Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Tragic War

For the most part, when we lived in Sierra Leone, although there was certainly an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the existing government (most of my area friends were supporters of the Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP), 1968 - 70 was a relatively peaceful period.  The minor episodes of strife that we observed during this period involved simple weaponry and less anger and hatred. The undercurrent of grumbling that I heard from time to time was not much different than what I had seen at home.  However people tended to be more private about their politics as there was concern that opinions against the current regime might end you up on the "wrong side," and thus in jail.  I do not pretend to have an understanding of how the nearly 10 years of horror fell down upon what had been a happy people and a wonderful country.  Perhaps a combination of severely strained economics, and unhappy and disenchanted youth, and a long simmering political atmosphere were in part a cause.  What is clear is that forces established them selves both inside Sierra Leone and from Liberia that led the horror and charge in an attempt to gain power.  Led by men with some charisma but scary thinking and supported by the selling of diamonds, high end weaponry not before seen in Sierra Leone became commonplace. With the establishment of a War Crimes atmosphere of horror, child soldiers and rape and maiming became military policy and Sierra Leone began a nearly ten year circle of the drain. Those who could ran away from the conflict to refugee camps in nearby Liberia, or Guinea (or elsewhere).  A huge number of Sierra Leoneans came to the UK or to Canada or the US (or elsewhere) in this Diaspora of Sierra Leone's best and brightest leaving their motherland to establish roots and safety elsewhere. In 1968 there was no such population in the States. By the 1990's Sierra Leoneans were a substantial addition to America. At home those who could not leave,  or were not so lucky had to put up with the horrors driven by a megalomania and a policy that left many dead, others maimed forever, and still others scarred mentally for life. For these ten years terror roamed every niche - no one and no area was safe.  The sad hell that existed is incomprehensible for most of us but a nightmare for those who lived it. For ten years a generation had no school. For ten years a country stood on the brink of annihilation. This once "jewel of West Africa" sank to a level of despair and depravity that was unimaginable.  But somehow this chaos came to an end as support came from outside  and the mindset that had made Sierra Leone so bleak seemed to die. Now there is a well-established peace. Sierra Leone attempts to analyse what has happened and deal lawfully with the many War Crimes.  Recovery is on the horizon. Its many people permanently harmed by the War go on as Sierra Leonenans always have, with some hope in a future, and with a hope and prayer that the world will help with the support of this small country equipped with keen minds but lacking the money to go forward.   

No comments: