Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Children of Sierra Leone

Children in Mekonde (near Njala) - August 1968

Hokey and Gina - 1969 - at Dama Road

With the recent ten year war a whole generation of Sierra Leoneans has suffered. Families have been in many cases destroyed by what was a bankrupt war policy of using children as soldiers, of maimings, of rape and sexual slavery as a policy, and all driven by men with marginal if any character, driven by the abuse of societal norms, and fueled by the use of drugs and the selling of diamonds to buy weaponry never before seen in this small and poor country. Fathers and mothers have been murdered in front of their children, and in some cases murdered by their own children, some as young as 7 years old. Many have been maimed in horrific ways at the hands of drug crazed and out of control soldiers. For much of that ten year period those that could, either escaped to refugee camps in Guinea or Liberia, or to Europe or the United States. Everyone suffered - everyone. And the children who because of whatever reason were unable to escape the war perhaps suffered the most. They were left behind, in fear, to observe the horror first hand, and to be maimed for life. Those that suffered physical harm are left with the obvious scars that never heal. These scars though run deep and into the psyche of these kids who have lived a ten year, unending nightmare for which many can never be free. All life was disrupted by this war. There was little schooling. There was little in the way of the daily living that was acceptable. The harm that this has done to this once proud and wonderful country will take years to resolve. But Sierra Leoneans are resilient, creative, and survivors. As Peace and Reconciliation are upon the land one can only hope that a new and meaningfully rich life will also return. Children will again be nurtured in the way that children should be. And the proud people of this country that I once knew so well will again be examples for the rest of West Africa and the world.

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