January 6th, a day for national reflections and healing in Sierra Leone

Alhaji U. N’jai: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 07 January 2022:

January 6th, 1999, the most dreadful single tragic day in our nation, Sierra Leone’s history. A day like no other in our 10-year civil war with thousands killed, maimed, and their bodies left to rot in the streets without proper burial.

It was a day out of a whole civil war that lasted from March 23,1991 to January 11, 2002. Statistics from Crimes of War Project reveals that around 75,000 people lost their lives, 2 million were displaced and about 20,000 were mutilated.

Hence, January 6th should in earnest be a day in our nation’s calendar to reflect, mourn, and learn lessons from the spoils of our 10 year brutal senseless rebel war.

Yet, on a day like this in our nation’s history, yesterday, I saw no official holiday to commemorate, no official government speeches to mark the day, no massive official national discourse on what led us to war, no official civic education on national identity and cohesion, and not even an official memorial service, prayer session or community service.

In the 23 years since January 6th, we have simply normalized one tragedy after another – from War, Cholera, Ebola, Flooding, Sugar Loaf Landslide, to Wellington Fire Disaster.

We have become the land of “copers” and survivors, while the daily malaise and structural violence that led us to the brutal war, Ebola, Sugar Loaf Landslide, and Wellington Fire Disaster continues in our political economy without tangible transformational solution.

As we continue to normalize these tragedies and move on without healing, I hope we will one day as a nation take a pause to truly reflect on our national malaise since independence. Wouldn’t such a day for reflection, healing, closure, civic education, and remembrance of our dark historical past be elevated to a holiday?

As a nation, we currently celebrate a host of national and international holidays that are far less significant to our national cohesion compared to January 6th.

The emotional and psycho-social scars of January 6th and the war are still with us; youth violence, indiscipline, breakdown in family and community structures, drugs and opiate abuse, mental health issues, rape and teenage pregnancies, breakdown in education system, and an Okada generation – are just some of the effects that linger on.

Forging on the path of development without truly healing from the past, leads us nowhere. May the souls of our fallen compatriots on January 6th, 1999 and all other tragedies that have begotten us as a nation rest in peace.

May we learn lessons from the past and forge a true national transformational development blueprint that is built on cohesion, economic freedom, social inclusion, empathy, mindfulness, and justice.

2 Comments

  1. January 6th 1999, should always go down in our long and checkered history as one of the darkest moments in our lives. When SOBELs/AFRC and a ragtag rebel members of Foday Sankoh’s RUF disturb the gentle and easy going lives of Freetownians, and subjected them in the most cruel and despicable atrocities man is capable of inflicting on his fellow human being, this day will not be forgotten in hurry. May the souls of all those who lost their lives, including my cousin Mohamed Deen, rest in peace. For it was on this day in 1999, that our fellow countrymen and women, that took up arms against the then government of Joseph Momoh, reached the citadel of power in the vain hope of taking over the government and imposing themselves on us through the use of the barrel of the gun.

    As we remember the past, we should always keep an eye to the future. For what we see happening today in Sierra Leone under the one directionless government of President Bio, he seems to have learnt nothing from his experiences and is busy pushing the same tried and tested policies that plunged our country to a, senseless civil war, with out thinking about the consequences of his actions. Bio is a national security threat. We can fight and conquer the covid19 pandemic, but right it will take the collective will of the Sierra Leonean voters to overcome the Bio pandemic.

    • Thank you for this piece. We think alike. I wish to make contact with you.
      It will be great if we can discuss this further. @geopaulmaca
      Thanks

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