Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thoughts on Sierra Leone

After yesterday's Sierra Leone Refugee All-stars performance across the River in Hanover I have been thinking of the country where Susan and I began our life together.  Those two years have had a major impact on my life.  Over forty years now I have followed things Sierra Leonean almost as if this was my second home.  When the War fell down on Sierra Leone I followed as best as one could in the newspapers and on the Sierra Leone Web. Although I had been aware of political issues and troubles while we lived in Sierra Leone, this 11 year War was at first surprising.  What was clear was the undercurrent of turmoil in the youth who had little in the way of a future, in a country with little in the way of infrastructure, and in a country with no money to help out.  This undercurrent of dissatisfaction coupled with marginal conditions, and driven by  blood diamonds to finance weaponry not before seen in Sierra Leone (except in the movies), and by psychopaths who led the charge - this War swirled out of control as rape, use of child soldiers, mutilations, and sexual "slavery", deprivation, and greed became the policy of rebel movements. This was behavior that heretofore had been alien to Sierra Leone.  Sierra Leone, although a poor country, had historically sent its educated elite all over West Africa to bring education to others. It had spawned one of the first institutions for higher education (Fourah Bay College) in Africa. Many of its citizenry went on to be leaders in other countries. However, the problems of poverty and hopelessness were hard if not impossible to overcome. Disenchanted youth made the country ripe for revolution but the horror that resulted leaves many still puzzled today.  What was needed was a peaceful economic revolution to put Sierra Leone back on the right road.  The horrific War that instead took place siding brother against brother, and young against old just left the country "circling the drain."  A generation has been lost in the process and a populace is left scarred forvever.  But Sierra Leoneans are resilient. They will make a comeback. The country has lost many of its best and brightest as the War and Sierra Leone diaspora has led to large Sierra Leonean populations now living elsewhere.  And as children have grown up in places like the States or the UK, or Canada they have become less connected with their roots (at least to some degree) and identify less with a country that they have heard of but not experienced.  Whether, as things improve in Sierra Leone, Sierra Leoneans will migrate back to home to provide the many talents necessary to transform the country remains to be seen.  To uproot families again, and head back to a life of uncertainties is a hard row to hoe.  


Zach Niles said...

Hi Chad,
My name is Zach Niles - I made the documentary film about Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars and now co-manage the band. I'm now working on a new project to teach filmmaking skills to young adults in Sierra Leone, the "lost generation" that you so accurately describe in your blog post. The project is called "WeOwnTV" ( and participants range from ex-child soldiers in Makeni to teen prostitutes in Kono and orphaned street kids in Freetown. We spent January in country interviewing over 60 different applicants (there's personal interviews inline of the 16 kids that we've chosen). We are madly in fundraising for the first stage of the workshop to take place in August of this year - and in the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, I thought I'd reach out to you to see if you may have thoughts, or a network you'd be able to spread the word to. I am now based in Woodstock, VT (where I was born and raised)and would welcome any thoughts you might have. Thank you for your time, for your kind words about the All Stars and for, like myself, keeping sweet Salone in your heart.

All best,
Zach Niles

Anonymous said...

Hi Chad!
Am a sierra Leonean living in Aurora, Colorado. Am a mende by tribe and was wondering if you have tapes of Salia Koroma's songs
I can be reached via: or 303 507 0294

Tom Simbo