The Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA), Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning (MLHCP), and the Sierra Leone Airports Authority has engaged stakeholders in Kenema on the reclamation of the airstrip.
In his remarks, the Resident Minister East, Andrew Ansu Fatorma welcomed the team and expressed appreciation to meet and discuss the possible reclamation of the airstrip for development purposes. He added that the duty of the stakeholders present was to listen to the policy statements of various heads of government present and in turn disseminate to the people of Kenema.
In his brief statement, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. Kabineh Kallon noted that Air transport has been one of the fastest and safest means of transportation as it provides security for people, goods, and services. “Reclaiming the airstrip and reviving domestic flight operations for the development of aviation is primarily in the interest of the country. Relocating airstrips will be a great difficulty as many factors will be taken into consideration, especially in meeting the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS),” he said.
The Director-General of SLCAA, Moses Tiffa Baio, disclosed that the promotion of domestic air connectivity was President Bio’s vision, and thus, all hands should be on deck to actualize it. He furthered that they were there to engage stakeholders and conduct on-site visitation to assess the level of encroachment, the damage on the runway, and other technical factors.
“Kenema is regarded as an economic melting pot of Sierra Leone. Air connectivity will help regain Kenema’s status, especially in the provision of jobs and the facilitation of goods and services. Nigeria and Ghana are generating huge revenues from domestic flight operations and that should also be reflected here. After the on-site visitation, we will engage with the Ministry of Lands to provide a site plan to ascertain those have been affected, and we will conduct a feasibility study thereafter,” the Director-General said.
The Chiefdom Speaker of Nongowa Chiefdom, Chief Frank Nekai believed that the airstrip is beneficial not only to the development of domestic air transportation but also to the people of Kenema. He recalled when domestic flights were in operation and how it easily facilitated passengers and goods from Kenema to different parts of the country. He concluded by expressing that there had been complaints from other landowners and that should be resolved amicably.
Responding to the Paramount Chief, the Deputy Minister of Lands, Housing and Country Planning, Hon. Rex Bonapha revealed that Lands Ministry negotiated with landowning families and had paid the adequately for both Reservation and the Airstrip. He informed stakeholders that their purpose of visiting was to explore the possibility of reintroducing domestic air transportation in Sierra Leone. He encouraged stakeholders to preserve national assets for future development.
During the closing session, the Head of Operations SLAA, Lawrence Conteh, maintained that Kenema was strategic in the socio-economic positioning of the country, adding that the Kenema Airstrip had the second-longest runway in the country and was also used as the ECOWAS emergency landing point. In the airport certification process, he added, one of the key requirements was to review the Aeronautical Information Plan and that would be impossible if Kenema’s Airstrip was developed.
After the engagement, the team paid an on-site visit to the airfield, warned encroachers to desist from any form of construction, and erected a security post to prevent further encroaching.