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Sierra Leone: A Nation Injured By War But Still Blessed Exclusive

By Ibrahim Dabo

 

22/04/05. The name Sweet Salone, which means Sweet Sierra Leone, is a cliche fondly used by many Sierra Leoneans. Sierra Leoneans are proud of their country so much that even many little kids are familiar with the name Sweet Salone. Many local music artists also play their part as they fondly use the name when composing some of their songs. From a different perspective, we come across the name Sierra Lyoa, meaning Lion Mountains. The visibly high mountains across the Freetown peninsula are a reason why the country was named Sierra Lyoa by a Portuguese explorer, Pedro da Cintra, when he sailed down the west coast of Africa back in 1462.

 

Prior to the start of the civil war in 1991, Sierra Leone was one of the most peaceful countries in West Africa. The country, which gained independence from Great Britain in 1961, has a unique history and is rich in mineral and natural resources. In fact, the green strip of the country’s Green, White and Blue flag, stands for the country's natural resources. The capital city is Freetown, which was used as a settlement for freed slaves in 1787 and is with the third largest natural harbor in the world. The white sandy beaches, which stretch across certain parts of western Freetown, may also be a hot spot for tourists.

 

From the hills of Mount Aureol over looking Freetown is Fourah Bay College (FBC), which over the years has produced many intellectuals across the sub region. Founded in 1827, FBC is the oldest in tropical Africa and achieved a university status after it became affiliated with Durham University in England in 1876. The level of education in the college years back paved way for many foreigners across Africa, especially from British West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana, to enroll into the college. There are success stories on some of the impacts the college has created over the years, especially in the sub region. “Over the years, in terms of success, it [the college] trained manpower for administration, for education and the ministry all over English speaking West Africa,” says Prof. Arthur Abraham, a former history lecturer at F.B.C who is now professor and chair of History at Virginia State University, U.S.A. “It was the powerhouse that was producing the teachers, the missionaries, the administrators of British West Africa.”

 

With a population of more than five million people, Sierra Leone recently witnessed a decade of civil war. Tens of thousands of people were killed and thousands had their limbs amputated, which may be seen as the worse incident to occur in the country’s history. With the help of West African peace keeping forces (ECOMOG), the British, and United Nations peacekeeping forces, the war was officially announced over in 2001. Post-war Sierra Leone has seen the rehabilitation and reconciliation process move on while the United Nations approved the Special Court for Sierra Leone in January 2002. Many responsible for war crimes are now being tried in the Special Court.

 

Many are now answering to war crimes charges. But at the same time, the impact of the war is so great on the lives of Sierra Leoneans that they may find it very uneasy to forget the atrocities and brutal acts they suffered at the hands of the rebels. “The violence, brutality and atrocities the rebel war unleashed on Sierra Leone and its people, leave no margin to forget,” stressed Alhaji Alieu K. Turay Snr., a retired civil servant of the Sierra Leone government who also suffered as a result of the war and lost many relatives. “Offences committed deliberately, spitefully and with impunity that leave a permanent horrific scar, become a legacy for generations. The question of forgetting the entire episode is absolutely impossible. Victims will continue to live with the memory always.”

 

As things are slowly returning to normal in the country, many Sierra Leoneans are looking forward to a brighter future. It’s hard to forget about the past when it comes to war and the issue of forgiving those responsible for the misdeeds is one significant aspect en route to lasting peace. Those responsible for the atrocities, which occurred during the war, also have a major role to play in the peace process. “To sustain the value and importance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a margin for forgiveness may be allowed if offenders come forward voluntarily and of their own free will to purge their actions,” says Alhaji Turay Snr.

 

The country’s mineral and natural resources also play an important role to the economy. The country is rich in minerals such as Diamonds, Gold, Bauxite, Iron Ore, Rutile and Zircon. The agriculture and fisheries industry is also expected to boost the economy. The sad thing however is that despite being blessed with all this natural wealth, the country ranks among the world's poorest nations.

 

Everything may not be moving well in the country at the moment. Corruption and economic hardship is presently a cause for concern. Poverty dwells among the population and other economic factors such as inadequate electricity supply leaves many to question whether the authorities are doing their jobs. There may be more questions than answers, at least for now. Understandably, the war may also be a contributing factor to the slow economic growth. However, it is now time for all Sierra Leoneans to come together and play a leading role in bringing the nation back into the limelight. Ambitious youths already have this in mind because they believe they could make a difference in creating a huge impact in the affairs of the country in the long run.

