I’ve also posted this, my earlier observations and photos on something called Facebook, which Karen Lowell assures me is the next big thing. Jim Chitty and Jeff Langholz are posting trip stuff their too. Thanks.
Rambling Salone Daily Log:
Monday, May 20. Finally off to Sierra Leone. Trepidation over the years on going to Salone with regard to safety, guilt from doing enough, etc. Now it’s only excitement that now is the right time with the right people and 25 years of life experience to perhaps provide some better insight as to development and charity.
Tuesday, May 21. Went to Andrea and Allen’s in Mt Vernon, WA. Gave twins Odessa and Christopher each a head lamp for camping. Playing fishing with kids and talked politics with Allen. Discussed Solomon’s ailment, adult onset epilepsy, with Dr. Andrea.
Wed, May 22. Arrived on time in Brussels and transferred to exit gate in good shape. I saw Jim Chitty first and then Jeff Langholz arrived soon after. It was like we hadn’t seen each other in 25 days, not 25 years. I also met Henry and Moira Coker from Houston and Mohammed Kargbo from Texas who were Sierra Leoneons on their way to Freetown as well. People asked why we were going and were surprised that it was just for a visit and not a job or program. Jeff, Jim and I seemed to think the same thing – we were ready to go back and it’s been a long time coming.
We arrived in Freetown. I allowed a “sky cap” to buy a cart and help with the luggage. While waiting for the luggage, he kept asking for $5. I had been speaking English with him up until this point, then switched to Krio asking what was his hurry? We had to wait for the luggage and so told him to just chill out. This was the first of many times where I realized knowing Krio would certainly change how people perceived us and engendered a sense that we were not strangers to be taken advantage of easily but familiar to the country. We watched the sun set and talked with the children at the beach while waiting to take the water taxi over to Joseph Lamin’s lodging in Lumley. Saw internet cafes and lights on in Freetown.
Could not keep the smile off my face today. Sierra Leoneons seemed genuinely happy we had returned here not to “fix” anything but just to visit. At least half a dozen radio staions on the FM dial in Freetown.
Thurs May 23. Met with Valerie Staat, Peace Corps Director and later US Ambassador Michael Owens.
Got money changed.
Bought a cell phone.
Tamba Allieu, Solomon Thomas and Mike Brima came by and had dinner. Tamba’s vehicle was in the shop and so Solomon said we could use his vehicle. Turns out Solomon must be a bigger wheel than I though. Tamba told us about the war. How it first came through Kailahun, then to Koidu, and then spread out to the villages. One night they heard shooting and took off to the bush to hide. They sent men to the village to spy the rebels and they were not there, so people returned to the village. The next time, the rebels did occupy the village, so the villagers fled to Guinea. Tamba said he could only stand the refugee camp for 6 months and then fled to Freetown. He said it didn’t matter in the camp if you were a chief, MP, etc – all were treated the same.
After meeting the PC Director and Ambassador, I reflected that they seemed to treat us with respect in that we were back on familiar ground in a country we knew and that we could travel and interact in a way they could not because of our knowledge of the language and customs. Knowing the language was a huge game changer. At places like the US Embassy, where perhaps the Salone staff is used to English only speakers, greeting them in Krio and their realization that we are fluent in Krio seemed very disarming and immediately put them at ease and in our trust. Further, all 3 of us lived in remote areas, which also earned respect as many we spoke to could not live in these areas of their own country.
The PC Director commented that the entire budget for PC worldwide is $380 million. I wondered how many military weapons it would take to make $380 million. Not many.
Like catching a king salmon, the year’s first deer, watching my nieces and nephews catch a fish, untying the boat and setting sail for a spring king salmon trip – the smile has not left my face since arriving. Every day gets better so far. We all realized, too, that the kids we met – the current PCV’s – weren’t born when we were here. For whatever reason, I don’t think any of us feel that old, which is a great thing.
Jeff used many “Dan Lavin said” phrases on the trip and his advice always seemed relevant and appropriate to our groups mentality. After I gave out a hand full of tic tacs to the children at the boat launch and then created a mini begging riot, I realized I need to be discreet handing out any gifts.
