Sierra Leona

Gibril Massaquoi, a former Sierra Leonean rebel commander, was acquitted on 29 April by a Finnish court, which was trying him on charges relating to the civil war in Liberia between 1999 and 2003, under universal jurisdiction. © Thierry Cruvellier

For any informed observer, the April 29 ‘not guilty’ verdict by a Finnish court in the trial of Gibril Massaquoi, a Sierra Leonean former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) spokesman who had long taken residence in Finland, was an anticlimax. That’s because the prosecution’s case all but collapsed during the court’s first sittings in Monrovia, Liberia, from February to April last year. I briefly attended one of those sittings, held at a small resort hotel at the outskirts of Monrovia.

One of Massaquoi’s Finnish lawyers had called to ask me whether I could support Massaquoi’s claim to her that I knew he could not have fought in the chaotic battles in Monrovia in 2003 – which grandiloquent Liberian vanity had cast as World Wars 1, 2 and 3 – since I had met him several times during that period at the safe house that the Special Court for Sierra Leone had secured for him as a highly valued witness.…  Seguir leyendo »

Con la reciente finalización de la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (COP26) en Glasgow comienza el desafío de convertir las palabras en acción, pero en las ciudades capitales en todo el mundo los obstáculos administrativos y políticos reducen la capacidad de sus gobiernos para hacer frente a la crisis climática con la urgencia que requiere.

Lo sé por experiencia. En Freetown, capital de Sierra Leona, los líderes locales están tratando de hacer frente al cambio climático en formas que ayuden a que la comunidad mejore su salud y resiliencia, pero la burocracia a escala nacional es un factor que complica las cosas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Health workers at an Ebola treatment center in 2014 in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The coronavirus has struck the world’s most powerful economies first, leading countries in Europe, North America and East Asia to carry out an array of strategies to help control its spread. But as the virus picks up speed across the global south, those policies may not be applicable there. Low- and middle-income countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria should not blindly follow strategies that are sensible for richer nations.

Europe, the United States and Canada can offset the economic losses caused by social-distancing policies with stimulus payments to businesses and individuals. China can mobilize the power of its state apparatus to enforce compliance with lockdown orders.…  Seguir leyendo »

MASIAKA, SIERRA LEONE: A soldier of the Sierra Leone's army stands next to a direction board in Masiaka, some 100 kilometres east from Freetown 17 may 2000, on the frontline. Sierra Leonan rebel leader Foday Sankoh was arrested early today in Freetown and later handed over to the police by British troops. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

There is one place in the world where Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is not vilified for his part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a West African country where, less than three years earlier, his government’s intervention helped to end one of the most vicious conflicts in recent history. In Sierra Leone, where he is a hero, the “Blair Doctrine” was a rare case of an overseas military operation not for strategic or commercial interest, but for humanitarian purposes and in the name of an ethical foreign policy. Blair would later write in his autobiography that the episode was one of his proudest moments in office.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this 2012 photo, voters in Sierra Leone wait in line to take part in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

On March 7, Sierra Leone will vote to elect a new president as well as parliamentarians and district representatives. Incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma, of the All People’s Congress (APC), is standing down, having served the constitutional limit of two five-year terms. His chosen successor, Samura Kamara, will run against Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Kandeh Yumkella of the newly minted National Grand Coalition (NGC). In addition to the three main contenders, 13 other candidates have provisional approval to run.

Could Sierra Leone be about to witness its third democratic transition from one party to another since it won independence from Britain in 1961?…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents assess the damage after heavy rains triggered flooding and a major mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone, last week. Jane Hahn for The New York Times

The calamity that struck Sierra Leone on Aug. 14, when Sugarloaf, the conical mountain overlooking the capital, Freetown, collapsed in a mudslide that swept away buildings and killed at least 400 people, was shocking but not entirely surprisingly. It is important to be blunt: The tragedy was entirely man-made.

This is a moment for grief, sympathy and emergency assistance to a country that has barely recovered from a devastating Ebola epidemic three years ago. But this must also be the time for Sierra Leone’s government for once to take drastic measures to make sure a similar disaster does not occcur, which is all but certain to happen if nothing changes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Much has changed in Sierra Leone. New arrivals no longer need ride one of the rickety Russian helicopters that once shuttled between the airport on one side of the bay and Freetown, the capital, on the other. Their successor, a hovercraft, lies sadly deflated on the Atlantic Ocean’s edge. “It has a small problem”, says a passer-by. In their place, two high-speed launches buzz travellers across the water. One has Wi-Fi.

