My First Journey to Africa: Sierra Leone, Freetown – Kono

  • by


I at all times wished to go to Africa. Like most Afro-People, I grew up in an atmosphere idolizing all the things, Africa. As soon as I bought there, I understand I Knew nothing about Africa. My maternal grandmother made it clear that all the things Africa is finest. Granny didn’t, nevertheless, spend time disparaging the accomplishments of different cultures.

Rising up in Nicaragua’s Latino and black cultures. And for me, there is no such thing as a differentiating between these two ethnicities. Latinos are blacks, and black are Latinos. However this isn’t so for everybody who finds favor with one group.

In Africa, these distinctions will enlarge. Making a surreal world the place an elite minority will deal with different with detached. Typically stereotype can clarify issues If it was straightforward as black and white. Nevertheless, issues are seldom black or white.


The standard stereotype cannot clarify Africa’s ethnic variations; most folks’s look darkish to me, however they’re variations; variations that return for hundreds of years. The Sierra Leoneans requested me usually, “are you Nigerian,” “American” or “Hausa,” these often got here up. Chief Morsay outlined Biko and me as “white.” He advised us that we’re foreigners identical to folks with white pores and skin. His index finger was rubbing the highest of his hand for emphasis. When Afro-People do that in a dialog, we all know that it is an impediment akin to “Whites Solely.” “You are not Africans,” he stated. In Africa, it issues the place you come from, or from what aspect of the river; within the case of the Congo’s Bushong and the Lele ethnic group; what aspect of the river makes a distinction socially politically and financially.

However none of that was on my thoughts. I used to be excited to go to Africa. Referring to my grandmother’s Afrocentric beliefs; I wished to see for myself the grandeur of the continent that launched civilization and all the things that makes us stunning: The melanin, the curves, rhythm, the meals. A listing of protection mechanism, my shallowness used to fight the fixed inflow of American racist propaganda, the place all the things is about shade, and black is the shade that faints all colours.


Consequently, racism is the lens by which most Afro-People view the world. It is not a distorting lens; for probably the most half, the lens is correct; though limiting. Focusing solely on the one view. In a world the place human beings discover myriad of the way to segregate each other, racism makes this division potential.

It’s clear that the Belgians of King Leopold II acted in probably the most racist, inhuman manner in direction of the folks of the Congo. However in the end Mobutu Sese Seko of the Ngbandi ethnic group arrested Patrice Lumumba of the Tetela ethnic group. I do not suppose that ethnicity was the trigger for Mobutu Sese Seko transgression in direction of Lumumba. Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré, each are from the Mossi ethnic group of Burkina Faso. However identical to King Leopold II, greed was the explanation for Mobutu’s treachery in direction of Patrice Lumumba and the destruction of numerous Congolese lives. Compaoré did the identical in Burkina Faso securing privileges for a ruling minority; protecting energy on the expense of Thomas Sankara and the folks of Burkina Faso. Utilizing corruption, expropriation even international help to take care of energy. With no state to reply to, these males have been no completely different than King Leopold II within the inhumane remedy of their countrymen.

In Sierra Leone, the (RUF) will implement the identical, chopping off limbs and advert systematic rape and homicide; dispersing hundreds and enslaving the inhabitants to extract diamonds for his or her private wealth.


However poverty is a relative factor. Having grown up within the Caribbean and Latin America. I used to be accustomed to 3rd world actuality. However none of this ready me for Africa.


The quantity on conversations goes up the nearer you get to the African departure lounge. Issues are direct. Laughter strengthened; the sucking of the tooth is loud, the grins large.

The aircraft landed in Lungi Worldwide airport to an incredible refrain of cheers and applauses. Like a Hollywood emancipation scene, Africans are pleased and grateful to be dwelling. You’ll be able to really feel their pleasure. I too was excited, to greet the African air. Stepping out of the airplane, I discovered the humidity acquainted. What was completely different, was to look right into a crowd and seeing one shade of black folks. I attempted to not look shocked; I fake I have been right here earlier than. The Africans checked out me like if I have been right here earlier than too.

The tarmac and runway are large, like all airports. However at Lungi you do not see the buses, vehicles or the strolling tunnel defending you from inclement climate. All the pieces is open and vast because the sky. I did not see industrial airplanes or enterprise plane; simply empty tarmac with a far distant blue-green forest horizon with no buildings in sight.