Jeff and Karen worked at AFK Hatchery for Eric Prestegard, who is now at DIPAC, during the oil spill. Jeff said on the ferry ride over you never know where helping someone out like I did helping them get a job at AFK would lead in their lives, and now also in my in my current position at ADFG.
Fri May 24. Rode upcountry to Koidu, and spent the evening at Tamba Kamara’s nice house. He gave his bed up to Jim and I. I used my cot for the first and only time of the trip. Tamba’s wife Juliette fed us well and his son Samson was active. Solomon came to the house with Francis’s oldest son Alieu, who I thought might die when he was a newborn as he was sickly. Now he was a honda taxi driver. Solomon looked okay, but frail. We discussed his eplipsey and he said he was taking phenal barbitol, which is what Andrea said is standard treatment. He said he could get the medicine from the hospital. When I saw how frail he was, I asked if he was eating properly, and he said some times he’d go a couple days without eating. I thought right then that it was likely the lack of eating that was keeping his health poor.
The next day we went to the market. I bought rice, maggie and onions and a 120 pack of Nescafe instant coffee singles and a cutlass. Jim shopped as well. We headed down to Jim’s village, and 3 of us got out in a village before Jim’s when the road got bad, and the driver Abdulai took Jim the rest of the way with less weight. They offloaded my maggie and coffee at Jims, so I bought it all again in Koidu on the way back through to Kangahun.
We arrived in Kangahun right at dusk to hugs and hugs. Kerosene lamps are a thing of the past – LED lights are now the norm. After all the greetings, Tamba, Francis, Solomon, Joel Thomas and others told harrowing and brutal stories of the war. Not for my benefit, as much of the talk was in Kono. Where we were sitting is where the rebels staged. They burned the town and killed people by the school. Solomon said the big valley behind town saved many of them.
These people are truly happy to be alive and happy I came to see them. In fact, I’ve only been begged by the crippled and blind since I’ve been in country, and have donated to them. There was a full moon and we stayed up late. The village is newer and larger but I can’t see all of it till light. They said they had to leave my radio behind in the bush when they fled. I wonder if it helped them hear any happenings up until then.
Sunday May 26. Had a welcome ceremony first thing in the morning with in the court barrie with the town. Was welcomed by the town. Mike handed out the soccer balls sent by his brother and me, and markers and pens and a blow-up globe I brought for the school. I wore my Africa clothes I had made in Mali.
Diesel powered rice thrashers are now used instead of motar and pestle. About $3.00 US per bag (12,000 le). Trees are humongous now due to lack of any cutting during the war. Good for the soil, but hard for a farmer to remove by hand. A chain saw (German-made Stihl 070 w/bar and chain – one of the best made) costs about $1,200. Chain saw rental is about $50 per day plus petrol and chop, so return on investment could be fairly quick and might be a good loan option to Francis. Provides another cash crop for boards, charcoal (the fuel of choice now in the urban areas that has largely replaced firewood), and firewood for local use.
Clover type vegetation present in town where it was only bare dirt before. Sheep seem to eat it. Looks like it is slowly being scraped up to remove hiding places for snakes and scorpions.
Western type (not secret society) tatoos somewhat prevelant on younger men. Not sure if all or any are related to war activities.
Motorcycle has replaced Poda Poda as vehicle for hire. Bikes are made for 2 riders and the driver, and I’ve seen up to 5 on a bike. New bike, including documentation, customs, insurance, licensing, etc. costs $1,200 and includes a helmet. Drivers who work for an owner pay the owner about $7.50 US dollars (30,000 leones)/day for 6 days and the driver gets all the proceeds on the 7th. Bike payoff time is therefore about 6 to 8 months.
Gold mining is only allowed in the forest thus far in our area – not in agricultural area yet.
Wildlife came abundant in the area during the war. Monkeys and deer were common in town as the bush took over. Some coffee and cocoa farms were overgrown and some were able to be reclaimed by brushing.
