Freetown, Baby!


Land that we love by jc2010sl
July 18, 2011, 6:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

They love a bit of ceremony in Sierra Leone. No occasion is too lowly for pomp and circumstance, speeches and votes of thanks. Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised to receive an agenda for my “Farewell Ceremony” on my penultimate day:

“1. Prayers
2. Master of Ceremony
3. Speeches (15 mins)
4. Statement from Mr Samson [sic], (10 mins)
etc. etc.”

My first thought was that it was a joke – I being the guy who continually pesters my counterparts to plan in advance (including by writing agendas). But when Musa asked if I would be around at the appointed time, I guessed they really must be serious.

Somewhat typically, the time on the handout didn’t match the time in the email sent round, which led to all kinds of palaver. When we got round to them, the speeches were genuinely touching. I just about believed the kind words, interspersed as they were with plenty of jokes at my expense. When my turn came I found myself welling up; my thanks too were genuine and it will be a real wrench to leave.

As the “Ceremony” wrapped up and people wandered out, I thought of the President’s public meetings. They open and close with the National Anthem played from a grainy old recording. When the tune it reaches the rousing final bars, I feel the hair on my neck stand up. I think about how much I’ve come to love the place, how much it will stay with me, and what an amazing experience it’s been to be part of the country’s journey, if only in a small way. And as the last phrases of music play, I hear the words in my head:

“High we exhault thee, realm of the free
Land that we love, our Sierra Leone.”

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Bugle by jc2010sl
April 15, 2010, 6:43 pm
Filed under: public life | Tags: ,

At 6:30 each evening an eerie quiet descends on the State House building. Everyone stands stock still as a bugler pipes something sounding like the last post. The prohibition on moving even extends to the immediate environs of State House as I saw the other day. The driver stopped the car half way down the road and the milling pedestrians came to a halt as the bugle rang out.

I decided to get myself into the courtyard today to see what it is all about.

It’s a somewhat peculiar piece of theatre that seems to hark back to the colonial era. A military guard presents itself in front of the flag post and stands to attention as the national flag is lowered. The flag is removed somewhere into the bowels of the State House and another day is done.