 

Many studying at home and abroad believe that they have a future role to play in making their country’s economy one of the best not only in Africa but the world as a whole. “One of my future plan is to change the negative image of Sierra Leone in the international community and encourage investors to come in and invest,” says Abdul Deensie who is currently pursuing International Studies at Montgomery College, USA, and hopes to finish up with a Masters degree in Political Science. "We need to let people know that the civil war [in Sierra Leone] was an unfortunate incident which will never happen again. Sierra Leoneans are peaceful people and the country can grow to become economically strong with time, as we have the mineral resources and also rich in agriculture.”

 

On the sports front, many Sierra Leoneans are very passionate about soccer. The national team Leone Stars has qualified for the African Nations cup before in 1994 and 1996 but failed to cross the first rounds on both occasions. The team has also failed to impress many during recent times. Nevertheless, soccer faithfuls seem hopeful that the team would regain its form and qualify for big competitions like the Nations Cup. “My wish and willingness is to take Sierra Leone to one of the highest levels in football,” says Sierra Leone international striker Mohamed Kallon who presently plays club football for AS Monaco in France.

 

However, the country does not have many players currently playing top professional football, something that might affect the country's preparations for upcoming competitions like qualification for the Nations Cup. This leaves words of hope on the part of Kallon. “Football is an unpredictable sport and I will never take the Nations Cup or the World Cup off my mind," he says. "But if I can't do it [to qualify for these competitions] within my own time, when I am actually playing football, I would still be around to support and do everything I can to enable my country to participate in one of the biggest competitions in the world.”

 

In 2003, football in the country was at a standstill for several months as a result of an impasse among stakeholders in the game. This culminated into a change of leadership in the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA). Will changes in the football association make a difference after the body had come under heavy criticism for contributing to the downfall of soccer in the country? “I was 100% involved in the campaign and I was on the opposition side for us to change the former SLFA executive because I am seeking my country's interest,” explained the 25-year-old Kallon, who is also captain of the national team.

 

“When the international competition begins with the African Championship, then after they start the league... I believe from now to next year when we begin to play the competition; the qualifying rounds again, we would be able to judge them and see whether or not they [the FA] are doing a good job. For now, they are doing very well.” In 2004, Nahim Khadi won the FA presidential elections and there were also other changes within the FA executive. 

 

Sierra Leoneans now need to join hands and help get the nation back on its feet. Patriotism is a key, which should unite us all, to wholeheartedly contribute in re-building this blessed land. With concerted efforts and having gone through the pains of a brutal civil war, Sierra Leone is capable of setting a brighter example in Africa, one that would be emulated. As this author always points out, “it would be better for Africa to use its wealth to build rather than to destroy.” Backed by our own resources that should be well managed, very soon, the name Sweet Salone would be echoed throughout the African continent and beyond. At least, that is my dream - and my prayer.

 

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Late Prof. S. K. Dabo and Prof. Arthur Abraham in the early 80s
(Former professors at Fourah Bay College - University of Sierra Leone)

State of Affairs in Sierra Leone Exclusive                        

By Alhaji Alieu K. Turay, Snr. 

19/02/05. Alhaji K. Turay, Snr. (Retired civil servant of Sierra Leone government) gives us an insight into the state of affairs in the West African Country during and after the rebel war. He writes exclusively for www.idabo.20m.com.

 

 THE IMPACT OF THE WAR ETC.

The decade of conflict that brutalized Sierra Leoneans began in 1991. It started to whittle down in early 2001. This was unwittingly celebrated as the end of the conflict. As a matter of fact, the war simmered on for the best part of that year up to early 2002 when a special court, under the aegis of the United Nations, was set up to try war criminals. It is difficult to quantify the social and economic costs of the war. It involved loss of human lives, damage to public infrastructure, private property, permanent disability to people, disruption of the economy and lost opportunities. Over 60,000 men, women and child soldiers were disarmed and demobilized, and close on half a million internally displaced persons and refugees all need to be re-integrated and re-settled into various communities. Rebels successfully occupied more than half of the productive areas of the country. This accounted for nil agricultural production countrywide, and serious setbacks in mining and other economic activities. Arable farming lands laid fallow, while the rutile and bauxite mines remained closed resulting in stupendous loss of revenue. The Kono mining areas became the source of income for the rebels to service their war effort. The district on the whole was the rebel stronghold. Over 100,000 lives were claimed by the war and nearly half of that number was abducted, all of whom were young and virile men and women. Half of the nation’s population was brutalized and driven into exile in neighboring countries, not to mention the teeming thousands of internally displaced. The civilian population severely perished through the terror tactics of the rebels, resulting in widespread raping and incidence of sexually transmitted disease (STD), HIV/AIDS and physical and psychological trauma. The destruction of schools, government infrastructure, private dwelling, the electric grid, trunk and feeders roads to name a few, constituted a great impact of the war socially and economically.    