A house in my village costs about $1,500 US dollars to build, or about 6.0 million leones. Francis may want a larger house for his tribe.
Herbicides are replacing brushing to clear swamps.
Monday, May 27. Lent Alieu $1,200 for a motorcycle business. Wrote a contract which also gave Solomon lifetime rides at no charge.
Some type of malaria vaccination now given to all children, and each house has a sort of chalk mark sign denoting children there have been issued the vaccination.
Table top hand-crank food grinders replacing mortar/pestle to grind plasas.
People asked me if we have grannies in the US because they never see them in any of the US movies. Movies are now a nightly occurrence here. Many Nigerian (?), with US and others as well, I guess. 2 generators going every night, one for the DVD movie theatre and one for a street light and both charge cell phones for $1,000 le (25 cents). Cell phones are the new boom box. Music downloaded to them by blue tooth.
I helped Tamba Kamara (the tall Tamba Kamara) clean cola nuts yesterday, and today I watched him and just talked with him. He said there is a community bank in Gandorhun where you buy shares to become a member and then can borrow money. He borrowed money to buy his water pump for gold mining and for the house I’m staying in, etc. He said at first he took small loans and when those were paid back they gave him a larger loan, and when that was paid back, an even larger loan. Talked with Francis about the war and looked at the rice thrashers.
Tuesday, May 28. The mouse that ran across my bed last night came in again tonight, only this time it was under the mosquito net. I yelled and jumped out of bed and saw it under the net but I didn’t grab it in time and it got away.
Spent Monday evening at Francis’s. Solomon is eating like he’s going to the chair and has not been getting enough food. I think 2 plates of chop – one from Francis and 1 from Ma Saidu – then a plate of cooked mangoes in palm oil, which tasted like tomatoes to me.
It’s something that I can come here and hang in town and not have any one really think twice about it, since they know I know this is my town. And that I’m just here for a visit and no other mission. Sill hard to wrap my mind around sitting here knowing rebels came through, were camped right here, killed people behind the old school, then burned the village and then the village lay abandoned for years and the bush grew back and there were deer and monkeys in town and now the people came back after they were scattered far and wide to return to their home village and start again.
Another mind blower is I have not taken a crap since I’ve arrived here Sunday, and today is Tuesday. Not a hint of sickness.
Francis has about 4 goats tied to his cooking baffa that were in his rice farm. He said Salone passed a law that during the 6 month rice season animals must be controlled. He said Guinea passed the same law and if it was there, the would have the legal right to kill the animals. Now that the rice thrasher is here, there will be a large supply of rice bran for fish feed. If the animals were under control, that would provide manure for pond fertilizing.
It’s the wee hours of the morning – I’m not sure the time – a late full moon and no one is stirring. I took a bucket bath next to “Main Street” in the moonlight after the rat woke me. I stood in the village at Francis’s and could not remember ever having this sense of complete contentment – a smile from ear to ear and just taking it in – people are laughing w/you, not at you , and being the brunt of a joke is a sign of acceptance and love, for sure. I feel no ADD, am not hungry much and thirsted only for water, although it sure would be nice to get some palm or bamboo wine. The guys here my age now complain about the younger ones drinking – the same guys who I used to sit with daily and drink palm and bamboo wine with Solomon. I’ve served anyone who comes by coffee in the mornings. We’ll see if we can go through the 120 pack box of Nescafe instant coffee by Friday.
My ass hurts from sitting on these hard wood benches, so I should do some farm work today.
Had pineapple today – wow. So in late May – pineapple, bananas and mangos are in season, and oil palm nuts. Roosters just starting to crow now, so I’m guessing it’s 5 am ish. Have only gotten BBC on shortwave once. China radio English show once. The rest of the English shows are Christian religious shows. No VOA, even. They can get the radio station (FM) from Freetown/Koidu here, but you need a bigger set. My small one can’t pick it up.
I’ve noticed people here have multiple pairs of footware. Kids were playing in the puddle in the rice drying concrete pond – no need for a T.V. Komba and Masi were in the forest getting pineapples yesterday at Francis’s farm. I can just imagine a US kid trying to follow those two through the thick jungle.
I don’t think I can look at “development” the same way after 25 years. I’m in a position to kick start some businesses here w/Francis and to take care of Solomon, unlke when I was in the Peace Corps. I also think if I ask for small things made by hand or foods to carry back that it’s a trade. Also, the war has made my view change, too. Damn, these people are something. Give a man a cutlass and he will eat for a lifetime. He can make everything he needs, from a farm to a fence to a trap for bush beef to a mattress.
As I looked around today at the huge trees surrounding the village it reminded me of a a football stadium, with the village as the playing field.
Seeing much more availability and use of “western” medicine and country medicine for tooth ache, malaria,etc is still in use. I saw Famusu put eye drops in a woman’s eyes yesterday, and I’ve seen Francis take some kind of tablet several times.
More Tuesday, May 28. Watched Mike Brima and Solomon build a bench and the fork in the road – the one place some people with the right phone can get cell reception. My cell doesn’t receive the signal well enough, though.
Built a bucket mouse trap with Komba and Masu, will see tonight if it works (it didn’t).
Peter talked about the war. He showed me a scar on the top of his hand where the rebels threatened to cut off his hand at his farm in the middle of nowhere.
The Spanish Red Cross asssisted with several projects here. I have yet to see any sign of US assistance evidence.
Wed. May 29. More changes noticed. People now have jackets to wear in the “cold”. Children speak excellent Krio now where they only spoke Kono at this age 25 years ago. Alieu came to show me “our” new motorcycle – a 140 cc TVS model made in India. He took me to Foindu to see Fa Si’s wife, who was not there. I left sambas and the paper photo of the fish farmers with his daughter or granddaughter. I did see Ishiaka and Mr. Smart. A good thing RPCVs could do would be to get their old photos to their villages since most lost any they had in the war. Rebel grafiti on a building in Foindu and on Pa Sam’s place in Baoma. Pa Sam died in Guinea, as as did Solomon/Francis’s mother. Went from Foindu to Baoma w/Alieu to see Pa Sam’s wives, and gave them each a fish pin. Then walked back to Francis’s farm, and saw a rice thrasher in operation in Baoma on the way. Komba is a planting machine.
Came up with a master financial plan. Kai Pessima, the son of Tamba Pessima, the ag extension agent I knew well who recently died, was raised by Francis and got his construction school credentials in Freetown. Francis is so proud of him. He needs carpentry tools to get steady employment now (about $600 for all). When Alieu repays half his loan, Kai will take that and get his tools. Both will repay their balances until the $1200 is in the account. Then Francis will take that money and Kai will build him a house which I will be able to stay any time I come there. I will also look into loaning money to Francis for a chainsaw as that looks like a money-maker, too.
Everyone has a flashlight. Radios and cell phones are plentiful.
Kids on the farm here have job skills for life by age 12.
Pa Komba Thomas said he learned from me that you don’t need sugar to drink coffee. When they were on the run during the war, he said he remembered that and still drank coffee even if he had no sugar.
Thursday, May 30. Last day here. Peter Thomas had me to his house to see his catch of crabs in the traps he made. I had coffee with Pa Thomas. Lots of plastic now making a mess everywhere with no garbage system. I heard Guinea has a recycling program.
Thought today that a new program might be if you are going to mine gold, you do it in such a manner that the pits are large enough to stock with fish.
Our generation last to take 2 wives – I only saw young men with one wife, now.
People using real toothbrushes now.
Kids have footware.
Teachers make 95,000 leones at the school – less than $20 US /month – and still don’t get paid on time.
When the mining operation in Koidu relocated people to new housing so they could dig under their current homes, they replaced 6 room houses with 3 room houses.
Had first bowel movement since arriving in village. Inhaled and gagged on a bug in the outhouse. Yuck.
Komba, Masi and a friend off to collect cola nuts in the forest to sell to their uncle Tamba Kamara so they can buy shoes – the kids already connect work to purchases.
Francis’s son John spoke Mende to a man who walked by. He said he learned it in the refugee camp because he was boxed in by Mendes and did not like that they were speaking Mende and he couldn’t understand. Amazing people here – I felt the same way with Kono, but never got past learning a few phrases.
Solomon and I sat on the veranda at night for the first extended rain, as lightning lit up the Kangahun.
Friday, May 31. View from my seat – children scrapign grass for scorpion/snake prevention. Motor/pestle working to make something for breakfast. Goat sitting on the wall of the destroyed court barrie. The pet monkey is at his station. Iman calling for prayers. Christian church drums playing. Titi selling plasas. Chickens are out looking for food. A boy is pulling water at the spigot.
Abdulai showed up right on schedule early. Tamba Kamara gave me the phone number to Patricia, his niece who he said lived in New York. I had early assumed he meant New York City, but he said he didn’t know if it was the city or elsewhere in the state. When I saw her phone number, it was with a 716 area code. The very same area code as I had growing up. I suspected she lived in Buffalo, the largest city with that area code now. I would later find out I was right. I talked to her by phone from the Newark airport. She and her husband had received refugee status somehow through Buffalo from where they were in Ghana (I think), so that’s how they ended up there.
Francis family had worked hard the day before. Women went to harvest pepper, which was overflowing, with lots of peper that had even started to rot. I got a bag of rotted pepper from Famusu for seed, which I eventually left by mistake with Solomon, but Mike got me seed in Freetown. Francis and a work party brushed his swamp. So, it was a later start than usual, and we were delayed an hour or so waiting for chop and saying goodbye, which was both expected and enjoyable. No one was in a hurry. Frances joined us and said he would meet Alieu on the way and ride back with him. I said my goodbyes and they were not tearful as 25 years ago as I fully expect to be back.
When we saw Alieu, we stopped to let Francis off, and then I realized why he’d gone w/us – to gift me a country clothes outfit. I squeezed into it straight away for photos. We talked shortly about the business plan, and said our goodbyes, which was not difficult since I know now we will be back, and sooner than later. We dropped the head master of the school off near a diamond mine in Koidu. He had gone to collect the teacher’s salaries. Mike, Solomon, and I continued to Koidu with Abdulai, where we greeted and thanked Tamba Alieu profusely. Cell service was spotty from the other side of the Gori Hills to Koidu, but I make contact with Jeff, had him text me Jim’s number (which I had not gotten for some reason), and sent a text to Jim when I couldn’t make a call because his phone was not on/in range. He later called, as he also had one place to get cell reception, and said he was in Tonkoro and ready to go. We filled up the car in Koidu and Aiah Fille
came over to collect Solomon’s things, as Solomon was going with us to Kenema to see his daughter. I thanked Aiah for taking care of Solomon and said he was a good brother.
We left for Tonkoro and got Jim. I bought 10 bunches of bananas for about 15 cents each and handed them out to any kid I saw and we ate our own share, too, as Jim finished up with last minute photos and goodbyes. We got on the road. Jim said his bed was worse than my grass matteress – like sleeping on nut shells. Both our assess hurt from sitting on hard benches. Jim did miles and miles of walking. As we traveled south to Kenema, saw a lot of war destruction. The words “bastards” came to mind or to my lips often. When we reached Kenema, Solomon’s granddaughter met us on the highway, got in, and directed us to his daughter Agnes’s compound. Again, no one was in a hurry as we all expected things to take time. This may be one of the biggest skills we had as RPCVs – we knew what to expect and rolled with any punch. After greeting all around, a beautiful woman in her 30’s, dressed in full African dress, manicured and painted toenails, obviously
financially successful, and with a smile as big as a city block introduced herself to me. I did not hear her name. I said I remembered Sia Mama, Bondu and Fia coming to my house and maybe she came with them. Then she pointed to herself and said “I am Sia Mama”. I was stunned to see this obviously successful, beautiful woman, full of life and realize it was, indeed, the same Sia Mama. The smile gave her away. I embarrased her, to her enjoyment, with stories to the crowd of her antics as a child. I asked her what she did and she said “business”. She was obviously doing well. Another successful child of Francis. Again, on this trip, anything that could go right, did.
Solomon explained in front of everyone that it had been too long since he had seen them, but he had had no money due to his sickness preventing him from work. These are some of the mysteries to me how his niece and other family members are doing so well and yet he has virtually nothing. I think it’s because he’s too proud to ask for anything other than what’s given him for basic sustenance, but I’m not sure.
I had taken off my country clothes in Koidu so I wouldn’t soil them, and because they were tight on my fat bod. Of course, when we went to offload Solomon’s things, a container of palm oil had spilled and got on the clothes I’d tried to protect! I handed off some money to Solomon to keep him for awhile. He thanked me profusely when we said goodbye for everything, and I was glad to leave him with his family. It’s good to know I’ll have a place to stay in Kenema if I ever need one. I also left my phone with Solomon. I can text him now anytime I want.
Kenema had lots of activity, newly painted/constructed (?) shops, etc. Diamond buyers by the dozen. If Kenema was alight with activity, Bo was absolutely on fire. Bo seemed like a new city, bursting at the seams. Our first clue was a new soccer stadium on the edge of town, complete with what may be the country’s only “off” ramp from the highway. When we entered Bo, I didn’t recognize the place where I’d spent over a month training, and had visitied many times during my PC days. The town seemed 2 or 3 times bigger, with newly painted shop after shop and lots of street vendors.
It took us awhile to find Jeff’s place. We saw a group of white 20 somethings, thought they might be PCVs, but I tended to think maybe a church group because they were healthy and well-dressed. Turns out they WERE PCVs and not only that, COSing PCVs. One kid was even buff. Another sign of the healthy times in Salone. We pulled over and called to them. The two women in the front of the group ignored us, but two of the guys finally talked to usand gave us directions to Jeff’s hotel. We talk them we were RPCVs and one asked if we played poker (YES!) and that they were having a game later at Murrays internet cafe. I wished we had made that game. When we finally found Jeff, I commented on how those PCVs looked healthier after 2 years than we did after 2 weeks!
We collected Jeff and talked about chop. We were a little anxious with the traffic and then the rain started, so we eventually just started for Freetown. Jeff told us stories of his trip.
Jim and Jeff mostly talked to each other in the back seat, as Mike and I and Abdulai listened. I interjected here and there but mainly listened. All of us experienced good health. Both Jim and I didn’t crap for 4 or 5 days, and Jeff was similar. Jeff said recent raiding occurred at his village at night, so all bad war stuff is not gone everywhere. It sounded like all 3 of us were making plans to return.
We drove through heavy rain at night, and had a few close calls with hondas coming onto the main road from side roads, construction piles, etc. We stopped at Moyamba Junction for food. We had goat soup and rice for 5000 Leones a plate and it was great. I also got a Parrot energy drink for Abdulai for the road. The goat soup was friggin’ excellent.
We stopped for gas near Freetown. We dropped Mike on the outskirts of town and made plans with him for the weekend to River #2. I gave Mike 45K leones for copying the photos and video he took to DVD and 90K for himself and school. He is studying construction similar to Kai Pessima and worked hard doing farm work during our stay in Kangahun. He was not a city boy.
The PCVs in Bo were the only white people other than the PCV we saw near Makeni and 2 Lebanese in Koidu. We also saw a fat black boy about 16 year old in Kenema we all thought must be American.
Sat. June 1. In Freetown, Jeff and I went to an internet cafe in the morning and I could not get on to my Yahoo account because Yahoo saw I was in Africa and wanted answers to security questions I couldn’t answer properly. We went to River #2 in the afternoon where the other 4 went swimming and I watched the stuff and drank Star Beer. Met a Pakistani who was shooting a sling shot at cans, and never could hit one. Turns out he was the chief of witness protection for the Salone War Tribunal, and had done similar work in Ruwanda. Met a New Zealander who worked for GOAL. Met an IRC worker who had worked for USAID in Liberia and was a PCV in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Colorado.
