BY FATMATA KAMARA
Sierra Leone, a small country on the West Coast of Africa, boasting of natural resources of innumerable quality and quantity, was originally supposed to be the shining light of Africa. In fact, at independence, hopes were sky-high and the sense of anticipation burgeoning for this nation on the cusp of a sound and stable success. It had all that was needed to engineer economic and political prosperity: Sierra Leone had the first university in West Africa, Fourah Bay College. These factors ought to have made the country a living paradise; instead, it became a living hell. As history has shown before, wars can diminish even the mightiest to nothingness.
Today marks an important milestone in the annals of the history of this country. Exactly 18 years today, rebel forces of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) / Revolutionary United Front ( RUF) invaded the capital city, Freetown. They waged on innocent Sierra Leoneans: a war of wanton murder, rape of children, crude amputation of children, men and women, senseless arson- nauseous atrocities that were enacted in the city of Freetown, leaving over 5,000 dead, hundreds amputated and over 4,000 houses burnt down in a schizophrenic orgy of violence.
The worst happened to us on the 6th January, 1999. False propaganda, lies and innuendoes were spread to the public. People preached hatred, ethnicity and war. They unearthed deadly grudges and nurtured bloody malice – all these inflamed the fire of war.
At a tender age then, situation forced me to scream, “Mama run, mama run”, coz my childhood had been polluted with horrible sights. I had no idea what death truly was but I knew the gravity of what was happening. I knew if my mother hadn’t run, we would have been killed, I knew the effect of the sound of AK47, RPGs, etc. Children screamed, women cried, men wailed. We became animals, butchered each other, slaughtered each other, ambushed each other. It accounted for so many unfortunate things – innocent and defenceless citizens killed; women raped and their dignity abused; arms and limbs of the long-suffering rural poor chopped off. Endless rivers of blood flowed in the streets of Freetown and Mama Salone cried for peace. It was blood, tears, sorrow, pain, death and agony.
Eighteen years on, we remember all those who perished in the orgy of murder, rape, pillage and mutilation. We salute you posthumously, for you stood up to the beasts and with a loud cry, you said ” NO” to repression, oppression, suppression and tyranny.
This is a day Sierra Leoneans must never forget in a hurry. We must deeply sink into thinking the causes of January 6 war. What were the political, ethnic, economic, religious, sociological and psychological circumstances that nurtured the war?
As we commemorate this very important and solemn day and as we remember our heroes and heroines who lost their lives in the most horrendous manner on this day in 1999, we must also celebrate their selfless sacrifice. Let their deaths serve as an inspiration to us in tirelessly working towards a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Sierra Leone. Let us make their dreams come true. Let us be willing and ready to think Sierra Leone and not self. Let us be more willing to selflessly serve a cause greater than our individual selves. Let us preach love, peace, tolerance, patience and oneness coz on “UNITY, FREEDOM AND JUSTICE” we stand. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
What we suffered, we must not allow our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to suffer.
Long live Mama Salone.
Long live its citizens
Long live UNITY, FREEDOM AND JUSTICE.
God bless us all.
Fatmata Kamara aka Fatty K
Student at FBC.