Freetown, Baby!


Happy 50th Mama Salone by jc2010sl
April 26, 2011, 1:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Bunting lines the streets, a Public Holiday has been declared and there is a palpable sense of excitement everywhere you go. It’s not the Royal Wedding, but an event happening tomorrow – the Fiftieth Anniversary of Sierra Leone’s Independence. Saturday street cleaning has continued over the last month or so, and every paving slab, tree or stone by the roadside has been painted with the Sierra Leone tricolour – blue, white and green. Slogans are painted on walls through town: “Slavery lasted a time, Freedom forever”, “Happy 50th Mama Salone”.

To coordinate the celebrations, the Government set up a committee. A few months ago several senior members, including the National Co-ordinator, were sacked by President following accusations of embezzling funds. But this doesn’t seem to have stemmed the popular enthusiasm: there is a real sense that the country has put its darkest hour behind it. Even the scandal offers some hope would the perpetrators have faced any consequences 10, or even 5 years ago, people ask.

At the weekend I took some friends over from Liberia for a stroll through the Krio villages on the peninsula. We bumped into one of the team drivers who lives in Leicester, and got talking to him about the decorations in the village; the paintings and the bunting. “Did the Government provide money to buy things? Were the village elders involved?” It turns out that the youths had scraped together the money. “Come, I’ll show you the tailor’s shop.” In his little stall the tailor was stitching together lengths of fabric with blue, white and green triangles. Every yard of bunting through the village, and there was plenty of it, had been made here.

I’m sure the English revellers will be enjoying the Royal Wedding later this week, but I wonder how much people would be willing to pay out of their own pocket for the privilege.

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