Strolling into the slight immigration constructing was a shock, no crowds! I believed this unusual for a world airport. In some way, I believed they could be connecting flights to the opposite a part of Africa. Solely the individuals who shall be boarding on the identical aircraft in path to Liberia. Immediately as you enter the constructing, you see some outdated vogue cubicles with fashionable fingerprint recognition machines. Immigration officers have been straightforward and fast. They ask for passport and yellow vaccination card. Welcome to Sierra Leone!

The folks of Sierra Leone are pleasant; they’re beneficiant with their consolation zone. They greet you, contact you gently with a standard customized.

Ready for our baggage, I used to be attracted to 2 massive, very spectacular, standing wood sculptures. Two motion figures carved from a single tree trunk. Nobody paid these any thoughts. They stroll by them like nuisance African memento. I at all times appreciated the eye to element of African artwork; there’s a consideration for the viewer, the wearer, and dealing with of artifacts. This affiliation of welcoming artistically with dance, texture, meals and colours was for me African arts performance.

Though very spectacular, I didn’t know on the time; these two wood sculptures will characterize the end result of my African creative impression.

Leaving the airport, we see an indication with our names. Our host Chernor, we name him Cherry, prepare to have Lamin greet us and prepare the bus tickets that can take us to the seaside and the ferry to Freetown. Lamin works for a corporation that assists vacationers to Sierra Leonne. Having somebody on the bottom that speaks, Krio was calming. Krio is a greater bargaining language; exchanging cash is aggressive, some notes have preferences. So there’s room for saving when you can cut price in Krio.

Outdoors, they’re younger males promoting bus tickets together with Sim Playing cards. They’re aggressive, however not pushy. There’s masses of cash in sight constantly exchanging fingers. We anticipate the air situation mini buses to fill with passengers. The ferry will not be distant, a few mile. But it surely takes about ten minutes drive to get there. The highway is incorrect; I believed that this being the way in which to the airport it could be in higher care, however no. It was simply the begging of the numerous examples of neglect and corruption that the folks of Sierra Leone stay with everyday.

The seaside is large and clear; I discover this as a result of in every single place else appears to be litter with particles. I see some modest rapidly constructed shanties. I used to be in search of colourful fishing boats however didn’t see any. They’re young children, taking part in with torn and soiled western garments. They paid us no thoughts. Right now the little wharf was stuffed with the passenger from the aircraft, ready for the ferry; baggage and folks beneath a wood hut, with an armed guard. We waited for a number of hours. Will probably be sunset earlier than they known as our numbered tickets, the small ferry made a number of journeys transporting us safely to Freetown.

The boat experience takes lower than an hour to cross the ocean estuary arriving in Freetown at evening. The view was darkish with no figuring out options to see. Inside, our host Cherry and his driver Mohamed are there ready. They picked us out of the group instantly earlier than anybody gives to help. Lamin had despatched pictures. Cherry made positive that Mohamed will get our baggage. Cherry greeted us with an enormous smile, glowing eyes, on a vibrant spherical pleasant face. He instantly requested us concerning the flight and are we hungry. He stated he has cook dinner meals dwelling, “it could be too spicy for us,” he stated. So if we like, we will exit to get some meals. We go for the spicy meals; it was very late for our jetlag our bodies to exit. The streets in Freetown, at nighttime, are jammed filled with distributors promoting all the things. None of it appears to be like interesting to me. Freetown simply does not look clear. And it is a shock. A Massive shock!

We left the wharf on a two-lane paved highway lit with occasional road lamps. Mohamed is targeted on his process whereas Cherry does the speaking. I am glad he’s. The highway retains getting crowded the nearer you get to city. They’re plenty of young children out promoting stuff, something. I see plenty of bake good and fruits. All the pieces appears to be like lease. Issues really feel unusual, anachronistic, a bit misplaced, like if I’ve traveled again in time. The folks do not appear apprehensive concerning the visitors. The road is abuzz with African music. And the individuals are simply transferring with function in what looks like a chaotic order.


We journey on paved roads all the way in which as much as Faculty Highway in Godrich. Then we flip proper. And Mohamed slows to a crawl; the highway now unpaved turns into a collection of hills and gullies slowly main as much as the subsequent turns, just like the bus experience from Lungi to the seaside. There shall be extra moments like this. Mohamed is making an attempt to not have the underside of the automotive drag on a hill, patiently he turns. Like if he has achieved this plenty of time.


The automotive got here to a cease at a big metallic door, about 10 ft excessive. Surrounded by fencing simply as excessive with damaged bottles cemented on the highest. We’re three turns off the primary highway, a few of the homes have this barrier. So much do not; some homes are simply containers of corrugated scraps metallic wooden and cardboard put collectively. There’s a sense that Freetown was not at all times like this. These dwellings naked the scars and the stays of political corruption and a vicious, inhumane civil battle.

At Cherries dwelling, he introduces us to his uncle Mohamed, his sister Mimona and his “Home Boys.” Cherry has two “Home Boys” and a “Home Woman.” At first, I believed he was speaking about his kids, however no, that is what they name the servants or assist. Though they’re greater than servants, they should be really helpful by a member of the family. They name you “Sa” like yessa. Like I stated, It feels such as you’re again in time.

Mimona positioned a big bowl of “krain krain,” on the desk. Cassava leaf pounded and shredded with sizzling peppers added to the pot of fish and boiled Jazmine rice on the aspect. It was sizzling; that they had chortle watching our faces get vibrant. Though very spicy, it was scrumptious. The rice was useful calming the krain krain’s warmth. We would have liked one thing to drink. Small baggage litter Sierra Leone. This evening whereas consuming sizzling Krain Krain we have launched these ubiquitous waterbags. In keeping with the water challenge “Infections and parasites, most present in contaminated water, result in the biggest reason for demise in Sierra Leone.”

After a really lengthy journey, the mellow dance of Mosquito Smoke Coils, I used to be feeling drained. I wanted a shower. Reacquainting myself with these norms of the Caribbean and Latin America: The open bathe and chilly water. Ensuring to not drink the water from the pipes throughout my bathe. I went to sleep in Africa.

The subsequent day I noticed plenty of kids some in uniform. The colleges are out early for the little ones. Schooling in Sierra Leone is legally required. However a scarcity of faculties and academics has made implementation unimaginable the by-product of corrupt establishments plaguing this nation. I noticed a bunch of three strolling on the highway with a basket on their heads. They give the impression of being 5 or 6, too small to be strolling in a busy metropolis by themselves.


I noticed an individual on the again of a bike balancing a door. They’re, at all times males, using somewhat reckless swishing out and in of visitors on bikes with unstrapped helmets. Some carry greater than two passengers; I’ve seen 4 and 5 together with infants. They’re plenty of bikes; folks use them as taxis. Taxis have routes like buses. The DDR had an excellent thought for the younger combatants to turned of their AK 47 for Honda path bike taxi. Though lots of their raped victims, and amputees, wouldn’t suppose so. Freetown is a brave place dealing with a troublesome peace.


That Evening the darkish room began to maneuver. The curtains transfer like a ghost getting into the room with a moaning sound that bought louder. The wind started to accentuate, roaring and transferring the curtains vigorously. It was the annual dry Harmattan winds of the Sahara, making their seasonal journeys over West Africa. I used to be wanting ahead to them since I examine it in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s e-book “Half of a Yellow Solar.” I puzzled how all these corrugated shanties have been bearing. The winds have been as intense as a class one hurricane; I used to be settling for a protracted evening of wind and noise. But it surely completed as rapidly because it began. The subsequent morning, I bought as much as what would be the acquainted energy outage. Outdoors, on the porch, the view jogged my memory of my childhood in Bluefields, Nicaragua’ Caribbean coast, with large lush, blue-green mango bushes. That shades the blue sky stress-free the solar’s warmth just like the sundown after a protracted day. I used to be shocked. Nothing appeared misplaced from the Harmattan winds. Timber have been standing, and branches didn’t litter the bottom.


With the electrical energy and water at all times going out. We use rainwater from tanks. Everybody drinks water from the plastic sachet, on the market in every single place. Gasoline mills serenade the neighborhood together with the scent of cooking smoke.

Our conversations with Cherry and uncle Mohamed centered on the politics of Sierra Leone and the devastating civil battle. They are saying that most people from the nation are within the metropolis in search of work. Many ladies now in Freetown noticed a unique, extra emancipated life-style, the place unwilling to return to the nation. “Nation life is tough,” say Cherry.

Corruption, the decade-long battle are a few of the causes for the collapse. The financial insurance policies that make the importation of foodstuffs cheaper devastated the native farming and younger males who could be farming are in search of diamonds and trapped in a vicious circle, making import merchandise crucial and poverty inevitable.


Most the large grocery shops in Freetown appears to be personal by Syrians or Lebanese wanting folks (my stereotyping). In one of many grocery retailer. In each Isle, a Syrian individual was wanting watchful down the Isle. And one other Syrian individual sitting vigilantly behind the cashier, a younger black woman. Throughout the battle, the Syrians have been a goal of elimination.


It takes a very long time to drive by the jammed packed streets of Freetown. A lot of individuals are promoting one thing, something. Yow will discover something on the market on the streets of Freetown; it looks like everyone seems to be on the road: Males, ladies with infants tied to their backs, kids. And at instances, many instances, it appears to be like sorrowful, like surviving is their solely concern. It made me really feel grateful for the place I stay. Of us listed here are struggling; it is considerably unusual as a result of all the things they want is on the market on the streets. And their mineral rich nation able to offering for all their wants. Conversely, I noticed the identical darkish complexion one after the opposite! Block after block, mile after mile, hour after hours, day after day, working, the identical darkish pores and skin; this made really feel grateful to go to Africa.

The subsequent day we journey to the province of Kono to fulfill the Chief. It is a lengthy drive. Alongside the way in which I see Chinese language males constructing a brand new highway. Paramount Chiefs, due to divine proper, owns all of the land in a specific area; they’re many chiefdoms. The Chiefs decides who will get what. For those who’re not from the identical tribe, you’ll in all probability will not get land from the Chief. However for probably the most half, Chief will allow you to use the property. Chief Morsay was variety. Alongside along with his African-American daughter Sia, an sincere businesswoman with a sort streak. Sia donates her time and assets to appropriate injustices whatever the social norms. Her entrance door usually stuffed with neighborhood kids taking part in together with her kids’s toys. They know that Sia will feed them. We witness a bunch of highschool women asking for sponsorship. Due to her charitable status, Sia will get many of those. The Chief explains that this creates confusion. Issues have their place in Africa. However Sia is making adjustments, and her father is listening. They share a mutual respect.

We bought to Kono within the night. After some pleasant chat and introductions. The Chief took us round to see his city. Kono is much from Freetown however seemed simply as miserable. It was darkish, with no streetlights and plenty of diamond sellers. Nevertheless, even in darkness, Kono is pleasant, the folks spoke and have been excited to see the Chief. His persona is pleasant. However, you could not see, like an influence outage. Did I ponder why, why a lot poverty? Why does not the federal government deal with important companies?


In entrance of Chief Morsay unpaved dwelling, bikes move loaded with three to four peoples; typically with bundles of lengthy grass for bedding. The blue smoke hangs within the heat air, morning, midday and evening. Africans are cooking with charcoal furnaces, I see them on the market on the aspect of the highway.

The Chinese language are on the brink of lay down asphalt on this a part of Kono; It is dusty, a combination of brown and grey mud and free gravel. Outdoors all the things is roofed with mud. Folks stroll up and down more often than not transporting water. I see plenty of goats, geese, geese, and chickens strolling like members of the village.

Nobody pays the animals any consideration. Automobiles are aware to not hit them. They’re no visitors cops or crossing guards. There’s a fixed honking of horns; drivers honk folks they’re about to move. Nobody is in a rush. Youngsters stroll holding one another’s fingers.

At times an enormous lumbering truck will go by with muddy wheels. Some roads are like little lakes, with folks washing garments and taking a shower.

Within the village, they use mud bricks to construct houses. Individuals are outdoors doing chores. Males are standing round guarding bikes ready for a fare.


Sia and the Chief took us to a village the place they’re planning to construct a hospital. They inform us the mortality fee is excessive. It is a harmful to get sick right here. Driving into this space is troublesome. The village chief praises Sia and provides her a blessing.