Took my country clothes shirt to the tailor near the lodging, where he did a great job, even though he charged me about 10 times what the Salone boys thought the job should cost. I gave the $500 for the Cheshire House to Joseph Lamin. He spoke of working on schools with Cindy Nofsinger, as well as NFL Minnesota Vikings player Mario Williams, and Kai somebody, who is a famous soccer player. I didn’t notice mosquitos last night so didn’t use the net. I got bit about 50 times on feet and arms that weren’t under the sheet.
Sunday, June 2. Fish assessment for Gbane. Inventory fish pond sites. Estimate costs to renew ponds and costs of production and return from yield. Estimate total acerage of ponds and total estimated yield potential. Find out daily labor cost of a gold digger to determine cost to rehab ponds.
Went to grocery store and bought sewing needles to mend clothes on flights home and newspapers for Salone RPCVs in Juneau town. Talked with a guy named Johnnie who had been in Congo and known Marwan there. Bought some red bag coffe at another store for gifts to go with cola nuts Tamba Kamara gave me. Went to River #2 in the late afternoon and ate lobster from the grill and more Star Beer. God Bless Star beer. We did not swim as it had rained. Went to Lumley Beach for a few beers in the evening and it was much more developed than in 1988.
Joesph Lamin’s place on Wilkenson Road a great location. Ecobank is next door, with beer store next to that downhill. Uphill, Ibite restaurant and grocery store. Phone time across the street, and bread. Chinese restaurant also across the street. Wish there was a chop house nearby but we couldn’t find one. Ibite has fried rice dishes that were good. Tailor shop next door.
Francis Kamara’s war story. The rebels first came in from Kailahun District to Bunumbu. Aiah Biu was the first person killed in Koidu Buma near Gandarhoun when the rebels came into Kono. Francis met a brother in Kwela Gia who said rebels had come. A meeting was called in Gandarhoun. When shooting was heard in Kongwehko, he left with 49 family members for the bush. He said in some didn’t flee at the first arrival of the rebels, and tried to come back to town to get possessions, and these were the ones who were killed or enslaved. He said he just left everything and fled rather than worry about possesions. He fled to Lei cheifdom for 5 years, until the rebels finally came there. Then they crossed the river to Guinea. The first camp they went to in Guinea was Tumadu UN Camp. Rebels crossed the river and went into the camp to try to get Salone people to come back with them, and of course tried to steal any possesions or food they had with them. A rebel
leader spoked with Francis and asked him to return with the rebels and that they would “protect” them. Francis said that sounded like a good idea, that he’d discuss it with his family, and let the leader know in the morning. When he returned to his family, he said to pack their things and they fled that night further inland to Bordu Camp and was there for a year. When rebels came to that camp, they moved on to Kissidou for 9 months, where they were not treated well by the Guineans. So, they moved to Simbuku for a year. There, they were treated well. They taught Guinean women, who’d only farmed with draft animals (cows), how to garden by hand. Guineans loved them for it, and even took produce to Koidu to sell and wanted them to stay and be agriculture extension agents. From there they went to Conakrie, by boat to Freetown, then to Pujehun for 11 months and finally to Koidu. He wanted to return to Kangahun but stayed in Koidu for 10 years because
there was no school in Kangahun for his kids. I can’t tell from my notes if he spent much time in Conakrie or Freetown. He tried mining in Koidu and got tiefed and vowed mining was no good and returned to farming. Famusu and Manyenae borrowed from a Fulla women to sell market goods, eventually earning the woman’s trust and love to this day. Francis made a farm and garden for food in Guinea and Koidu. Although refugees, Francis said he did not struggle in Guinea. He’s a farmer and bushman and he and his family can make it about anywhere they can farm. He’s been back in Kangahun about a year. He started the journey into Guinea with 49 people, and eventually ended with 21 as people got separated at the camps. But he lost none to direct death by the rebels.
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