Slavery & war. A negative view of what is in fact an exceptionally positive country. Today, I see Sierra Leone from an entirely different perspective.
Until a few days ago, if you had asked me to tell you about Sierra Leone, I would have had to think long & hard to tell you much about this West African country. I could probably have explained roughly where the country is located. I may have mentioned something about the slave trade being connected to Sierra Leone. I could certainly have told you that they had experienced a brutal civil war. I might even have admitted that I wasn’t entirely sure whether the war was 100% over. & that is about it.
The conflict was officially declared over in January 2002, & President Kabbah reelected in May 2002. Since then, the people of Sierra Leone have been pulling together to repair, renew & regenerate.
it is difficult to ignore Sierra Leone’s history & focus purely on the present. one time a fertile area inhabited by dozens of tribes, it was settled by the Portuguese in the 1400’s who built a fort as a trading post for gold, spices, ivory & slaves. A British protectorate in later years, Sierra Leone had the dubious honour of becoming home to over 40,000 freed slaves who gave Freetown its name. As a protectorate, Sierra Leone was exploited for its mineral & diamond wealth in the 1900’s & Sierra Leonean’s fought against the Germans in Cameroon in the First World War, & alongside the British in the Second World War. In 1961, Sierra Leone achieved independence from Britain & governed itself peacefully for 30 years. The peace was not to last & was followed by a decade of brutal civil war that destroyed the economy, brutalised the people & left a country that is rich in resources as one of the poorest in the world.
Whilst doing research for a old website looking at travel & tourism in Sierra Leone, I came into contact with Sierra Leoneans from all manner of backgrounds living in both Sierra Leone & elsewhere. Their passion for the country was infectious: they clearly wanted to get the message across that Sierra Leone has far more to offer than a sad recent history & that reconstruction is moving ahead at a speedy pace. & indeed, proof of reconstruction is everywhere – old …