Freetown (AFP) – Sierra Leone’s new President Julius Maada Bio has announced that the first Saturday of each month will be “national cleaning day,” as part of a campaign to improve hygiene and the work rate of civil servants.
The measures were announced by the president’s office late Monday, two days after a rally in which Bio, a former general who was briefly in power in the 1990s, said he would be a stickler for “discipline”.
“A National Cleaning Day is declared and scheduled for the first Saturday of each month, from 7:00 am to 12:00 noon,” it said in a statement.
“The first National Cleaning Day scheduled by the ministry of health affairs is Saturday, 5th May.”
Bio added that all civil servants and government ministers were expected to be at work from 8:30 am until 4:45 pm, and he and the vice president would carry out snap checks.
“Failure to report for work on time will lead to disciplinary action and potential summary dismissal,” the statement said.
A monthly National Cleaning Day — in which public areas are cleaned of rubbish, trees planted and walls repainted — was brought in during the 1992-1996 junta led by Captain Valentine Strasser, who was overthrown by Bio, then his deputy.
The monthly cleanup was restored from time to time by following regimes.
In another move, Bio said businesses would be allowed to open on Sundays from this week. Sunday trading had been interrupted by the 2014-16 Ebola crisis.
A hawker in central Freetown, Ibrahim Sesay, told AFP he approved of National Cleaning Day and the return of Sunday training.
“Our greatest problem as people is laziness and lack of discipline and I hope our new president will enforce the laws for change of attitude,” he said.
Bio took office last week after a tumultuous election campaign, ending a decade-long rule by the All People’s Congress (APC).
He won 51.81 percent of the vote in the second-round runoff against the APC’s champion, Samura Kamara.
One of the poorest countries on the planet, Sierra Leone wrestles with major problems of infrastructure, such as sewerage, roads and power.