I soon arrive at the New Brookfields Hotel, an ultra-shiny establishment that makes good on its promise of “quality and comfort in the city”. Seeing it makes me realise how much of its violent past this West African state of six million people has left behind.…  Seguir leyendo »

Yo era un joven médico asignado a la Unidad de Emergencias del Hospital de Niños Ola During, en Sierra Leona, cuando tuve que aconsejar a la madre de una niña gravemente enferma de malaria que dijera una mentira flagrante. Su hija Mariama, de cuatro años, necesitaba una transfusión de sangre para no morir, pero la madre no tenía dinero para pagar las pruebas de detección de infecciones y compensar al donante. Yo había visto a muchos niños morirse mientras sus padres buscaban desesperadamente los fondos necesarios.

Decidido a salvar la vida de Mariama, dije a la madre que volviera a casa y anunciara que su hija había muerto.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Sierra Leone waits for Ebola all-clear, its emotional scars will take longer to heal

Sierra Leone has just reported one week of zero confirmed Ebola infections – the first time since the deadly virus reached its border in May 2014. If there are no more infections for 42 days after the country’s last Ebola patient was discharged, the outbreak will be declared over. But the race to end West Africa’s Ebola epidemic is not just about getting to zero infections. It’s also about how the three countries most affected can deal with the broad humanitarian crisis the virus has left, which impacted livelihoods and led to food shortages, loss of education, widespread fear and mistrust in communities.…  Seguir leyendo »

El brote de ébola que comenzó el año pasado en Guinea, Sierra Leona y Liberia, tres de los cuatro países de la Unión del Río Mano, es el más grave registrado desde que en 1976 se diagnosticó esa enfermedad por primera vez en el África central. Las consecuencias de la epidemia han sido devastadoras y han puesto en entredicho los importantes avances socioeconómicos de nuestros tres países después de decenios de conflictos e inestabilidad.

Hasta ahora, esa región ha registrado un total de 25.791 casos y 10.689 muertes, casi diez veces el número de muertes de todas las epidemias de ébola combinadas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Port Loko is not far from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone and a global hub of maritime commerce. City and town, linked by paved roads, remain epicenters of Ebola transmission and deaths. Getting to zero new infections is the overarching goal of what is now the world’s largest public-health endeavor. But it’s still far from an ambitious clinical endeavor. The numbers say it all. Not a single American has died of Ebola; the majority of Europeans infected have survived; a Cuban survivor is already back here at work. Across West Africa, 70 percent of those afflicted die. And that figure applies only to the sick who receive care at treatment centers: Over 90 percent of those who stay home perish.…  Seguir leyendo »

This undated handout file photo issued by Save the Children UK on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, shows prospective health care workers in the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre being tested on their personal protection equipment procedure in Sierra Leone. (Louis Leeson/AP)

No evacuation plane to the United States or Europe awaited Dr. Thomas Rogers in early December when he fell ill with the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.

Instead, the highly trained physicianstruggled to be admitted to one of the few Ebola treatment centers in the West African country. After finally securing a bed, Rogers died on Dec. 5 , sharing the tragic course of the Ebola epidemic with his countrymen.

With the death of Rogers, nearly 10 percent of Sierra Leone’s doctors have perished from Ebola since the epidemic started in March. Among them are Olivet Buck, one of the country’s few female physicians, and Sheik Humarr Khan, who led the initial response to Ebola.…  Seguir leyendo »

La epidemia de ébola en el África occidental está destruyendo vidas, diezmando comunidades y dejando huérfanos a niños a un ritmo que no se había visto desde las brutales guerras civiles de esa región que se acabaron hace más de un decenio. En Liberia, el 60 por ciento de los mercados están cerrados ahora; en Sierra Leona, sólo una quinta parte de los 10.000 pacientes de VIH que están en tratamientos antivirales siguen recibiéndolos y el Gobierno de Guinea está comunicando un desfase financiero de 220 millones de dólares debido a la crisis. Si no se contiene pronto el brote, la mayoría de los beneficios económicos y sociales logrados desde que se restableció la paz en Liberia y Sierra Leona y desde que se inició la transición democrática de Guinea podrían perderse.…  Seguir leyendo »

Arriving at Port Loko, one of the largest towns in the north of Sierra Leone, is like reaching a country under siege. In the face of Ebola, the 500,000 inhabitants of this district have been sealed off from the world, stigmatized like a cellblock of criminals, and left largely to fend for themselves. Even to bring them food and schoolbooks, you need a government pass. And they are not alone. Counting other districts under quarantine, more than a third of the nation cannot move freely.