FORGET ATTROCITIES

The meaning and purpose for setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone, simply put, is ostensibly to get persons to confess their misdeeds during the war and ask for mercy. But in fact its intention is to secure the commitment of the people offended to forget and forgive their offenders that they may live side by side in a spirit of good faith and good intension.  What is apparent but certainly true is the fact that offences are easily pardoned and forgotten where there is friendship and love, or the gravity and nature of the offences are such that their effect on the offended quickly diminishes with the passage of time. But offences committed deliberately, spitefully and with impunity that leave a permanent horrific scar, become a legacy for generations. They are never forgotten. The violence, brutality and atrocities the rebel war unleashed on Sierra Leone and its people, leave no margin to forget. There is nothing in war that induces forgetfulness. The aftermath is always a bitter memory of the past.  The holocaust is the bitter memory of the Second World War European Jews still live with. Nearer home is the genocide in Rwanda, which goes down in history as the real replica of the holocaust in Europe.  The setting homes on fire with people inside to suffer painful death, the chopping of limbs, the cutting of tongues, ears; the plucking out of a victims eye to remain with one in derision to appear like a Cyclops; the slitting open of a pregnant woman’s stomach before mother and child are murdered and a host of dastardly cruelties set the scene of the rebel war in Sierra Leone. The atrocities were committed by persons not from any act of schizophrenia or by untutored savages. We now know they were sane-minded, highly intelligent people, among them college graduates and professional men. They knew what they were doing was wrong, but did so with disdain and impunity. Their collaborators were equally highly intelligent who spent their time and money to fuel the conflict. Their combined action brought irreparable loss to Sierra Leone and its people beyond the most pessimistic prediction. The question of forgetting the entire episode is absolutely impossible. Victims will continue to live with the memory always. To sustain the value and importance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a margin for forgiveness may be allowed if offenders come forward voluntarily and of their own free will to purge their actions. The case of the child soldier or anybody for that matter drugged and led like a dumb driven cattle to kill, maim or burn down homes may deserve forgiveness. Another who was under duress and at the peril of his own life ordered to chop the hands of innocent children and the able-bodied to render them useless, might be forgiven. The irony of it all is that the one forgiven will not forgive himself and will continue to wrestle with his conscience all the days of his life. It is nightmarish. 

VICTIMS OF THE WAR

To begin with, it will be inadequate to take a parochial view of the expression “victims of the civil war.” There is hardly anybody now living in Sierra Leone who is a national that remained in the country throughout the war, as well as the ones that fled and returned at the cessation of the conflict, that did not bear the brunt of the war. The civilian population was completely uprooted and displaced internally suffering great deprivation as well as the refugees. The expression “victims of the civil war’ therefore serves as omnibus description of the entire civilian population in Sierra Leone today. Their fate is a social imperative that needs to be addressed aggressively, in the context of the hard conditions in the country. The challenge facing Sierra Leone to bring hope and aspiration to its suffering men and women is to address, as a matter of priority, its poor state of human development. Development initiatives must be taken up to improve the quality and quantity of the nation’s human resource. It is its valuable asset which, properly addressed, that can meaningfully contribute to the development process, so that the individual’s capacity is improved for a decent living. Extensive national recovery programme should be set in motion to give impetus to human development resource to proceed surely and steadily as the years go round and growth sustained. Conscious efforts should be made to reduce poverty and to open vistas of opportunities to all and sundry. In this way the fading fire of hope in the people will be rekindled to give them a direct blazing flame of hope. The government should strive to win around the confidence of the people. It should not rest on its laurels that there is peace - a shaky peace, as poor people can easily become angry people. 

Finally, all that has gone before will not become effective unless the government works closely with the international community to attract international investment, through a combination of private investment and donor funding.


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Issa Hayatou's Profile:

26/12/03. Mr. Hayatou has been at the helm of the African football governing body (CAF) during the last 15 years and will again contest in the forthcoming CAF presidential elections, which will be held in Tunisia prior to the 2004 African Nations cup. He was Sepp Blatter's opponent in the last FIFA presidential elections and has played a key role in the development of the African football by bringing in certain vital changes.

Pap Saine -Honorary Life President of Gambia Sports Journalist Association and member of CAF media committee- profiles the man who seems to have more in store for African football.

