Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Bans Christmas, New Year’s Celebrations to Prevent Spread of Ebola

The Rev. Pauline Njiru, of Kenya displays a poster showing how Ebola can be tran
The Rev. Pauline Njiru, of Kenya displays a poster showing how Ebola can be transmitted. Photo via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

The government of Sierra Leone banned public Christmas and New Year’s celebrations because they may exacerbate efforts to eradicate the Ebola virus.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said that despite immense help from the international community, the number of people infected with the virus continues to rise.

Ebola infections in Sierra Leone recently surpassed those of Liberia and Guinea.

“The illness started at the border and now is in the cities and close to 2,000 people have died from the outbreak,” Koroma told reporters. He asked traditional leaders and tribal chiefs to quit performing rituals in hopes that will help curb Ebola.

The majority of Sierra Leone’s 6 million people are Muslim, but Christmas is widely celebrated among the 27 percent of people who are Christian.

Officials said soldiers will be deployed on the streets and people are advised to stay at home with their families.

A Decade After War, Sierra Leone Still Struggling to Find Peace

In the aftermath of former Liberian president, Charles Taylor's conviction for war crimes this week, author Greg Campbell writes for The Atlantic that the children of neighboring Sierra Leone still suffer in abject poverty:

Ten years after the end of Sierra Leone's bloody civil war over control of its diamond fields, children as young as 3 years old continue to toil in its mines, hoping at best to earn a few pennies for food in a country still wracked by extreme poverty.

Read his full piece here

World Malaria Day Concert for Sierra Leone

Dengue fever info-text. Via mrfiza / Shutterstock
Dengue fever info-text. Via mrfiza / Shutterstock

When I moved to Washington, D.C., I—like perhaps most other 20-somethings—imagined this place as a hub of both political thought and non-profit zeal; the coexistence of both worlds, all to change society. Lofty ideals, right? Perhaps.

Ideal, meet the venue Busboys and Poets plus friends and co-laborers in the fight for justice: Faiths Act, ONE, Malaria No More, and the 9/11 Unity Walk. Last night, a handful of musicians and spoken-word artists united in faith and activism under a common cause: World Malaria Day concert for Sierra Leone.

Continent of Hope

Forgive a typical American if she were to pay a visit to the West African nation of Sierra Leone and be confused by her surroundings. If she had ever heard of Sierra Leone before, it might have been while watching the movie Blood Diamond, which graphically depicted some of the worst depredations of the conflict there, such as the rebel group RUF’s amputation of limbs, the drug-crazed child soldiers, and the links between criminal diamond-dealing mafias and the war economy.

If this visitor to Sierra Leone had been reading occasional international news missives over the years, she might have remembered something about a rebel group that hacked the limbs off civilians to punish them for voting, or perhaps might have remembered that al Qaeda laundered money in the Sierra Leone diamond market before and after 9/11 to hide its assets.

Given that context, she certainly would have been quite astounded to have joined me on my visit to Tongo Fields in eastern Sierra Leone, the heart of the diamond-producing area and the site of some of the most intense fighting and horrific atrocities in the last century in Africa. What she would have seen in fact defied all expectations—the kind of low expectations that have come to mark international attitudes toward Africa in general.

Tongo Fields is a place crawling with former child soldiers, heavily contested by three political parties in last year’s election, and placed at further risk by a winner-take-all electoral process that dictates access to diamond profits as a result of victory at the polls.

Before Sierra Leone’s historic 2007 election, every conflict indicator was flashing a red alert. Africa “experts” around the world were predicting that Sierra Leone, only half a decade after the end of its brutal civil war, was perhaps heading back down an inevitable road toward a return to war.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2008
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Why Kosovo and not Sierra Leone?

Although Kosovo has consumed the public’s attention, the suffering caused by violent conflict is even greater in many parts of Africa. Sierra Leone’s rebel war—in which thousands of crude amputations are just one of many terror tactics routinely employed by a rebel army trying to remove the country’s democratically elected government—is the most glaring display of inconsistency by both the U.S. government and the media. One calamity takes place in Europe, the other in Africa. When the United States failed to act to prevent the Rwandan genocide, Jimmy Carter voiced the thinking of our nation’s leaders: They’re poor. They’re black. And they have no oil.

Ancestral home to millions of Americans, Sierra Leone has many historical connections with the United States. The Gullah people of the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina have cultural traditions and genealogical roots that go directly to Sierra Leone’s Mende people. American slaves who fought with the British during the Revolutionary War were repatriated to Freetown, now the country’s capital. Steven Spielberg’s Amistad also underscored the many links. With all of these connections, Sierra Leonean immigrants are bewildered by the lack of attention paid to the wholesale destruction of their homeland.

Sierra Leone has never before known such violence. Initiated and supported by neighboring Liberians since the early 1990s, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels have inflicted suffering on every ethnic and religious group within the country. They have built their army with children, many not yet even in their teens. As defenseless villages are attacked, young boys are forced to kill their parents, relatives, and childhood friends. Traumatized, orphaned, and threatened with death if they attempt to escape, these children are then adopted into the rebel family. Girls, even as young as 7, are taken as sex slaves and later offered "promotions" as guerrilla fighters.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1999
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