There is something chillingly familiar about the fear, suspicion and desperation I saw. The military checkpoints, the closing of schools and entire towns, people begging and queuing for scarce relief food all reminded me of a childhood in the 1990s I would rather forget — one of civil war, displacement and peril.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hoy, el ébola; entonces, la guerra. Me encuentro en Makeni, Sierra Leona, a donde he regresado hace ocho meses. Mi primera estancia en este país fue en los años 1996-2002, en plena guerra civil, la cual, después de 11 años, dejó el país destruido, millares de muertos, centenares de amputados y casi toda la población afectada de alguna manera. Fue una de las guerras más crueles de las que hubo en África en aquel tiempo: torturas, muertes, destrucción, amputaciones de miembros como estrategia de terror, miles de niños y niñas soldado...

A las confesiones religiosas también les tocó lo suyo: lugares de culto, de reunión, escuelas, clínicas, hospitales destruidos; varios religiosos y religiosas asesinados y, en gran número, secuestrados.…  Seguir leyendo »

Les travaux du Tribunal spécial pour la Sierra Leone (TSSL) se sont achevés jeudi dernier par la confirmation en appel de la condamnation de Charles Taylor, ancien président du Liberia, à 50 ans de prison pour sa participation aux atrocités commises par les rebelles du Revolutionary United Front (RUF) pendant la guerre civile en Sierra Leone. Cette condamnation, désormais définitive, est un événement en soi puisque c’est la première fois depuis les procès de Nuremberg qu’un ancien chef d’Etat est condamné pour des crimes internationaux devant une instance pénale internationale.

Toutefois, la dimension historique de ce verdict semble presque anecdotique au vu de son importance juridique: il existe toujours grâce à ce verdict une jurisprudence qui contrebalance celle récente émanant de la Cour d’appel du Tribunal pour l’ex-­Yougoslavie (TPIY), qui semblait rendre quasiment impossible la condamnation de responsables politiques de haut niveau pour complicité dans des crimes de guerre.…  Seguir leyendo »

Like most young boys, I read Shakespeare, played soccer and went swimming in the river. I dreamt of growing up to be an economist in my home country of Sierra Leone. In my wildest dreams I never imagined that I would become a child soldier at the age of 13, learning to embrace violence to survive, mastering the skills of how to kill men, women and children with weapons such as AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, Uzi’s and M16s. Yet, that was what happened.

I was a young boy when the war reached me. At the time it was evident that I had no other choice but to take part in the fighting because that guaranteed living for a few more hours, another day, or even weeks.…  Seguir leyendo »

The word "hunger" connotes two different experiences: deprivation and desire. In our two African countries, and in the developing world in general, nearly 1 billion people experience a severe lack of food and yearn to lift themselves out of poverty. For our world to be stable, it must become free of the worst forms of deprivation. For our world to be more just, the desires of the poor must be fulfilled.

A decade ago, the world agreed to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 as part of the UN millennium development goals. World leaders gathered in New York last week to renew their commitments for addressing global hunger, even as this goal is slipping away.…  Seguir leyendo »

Africa may have ­escaped the initial shock of the global ­financial crisis, but it is not being spared from its knock-on ­effects. Foreign investment is drying up, remittances are down, and NGOs are struggling to raise funds.

Charity is not a viable path to development at the best of times, but that is even more true today. Nervous investors and cash-strapped donors alike are going to be expecting a lot more for their money. The developing countries that weather the economic storm most successfully will be those that have a positive, coherent and ambitious vision for the future, and can show they are serious about implementing it.…  Seguir leyendo »

A government that was credited with shepherding Sierra Leone out of a brutal decade-long civil war - as popularised in the film Blood Diamond - is desperate to hold on to power as the country goes to the polls today in the second round of presidential elections. The government is facing an opposition riding high on a wave of dissatisfaction at the corruption, poverty and unemployment that continue to grip this small west African country five years after the war ended.

Sadly, this is not a unique situation in recent history. What is different here is the dominant role of Britain.…  Seguir leyendo »