Falling in love with Sierra Leone
April’s feature story on Liberia and Sierra Leone painted the bleak reality of the problems that prosecutors in Charles Taylor’s trial are facing and it made me think how important it is for the healing of the two countries that he is convicted, and also, “wouldn’t it be nice to read a positive article about Sierra Leone for once?”
Which is why I was so excited to read your May travel article on Sierra Leone’s stunning islands and the need for the once thriving tourism industry to take off again. I was in Kenya during the 2007-2008 post-election violence and really felt how strongly the locals wanted us tourists to go back to our respective countries and tell people that Kenya was not an unsafe and unfriendly country. They rely so much on tourism.
I told anyone and everyone (and still do) what a wonderful country Kenya is and what amazingly warm and generous people I met and had the privilege of spending time with during my stay there. I hope to be moving to Sierra Leone at the end of this year and will be working with a local NGO that helps to rehabilitate ex-child combatants in a number of ways. It will be my first time living in Africa.
When people in the West hear of Sierra Leone, they think of diamonds and machete-wielding rebels who amputate the limbs of fellow Sierra Leoneans. Almost every person I have spoken to about my plans asks, “but is it safe?” And these are people who travel and know a decent amount of history about other cultures. It’s funny how you can fall in love with a place before even seeing it, but that is what has happened with me and Sierra Leone in a way that I cannot even explain. Your article just re-confirmed these feelings and I know when I eventually return to England (and probably before!), I will be telling everyone to visit. This country deserves it so much.
Sara Repa. Cambridge, England