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.