Freetown, Baby!

Road to nowhere? by jc2010sl
July 21, 2010, 5:16 pm
Filed under: public life, travels | Tags: , ,
Traffic is pretty horrendous in Freetown, largely because there are only 2 routes to the city. The northern side of Freetown gives out onto the sea and to the south are the steep Peninsula Hills. Heading east the only way out is the Kissy Road, and to the west is the Lumley Road. Pretty much all traffic coming into or out of the city takes one of these roads, with the result that they are always jammed, and sometimes totally grid-locked.

Maybe it’s because the Western end of town is less crowded, maybe because it’s where the political class lives, but on this side, the roads are being widened into dual carriageways. There was a lot of activity clearing a path for the new Lumley Road on Saturday. Groups of people set about the dwellings and shops next to the road with sledgehammers and crowbars gleefully pillaging anything remotely re-usable. Corrugated iron, tyres (to hold roofs down) and long planks were all dragged away. One man was even smashing the concrete off some steel cables that had been used to reinforce it. No less a person than the President himself came to visit the site and review the “work”.

Of course in the long run, improved infrastructure is precisely what the country needs – enabling people to access jobs in town and bring their goods to market. But I doubt there is any form of compulsory purchase equivalent in Salone. And it is the poorest, living in shacks next to the main arteries, who feel the brunt of the development.

Justice within reason by mabrajeux
July 16, 2010, 12:24 pm
Filed under: public life, society | Tags: , ,

As I try to keep up with UK news here in Salone, I read with interest of recent plans for court closures in the UK. The Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, announced on the 23rd of June that 157 out of 530 courts in England and Wales would be closed. So far, so normal in the political and economic context… But it also caught my attention because of the parallel it draws with some of the issues I have encountered here in Sierra Leone.

In my job as a legal consultant I have been going up country to learn about how victims of sexual and gender based violence can access justice, finding out from police staff, prosecutors, judges and local NGO workers how things can be improved for the victims of such violence. One of the most prominent issues that was highlighted is literal, physical access to justice, or rather, to the places where justice can be granted.

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Monkey business by mabrajeux
July 13, 2010, 9:29 pm
Filed under: nature - wildlife, photos, travels | Tags: , ,

This week-end, we escaped from the craziness of Freetown and made for the hills of the peninsula… It only takes a 20 minute drive up the hill before you reach the lovely village of Regent, and then the road gets a little bumpier and a little dustier and you hit the jungle. First on the right, it looks almost too narrow, but there’s a sign there, insisting that it is, after all, the right direction. The track gets progressively worse and then suddenly the track’s not under you but literally in front of you, shooting up and only to be tackled with the help of a four-wheel drive.

Then, at the top of the hill, here it is: Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The Sanctuary has been running now for nearly 15 years, rescuing chimpanzee which are all too often captured to be sold as bushmeat or pets. After an obligatory 90-day quarantine (chimps can catch many human diseases, such as meningitis, flu or even malaria!), they are slowly introduced to communal life.

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Bushmeat by jc2010sl
July 9, 2010, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Being stuck in the clotting traffic on the Kissy Road has its upsides. You’re in a perfect spot to see the unusual wares on display in the East End. There are barely any shops to speak of in Freetown, so almost everything is sold on the street. Sometimes quite literally on the street.

I’d not eaten any lunch and it was well into the afternoon, so I got out of the car and had a little stroll to see what street food was on offer. I saw some fairly unappetising foodstuffs – fish balls smothered in a chilli sauce, and something that looked like grilled aubergine. I asked how much it cost, and almost as an afterthought what it was. “Giant snail” came the reply. I would have tried it upcountry, but I’ve seen the filth that a Freetown snail slides through.

My encounter with Bushmeat was pretty vanilla though compared to some of the things on offer. Despite the prohibitions, a particular delicacy upcountry is chimp. I recently asked a colleague what he’d been up to at the weekend and he said he’d been upcountry where someone had given him a chimp. Somewhat taken aback I asked him what for, hoping somehow I wouldn’t get the answer I expected.  “Very tasty” he said, patting his stomach.

The moral; if you’re squeamish or concerned about upholding the law it’s a good idea to ask before you eat.

So much trouble by jc2010sl
July 6, 2010, 11:12 pm
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Krio is a lot of fun as a language, but it’s not the richest when it comes to vocabulary. I guess this is hardly surprising when it’s essentially a pared down version of English. Any time you want to describe something positively you reach for the same adjective. How do I say a view is beautiful? “I fayn”; How can I say my dinner is tasty? “I fayn”; how do say this car is quick, well, you can guess the answer.

Language is framed by experience, so I guess the words a people have developed tell us something about it’s history and circumstances. The Inuit have 40-odd different words for snow, or so we’re told.

Given the troubled beginnings of the Krios – most of them were former slaves who’d endured a terrifying passage across the Atlantic to a land riddled with disease, it’s not surprising that the language has so many words for “trouble.”

The least worrying kind is “Wahala” – trouble that can be dealt with. Then there is “Tranga” – your common or garden trouble, or even “troubles”. There are also different troubles according to its origins; “Bombosoro” is trouble created by an external source, natural or human; and “Dombolo” something from within – the family, the country, or any other association.  Finally, there’s “Plaba”; trouble that manifests in heated disagreements. Possibly over what kind of trouble you’re in…