Sierra Leone has the very best fee of maternal mortality on the planet. Una Mullally stories from the Bonthe District within the rural southwest, the place teen being pregnant charges are excessive, and requirements are scarce.

They may take us to see the mining of alluvial diamonds and coltan. The sight is so spectacular it is onerous to explain. Maybe a whole lot of individuals, males, and girls mining particular person plots on high of a hill; with hand instruments. Employees transferring up and city like and an ant colony. You’ll be able to hear many languages spoken. The work appears to be like onerous.


I used to be amazed to see two women panning for gold within the brown river. They have been pleased to reveal. I used to be entertaining the concept that I will see gold, however probably not. However after a few swirls, identical to that the pan had specks of shining gold. I seemed round, and all I noticed is a forest. The women with gold of their fingers don’t have anything to point out for it. Over time they most’ave generate hundreds of {dollars}.


The folks of Sierra Leone are variety. The SUV we drove has a battery drawback; it won’t begin in a single day. The lads who come to assist arrived with a wire. Not a jumper cable however with a wire peeled on the ends. I believed this was very harmful. And why there is no jumper cable and why this course of is the choice. Recycled water bottles crammed with gasoline are on the market on the aspect of the highway. They bump for gasoline with an vintage hand-crank so outdated that I by no means even have seen it within the motion pictures.


We drove again to Freetown; it appears to be like lots dirtier that the nation. I do not suppose they decide up trash right here. Though they most eliminate the rubbish someplace. I noticed a burning heap of rubbish. I could not be certain. However I believe it was the dump. It did not look that completely different than the opposite blocks. Apart from the smoke. However I child you not; Sierra Leone is filled with trash and folks shouting at one another, not in a impolite manner. For those who’re gentle spoken, no one will hear you in Sierra Leone.


I used to be speaking to the “boy” Muhammad, he’s not a “boy,” that is a cultural norm. Muhammad will flip 27 this month. He’s a pleasant one that treats folks with respect. I requested him “how a lot he will get paid?” He does lots round the home, in addition to drives in every single place. To my shock, he advised me that, “this isn’t a paying job,” he stated it was his obligation to be respectful to his elder, and that is what he’s doing. He stated his uncle suggest him to come back right here. He stated he hopes to be within the place to do the identical for others.

We made a cease at Mohammad village; he was pleased to drive move each farm, waving at his neighbors. We went to his uncle’s farm to get a goat for supper. Mohammed was exhausted, though he would not say it. He is been driving for hours. The chief negotiated for us fee with a colleague for an in a single day lodge. He didn’t prolong this to Mohammad. He advised him that the place has a safe compound that he can sleep within the automotive. Or he can keep within the employees quarters. I believed for positive he was going to take the quarters, however to my shock, he slept within the automotive. Though unusual to us, Mohammed just like the Chief understands that everybody has a spot in Africa. Mohammed stated that in Africa all it’s important to do is be respectful and pray.

A number of the root causes of the battle lay within the marginalization of younger folks by the attitudes of elders and conventional leaders.

Conventional establishments, managed by the village elite and courtroom chairmen “paying themselves” by arbitrary and extreme fines.

Exploitation of the labor of youth by customary regulation is a long-standing observe in Sierra Leone and the broader area. Jim Crow was not only a racist establishment. It was a system that exploited labor.


My ideas, nevertheless, was for tomorrow’s supper. Cherry will deliver somebody to slaughter and butcher the goat for dinner. Goats are in every single place within the nation. Cherry stated that they at all times return to their pen and folks by no means steal them.


It is unhappy how soiled this place is. I noticed a person sweeping the sidewalk. He had a few piles of trash. It seemed like he took it upon himself to maintain his little nook of the highway clear. However the trash was simply to the aspect. And the folks have been already stepping on it.

The individuals are very pleasant. Regardless of all of the stuff they should promote. Nobody is chasing you to purchase one thing. However when you select to purchase one thing, they arrive dashing with a competing cut price. I believed strolling at evening would possibly give me a brand new perspective on Sierra Leone, it did. It made me really feel extra depressed how unhappy the vast majority of the individuals are residing.


You do see a number of costly automobiles. Right here they lease an SUV for $100 US a day. You see costly fits on the market on the sidewalk. They’re so many individuals promoting that you may’t see the buildings. All, a black economic system. Nobody pays taxes. The nation is broke.