He has been re-elected four times (1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000), losing just three votes out of 51 in the presidential election of January 2000. Now he is seeking a fifth term. A popular figure in Africa, he was just 41 when he became head of CAF in 1988 following the death of Ethiopian Ydenkatchew Tessema. Hayatou also served as a FIFA Vice president and as chairman of the organising committee for the Olympic football tournament.

Last December, Hayatou, a Fulani, was named a member of the International Olympic Committee, having previously served in the structures of Association of National Olympic Committee if Africa. A physical education teacher, Hayatou was born in a regal family in Garoua in north of Cameroon on 9th August 1946. He is married with two wives and children. His father was the 'Lamido' or soverign of the region which his elder brother, Sadou, served as Cameroon's Prime Minister in the early 1990's.

A former international athlete and basketballer, Hayatou served as an athletics trainer before turning to soccer administration. From 1976 to 1982, he was secretary-general of the Cameroon Football Federation and then the central African country's Sports Director from 1983 to 1987. After being elected to the CAF presidency 15 years ago, he described himself as a fighter for equality in sports but added: "I'm not a revolutionary. I do not make changes just for change's sake."

He has enjoyed the loyalty of most of Africa by ensuring that each national association president has a place on one of CAF's standing committee. A number deserted him in 1998 when he backed Johansson's bid for the FIFA presidency against Blatter. But he now appears to have won back the defectors; his popularity comes as no surprise.

He constantly champions Africa's cause, his biggest success being to increase the continent's number of World Cup finalists from two in 1990 to five in 1998. He convinced FIFA to assist all African Football Federations. Another of his success is that he has promoted and developed football on the continent by instituting U-17 and U-20 competitions.


 

African World Cup In Brief
The first African nation to play in the world cup was Egypt in 1934 when any side that turned up was welcome. Egypt played one match loosing 4-2 to Hungary.

Later world cups became events for which teams had to qualify but for decades, there were no qualifying rounds in place for Africa. However, one place was reserved for the continent in 1970 and Morocco won it.

The first black African team to play in the world cup was Zaire (presently D.R. Congo) in 1974, even though their performance was very bad at the competition.

 

 

 


CAF SIDES OF THE CENTURY
CAF Team of the Century - Cameroon
CAF Club of the Century - Al-Ahly (Egypt)
-- Voting commenced in 2000


  AFRICAN FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR
(1970 TO DATE):

1970: Salif Keita (St Etienne & Mali)

1971: Ibrahim Sunday (Asante Kotoko & Ghana)

1972: Cherif Souleymane (Haifa & Guinea)

1973: Tshimen Bwanga (TP Mazembe & Zaire)

1974: Paul Moukila (CARA Brazzaville & Congo)

1975: Ahmed Faras (Mohammedia & Morocco)

1976: Roger Milla (Canon Yaounde & Cameroon)

1977: Tarak Dhiab (Esperance & Tunisia)

1978: Karim Abdul Razak (Asante Kotoko & Ghana)

1979: Thomas Nkono (Canon Yaounde & Cameroon)

1980:Jean Manga Onguene (Canon Yaounde & Cameroon)

1981: Lakhdar Belloumi (GCR Mascara & Algeria)

1982: Thomas Nkono (Espanol & Cameroon)

1983: Mahmoud Al Khatib (Al Ahly & Egypt)

1984: Theophile Abega (Toulouse & Cameroon)

1985: Mohamed Timoumi (Royal Armed Forces & Morocco)

1986: Badou Zaki ( Real Mallorca & Morocco)

1987: Raboh Madjer (FC Porto & Algeria)

1988: Kalusha Bwalya (Cercle Bruges & Zambia)

1989: George Weah (Monaco & Liberia)

1990: Roger Milla (St Denis & Cameroon)

1991: Abedi Pele Ayew (Marseille & Ghana)

1992: Abedi Pele Ayew (Marseille & Ghana)

1993: Abedi Pele Ayew (Lyon & Ghana)

1994: George Weah (PSG & Liberia)

1994: Emmanuel Amunike (Sporting Lisbon & Nigeria)

1995: George Weah (AC Milan & Liberia)

1996: Nwankwo Kanu (Inter Milan & Nigeria)

1997: Victor Ikpeba (Monaco & Nigeria)

1998: Mustapha Hadji (Deportivo La Corona & Morocco)

1999: Nwankwo kanu (Arsenal & Nigeria)

2000: Patrick Mboma (Parma & Cameroon)

2001: El Hadji Diouf (Lens & Senegal)

2002: El Hadji Diouf (Liverpool & Senegal)

2003: Samuel Eto'o (Real Mallorca & Cameroon)



 


 


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