteen – Karene and Falaba Districts. Whilst the Koroma administration chose to take the district headquarters of Karene to Kamakwei in the Sella Limba Chiefdom, descendants of Batkanu, the colonial headquarters of Karene District before it was amalgamated with Bombali District, on Thursday 11th October, 2018 took the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Anthony Briwa to see for himself the historic township that housed the Colonial Governors and District Commissioners (DCs) from 1904 to 1949 respectively. Both the Local Government Minister and the Resident Minister, North-West took their time off their busy schedules to visit the historic town to ascertain the fact that Batkanu is the right place for the headquarters of Karene District.
Once referred to as the colonial Mecca of Loko country, Batkanu is the home of the first Minister of Information and Resident Minister Northern Province under the Sir Milton Margai regime, Y.D. Sesay. Though the former Koroma administration declared Kamakwei as the district headquarters of Karene, the case for the people of Batkanu is very simple and that is the restoration of the district headquarters to its rightful location given the plethora of evidence to show the world that, indeed, Batkanu is the rightful place for the headquarters of Karene District. Indigenes have argued that besides its equidistance to Makeni, Kamakwei,Port Loko and Foredugu, Batkanu was also the agricultural headquarters of the Northern Province.
Though former President Koroma failed to complete the historic restoration of the old glory of Karene District by taking the headquarters to Kamakwei in contrast to his 2012 election campaign promise, it is the responsibility of the New Direction administration of President Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio to ensure that the status of Karene District is restored to its rightful place since the whole process was politicized by the Koroma administration to satisfy a handful of APC stalwarts that hail from Sella Limba Chiefdom, including its National Secretary General, Ambassador Alhaji Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh and Rev. Marie Yansaneh.
If we are to go by colonial history, it is the inalienable right of the descendants of Batkanu to appeal to the SLPP Government to revert to history by taking the headquarters of Karene District back to Batkanu again given the historic relics of that township, such as the graves of the three District Commissioners who died there as colonial masters, the central monument, the Governor’s mansion, old police barracks site and many others colonial relics that were developed in the colonial days when Kamakwei was far removed from civilization.
Nine of the thirteen chiefdoms in Karene District, whose names were inscribed on a plaque attached to one of the District Commissioners monument in the centre of Batkanu donated by the then Paramount Chiefs, want Batkanu as headquarters for Karene District. It is against this backdrop the indigenes of Batkanu believe that in the coming months, more evidence of the strategic and historic importance of their township as a district headquarters would be presented to the appropriate authorities to arrive at a conclusion in settling the matter.
As a responsible Government, the Bio administration should strictly follow the colonial history by reversing the decision of the erstwhile APC regime so that Batkanu would again become the district headquarters of Karene District. The evidence already produced by the indigenes of Batkanu is quite overwhelming to restore the status of their township to a district headquarters as the colonial masters did in 1904.
Decision by the former APC Government to remake colonial history by naming Kamakwei as Karene District headquarters was complete maladministration and out of tune with colonial legacies. The erstwhile Government probably took such infamous decision to satisfy a few APC stalwarts that had much saying in the decision-making of the then Government. But the Bio administration being a very responsible Government will do the right thing for the majority of Karene District.