A history of dark stories in the black continent

Sierra Leone is such a country. A country full of dark stories, where the really dark part of the Black Continent is experienced. It is really hard to be a child in this country; to be a mother here is hard as well. It is a country where mothers long

Sierra Leone is located in West Africa. It is neighboured by Gina in the northeast, Liberia in the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. Its surface area is 71.740 square kilometres and it has a population of 6.296.803.

Wars of the giant West African countries developing in the Niger basin, which started around the 1200s, disturbed peace in the region and some tribes began to move to more peaceful regions.
In 1462, Pedro de Sintra and a group of seamen from Portugal set foot in the peninsula where the current capital Freetown is located. As the horizon view of the mountain in the peninsula looks like a lion, they call it “Sierra Lyoa or Sierra Leone (Leon Mountain).” They built a castle here in 1495 and then occupied Sierra Leone shores. The shores of the region became dominated by Portuguese, British, French and Dutch sea pirates and were used for piracy and slave trade.
The London Resolution of 1772 to abolish slavery and free slaves changed the destiny of Africa. The looked for new land to settle black slaves freed in America and Britain, and purchased land from the shores of Sierra Leone to settle freed black slaves. In 1792, Freetown was founded.
Today, it is estimated that more than 70% of the population of the country are Muslims, 10% are Christians and the remaining are from local religions. Sierra Leone is rich in terms of mines like diamond, gold and titanium. Around the 1930s, rich mine reserves in Yengeima and Kenema regions were operated by English companies. After gaining independence in 1961, the company Diminco was established with 51% belonging to the state and 47% belonging to British company De Beers. Moreover, there are more over 2000 diamond mining companies.
As a result of the British dominance in the operation of mines in the country and illegal sales on the other hand, people of Sierra Leone have not properly benefitted from its diamond reserves. On the contrary, when diamond was discovered in the country, most of the local people dealing with agriculture started to search for diamonds and they were forced to work in the mines with no pay. In fact, during the bloody civil war period, which started as a struggle to seize these sources, they were taken captive by gangs and forced to work in these mines. As a consequence, agriculture, which has previously been their livelihood, has been paralysed.

Civil war years

Sierra Leone Civil War started in 1991 by the RUF (The Revolutionary United Front) led by Foday Sankoh. During the conflicts that lasted 11 years, almost 100 thousand people lost their lives and more than 2 million people (more than one third of the population) had to move to neighbouring countries.
Control of the diamond mines was the main reason for the civil war in Sierra Leone. First campaign activities of the RUF started in March 23, 1991 in the eastern Khailahun region. Within the following four months, 107.000 refugees fled to Gina, escaping from the chaos in the region.
The most shocking thing was that the massacres in Sierra Leone lasted for years while the United Nations just stood by. A small number of civilians sent by the United Nations for humanitarian purposes dealt with the treatment of the wounded that could be taken to the hospital among those whose extremities were cut by the RUF militia. Those who were not that lucky died of blood loss.
With the support of international powers, the Lomé Peace Accord was signed between President Kabbah and RUF leader Sankoh on June 7, 1999. As a result of this agreement, Sankoh took office as vice president. Part of RUF members started to work at certain offices of the state. The United Nations sent a peace force of 6.000 to Sierra Leone. Nigerian soldiers were pulled out of the country.
Immediately after this accord, RUF members started to violate the terms of the agreement. They got involved in incidents of taking hostages and cutting their organs. On May 8, 2000, RUF members opened fire and killed at least 20 people protesting this violence in front of Sankoh’s residence. After this event, Sankoh and other leaders of the RUF were imprisoned and the positions of the RUF members working for the state were terminated. Civil war did not end until 2002.

Bloody Diamond

Foday Sankoh became ill and died in prison in June 2002 before his trial was completed. A very small part of the RUF leaders were tried and sentenced by courts. The majority of RUF militants were recruited by the army to adapt to the new administration.
Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was also responsible for the violence in Sierra Leone, was hidden by the Nigerian government until 2006 and then he was surrendered to the United Nations forces for trial by the War Crimes Court of the Hague. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2012. The former President of Liberia is the first state president fined by an international court for war crimes after the Nazis who were convicted in Nuremberg.
Today, thousands of people living in Sierra Leone struggle to live as amputees. Some beg in the streets for a loaf of bread while others have to break stones all day with a single arm or leg. Another tragedy is the children who were forced fight by threat, intimidation, torture and forced drug addiction. Thousands of young people in this condition suffer mental problems. Almost all of them are witnesses or victims of murders. The majority of these young people with unsound mental health are unemployed and do not want to remember those bad days.

None of them really knows why and with whom they fought. The only thing they remember from those days is: “If we did not agree to join them, they would cut our arms and legs. Or they would kill us. Or they would kill our families…”


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