Some folks actually have a police escort an officer strolling with a machine gun. I’ve to remind myself that this place simply bought true a brutal civil battle. A lot of the younger males might’ve been little one troopers.

The folks with amputated legs and arms look worst off. 1$US right here is about 7,500.00 Leones on the streets. Cherry tells me that neighboring Liberia is worst and that the folks from Liberian and Guinea come to Sierra Leone to work as a result of it is lots higher.


They’re indicators reminding civil servant that taking bribes is against the law. By now, I could not blame them. They simply do not receives a commission sufficient. And the devaluation of their forex is not any assist. When the Governments cannot pay its debt, they print cash. By Regulation, The Central Financial institution is liable for regulating the monetary sector. If, the Governor of The Central Financial institution could be courageous sufficient to criticize spendings. He ought to keep in mind that his successor in 1980 Sam Bangura, criticized Siaka Stevens’s insurance policies for being profligate. Sam Bangura physique was thrown from the highest ground of the central financial institution constructing onto Siaka Stevens Road.


The brutal civil battle in Sierra Leone didn’t result in institutional adjustments. A minority elite nonetheless controls the nation and is intensifying their political energy. The state all however stays absent. The democratic election 2007 return to energy the APC, the occasion of Siaka Stevens. Though Ernest Bai Koroma did not have an affiliation with Siaka Stevens, different members in his occasion did. Two of Siaka Stevens sons Bockari Ok Stevens Ambassador to the USA and, Jengo Stevens particular advisor to the president and Ambassador to Germany. Lack of political centralisation, the folks curiosity, makes this election simply as risky because the democratic election of 1971.


I just like the meals in Sierra Leone, particularly combined with the recent peppers. However my abdomen was beginning to flip. The climate is gorgeous not too sizzling. Nevertheless, Freetown is a metropolis that I used to be prepared to depart. By now even the noise air pollution was bothersome. I attempted desperately to purchase a memento. However all the things on the market was an import. I used to be in search of a hand-crafted doll. There have been none to see. All dolls are the plastic MATTEL sort. Cherry took us round to search out genuine African memento. I noticed some stunning African material. They’re all imported from China. The textile trade in Africa is all however gone. A budget Chinese language import makes it troublesome to compete. At first, it was straightforward to establish faux African material made in China. However their know-how has improved. The batik and Kente material look stunning. It is difficult and costlier to get hand-dyed cotton batiks from Ghana and The Gambia. With an limitless donation of garments to Africa, they too are struggling to outlive.


The bargaining was intense. When a vendor quoted me a value, one other vendor would beat it. If I take a look at a specific shade or type, one other will present me comparable. Quickly they’re going to get a really feel for what you are wanting. As soon as Cherry got here on the seen talking Krio, the costs drop much more. His eyes will bulge in shock as he sucks his tooth and shouts Eh! I ask for and African doll. The seller stated he would get one. He got here again with brown MATTEL. I advised him I wished one made in Africa. He stated he has one, however I must come by tomorrow. I am positive he would have created one over the evening.


We bought prepared to depart. Lamin met us at Lungi Airport once more. I used to be shocked; Chery advised him to test on us. By now we have been accustomed to the sound of Krio. However I used to be glad for his help once more. He suggested to test in and get our tickets stamped later. The aircraft won’t go away for some time. He took us to a spot throughout the highway to attend and get a drink. It was time to chill out in a courtyard beneath a tree. I requested concerning the variety of kids on the road. He stated that some household from the nation would ship their little one to a different household within the metropolis for an training. However plenty of folks exploit this or are too poor. So the ship the kid out to earn cash.


Can issues get higher? Positive they’ll. Corruption won’t change with governing. However at the least The federal government can present for clear water, electrical energy, training, phone, a sewage system, public well being and clear roads.

Anticipating a discount within the measurement of the Authorities sector, versatile alternate charges, privatization, enhancements within the effectivity of public service provision could be an excessive amount of to ask.

But when we’re asking, why not add a highway community linking them to different cities within the space and the remainder of Africa, and enhancing the functioning of the state anticorruption measures and, final however not least, how about some regulation and order for the federal government.


Source by Manuel A Palacio

Leave a Reply