Driving from Freetown the country’s capital through the dusty roads of Tihun, Sogbeni, Talia, Yobeko, to Mattru Jong on land, through the dangerous dams created by Sierra Rutile Limited in poverty-stricken communities like Nyandehun and Matacan placed side by side the affluent mining communities of Mobimbi and Mogbemo, the journey by land ended at Yagoi-a large river bank community that separates Bonthe mainland and Bonthe Island.
The one hour thirty minutes boat ride from Yagoi to Bonthe Island is an experience every visitor would love to have. The cold sea breeze, beautiful terrestrial landscape of swampland and mangrove, fishing communities and rare species of birds make the trip to the island quite fascinating.
Bonthe Sherbro Island is located in Bonthe District off the South of Sierra Leone in the Atlantic Ocean. The Sherbro people make up the largest ethnic group in the island. The island is separated from the mainland by the Sherbro River in the north and the Sherbro Strait in the east. It is 32 miles (51 km) long and up to 15 miles (24 km) wide, covering an area of approximately 230 square miles (600 km2). The island has more than 65 miles (105 km) of tropical beaches.
A walk along the jetty gives you a great view of the “imposing” residence of the District Officer (DO) and several monumental structures that housed large colonial firms including UAC, PZ and CFAO, an adequate scenery to appreciate the pump, pageantry and grandeur of what Bonthe really was at the height of her glory in the colonial and post colonial era.
This Island is home to several historic artifacts including Weaver Church constructed and Established in 1908, one of the first clock towers and the building which housed the first Special Court sitting. The Elizabethan architectural designs of these structures have defiantly resisted the hands of time and can still tell their own stories to any maiden visitor.
Rev. George Stevens Sandi former District Superintendent and pastor of the United Methodist Church Sierra Leone says the island was very vibrant several years ago. He pointed out that subsistence farming and fishing are the major means of livelihood for inhabitants of the island especially during the 40s and 50s when the commercial firms were established to provide fresh sea food for major parts of the country. The old dilapidated building at the islands entrance was an all purpose building which housed government offices departments and agencies.
Today the island is still remembered for its economic viability during the colonial period. However, this historic island is now a shadow of its former self. With almost all the major offices gone the people of Bonthe feel rejected saying government has not done enough to upkeep the island. The National Electoral Commission Officer, District Health Medical Officer, (D.H.M.T) Statistics representative and other important offices have been moved to the mainland of Mattru Jong.
According to Mariama Kamara business has been painfully slow since the Ebola outbreak struck in May 2014.
The current Mayor of the Municipality of Bonthe, Laimine Joe Sandi continues to call on the central government to intervene in activities on the island he called for the restoration of all government offices and restructuring of the current local government system which he says does not make room for career development.
The Bonthe government hospital is also faced with its own fair share of challenges. Dr Ahmed Hameed Gamanga is the medical superintendent of Bonthe government hospital .he says their success in the fight against Ebola is because of Gods intervention and not entirely a man made effort.
Despite the numerous challenges the island is still filled with its accommodating people, fresh sea food, sweet palm wine ”Nduvui” and the beautiful English of the elites.