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  • 1. Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone tells of the civil war in Sierra Leone
  • 2. What do children understand about war?
    • Ishmael Beah was 10 years old when he started seeing refugees in his village.
    • He was 12 years old when he was separated from his family and his life torn apart from the war.
    • While he gives some background to the conflict, his main focus is on a child trying to survive a brutal reality.
  • 3. Some Background on Sierra Leone
    • 1462: Portuguese explorers name the mountains outside Freetown Serra Lyoa (Lion Mountain)
  • 4. Sierra Leone became haven for freed slaves
    • 1780’s: Sierra Leone becomes a British colony called Freetown after the freed slaves from all over Africa who were sent there. They develop a shared language called Krio.
  • 5. Why does A + B = Trouble?
    • A: Diamond
    • B: Sierra Leone
    SOURCE: “The Terror of Sierra Leone” by Sebastian Junger
  • 6. Diamonds Discovered in 1930
    • According to legend, British told the locals that the stones were electric and dangerous to touch. Their advice was to leave them alone until a white man could get there.
  • 7. British sell mining rights
    • In 1937 the British colonial government sold De Beers (a mining company) exclusive mining rights to the whole country for 99 years.
  • 8. But diamonds are little tiny things!
    • And soon people just smuggled them out of the country.
    • Tips on how to hide a diamond:
    • Heat them and drop them into tins of lard
    • Sew them into hems of skirts.
    • Encase them in wax and take as a suppository.
    • Swallow them; hide under tongue; burrow into navel; slip into an open wound that is allowed to heal.
  • 9. 1961: Freedom!
    • Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip visiting Sierra Leone in 1961.
    • Like many other African nations, Sierra Leone overthrows the British colonial rule in 1960s and enjoys a few years as a functioning democracy.
  • 10. 1967 Election of Siaka Stevens: Hello Repression; Goodbye Democracy
  • 11. Siaka Stevens remains in control for 18 years
    • Sierra Leone is increasingly crippled by high-level corruption. The nation has considerable wealth in the form of diamonds which are easy to misappropriate.
  • 12. Another guy: Worse than the First
    • In 1985 Stevens retires and nominates the head of the army, Joseph Momoh, as his successor.
    • Corruption and economic decay continue.
  • 13. Response to Government Corruption: The R.U.F.
    • A guerilla army, the Revolutionary United Front (R.U.F.) was formed quietly and brutally when a hundred or so lightly armed guerillas crossed into Sierra Leone from Liberia in 1991.
  • 14. Unfortunately…
    • The R.U.F. was just as bad – if not worse – than the corrupt government.
    • The force contained many mercenaries and it quickly became an excuse to loot and kill.
  • 15. Foday Saybana Sankoh
    • Sankoh was the leader of the rebels. His trademark was amputations, mostly of hands, as a way to spread terror.
  • 16. Sankoh – rebel leader – and one of his child victims
  • 17. RUF became notorious for brutal practices
    • In addition to amputations, the RUF also practiced mass rapes.
    • Sankoh personally ordered many operations, including one called "Operation Pay Yourself" that encouraged troops to loot anything they could find.
  • 18. 1991 to 1999: Coups, counter-Coups, and many changes in government
    • There are many atrocities committed on both sides.
  • 19. Jan. 1999: RUF again attempts to overthrow the government
    • Teen age soldiers, out of their minds on drugs, rounded up entire neighborhoods and machine-gunned them or burned them alive in their houses.
    • They killed people who refused to give them money, or people who didn’t give enough money, or anyone who looked at them wrong.
  • 20. Amputation Squads
    • Realizing they were losing the battle, the R.U.F. started rounding up people.
    • Amputation squads were made up of teenagers and children, many of whom wore bandages where incisions had been made to pack cocaine under their skin.
    • They chose victims at random and worked with rusty machetes and axes.
  • 21. Lome Peace Accord
    • The traumatized civilian population was willing to do anything to end the war, and brought the R.U.F. into the government.
  • 22. 2002: Civil War finally ends
    • With the help of British troops, the civil war is finally brought to an end.
    • A Truth and Reconciliation Commission provides a forum for both victims and perpetrators to tell their story.
    • Sankoh dies of a stroke before he is brought to justice.
  • 23. Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
    • Findings of the TRC:
    • The civil war happened due to decades of corrupt rule by the political elite.
    • Recommended increasing the transparency of the mining industry
    • Establishing a reparations fund for war victims.
    • After a long delay, establishment of a reparations fund for war victims was established.
  • 24. So what did all that have to do with ?
    • The movie Blood Diamond tells the story.
  • 25. In Blood Diamond …
    • A fisherman is captured by the RUF and forced to work in the diamond fields. His son becomes a child soldier and hardened killer. The RUF use the diamonds to fund their war effort, often trading them directly for arms.
  • 26. The film’s fiction has an important fact:
    • Easy to smuggle and very valuable, diamonds are at the heart of the Sierra Leone civil war.
    • The rebels sold diamonds to buy arms.
    • They used these weapons to control the diamond-producing areas.
    • The misery that Ishmael and so many others endured can be traced to a shiny little jewel.
  • 27. Today in Sierra Leone
    • Highest life expectancies
    • Japan: 83
    • 2. Australia: 82
    • 3. Iceland: 82
    • 4. Italy: 82
    • 5. San Marino: 82
    • (United States: 78)
    • Lowest life expectancies
    • Sierra Leone: 41
    • Afghanistan: 42
    • Zimbabwe: 45
    • Lesotho: 45
    • Zambia: 46
  • 28. Sixth Poorest Nation
    • Rank Country Population below poverty line (%)
    • 1 Zambia 86
    • 2 Chad 80
    • 3 Haiti 80
    • 4 Liberia 80
    • 5 Gaza Strip 80
    • 6 Sierra Leone 70.2
  • 29.
    • "In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy and confusion." --Ishmael Beah