For those who don’t know, I come from Sierra Leone. Yes the “Blood Diamond” country. It’s sad to see that most beautiful and proud nation be known for conflict. I wasn’t born in Sierra Leone (Both my parents are Sierra Leonean) but that doesn’t mean that I love it any less. I went there in ’87 when I was just a few months old and spent a total of 14 glorious years there.
It’s the country where the people are nice to a fault, where everyone greets you with a smile even if they didn’t have breakfast that morning or even if they are unable to feed their loved ones. Sierra Leoneans are easily the most tolerant and jovial people on earth, the streets are lined with celebrations when the animists have their “devil” parades(I’ve been to a few), the gorgeous beaches are full of people on Christmas day and Easter, and on Eid everyone (Muslim or non-Muslim) joins in the celebration. We are a very laid back and relaxed people.
If only the world would follow our lead. I miss the minibuses with their social messages painted artistically all over them. “In God we trust”, “No condition is permanent”, “Jah Bless” are some I remember from my days there. Through all the murderous rampages, the hacked limbs and the sheer terror of conflict if you asked any Sierra Leonean how they felt they will most probably just shrug and say “God Dae”, loosely translated means “In God we trust”. The ability to turn despair into hope is what makes Sierra Leoneans a special people.
If you have been fortunate enough to visit the country its natural beauty is there for all to see. The white sandy beaches that meet the Atlantic Ocean, magnificent forests and wildlife and the islands off the coast are truly great places to visit. Bunce Island and its connection to the transatlantic slave trade, where so many of our fellow Africans were shipped into bondage, is rarely spoken of. The fact that Freetown was a venue for a battle during the American War of Independence (attacked by the French) has been relegated to the very Dark alleys of History. The fact that Sierra Leone was once known as the “Athens of West Africa” due its once renowned Post-Secondary education system,( The Fourah Bay College was established in 1827) where Nigerians and Ghanaians and others would come for education. We’ve got historical landmarks, churches and mosques that are close to 200 years old, older than the nation of Canada as we know it. We have secondary schools that were built in the 1840s.
Yet it is conflict that most people associate this great nation with, murder, greed and corruption are what we are world renowned for now. We have a great history full of achievements, challenges and we are well connected to one of humanity’s great failures: The Transatlantic Slave trade. We still have that connection to this day, the descendants of Jamaicans, Nova Scotians, Londoners live amongst us, and indeed are a part of us now. Bob Marley day (May 11th) is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Reggae fans in Freetown.
So I’ll conclude by saying that the reason I love my country is because of the nature of the people, the kindness they are capable of, and the tolerance that is a part of our identity. The events in “Blood Diamond” did happen and were by no means exaggerated (it was sanitized in my opinion). The war started when I was 4, ended when I was 15, so I and many like me knew only war in our childhood. Having said that, you should realise that the true nature of Sierra Leoneans is the direct opposite of what is seen in the movie. Think of heaven with beautiful people and stunning landscape and know that’s what Sierra Leone truly is like. The future holds greatness for my country, I can feel it, because as we say back home “God Dae”…