African business, politics and lifestyle
Fambul Tok in Sierra Leone
During Sierra Leone’s civil war thousands of children were forcibly conscripted and used to terrorize and kill civilians. After the war ended in 2002 many didn’t return home for fear of revenge attacks but a new programme is trying to build bridges between them and their victims.
Baiima village seems peaceful now but 19 years ago it was the scene of some brutal attacks when civil war broke out. Massah Jusu can vividly remember the violence she and her family were subjected to by rebels at the time.
“My pregnant daughter was the first to be killed. They split her stomach open and removed the baby. There was a rebel called Devil — he was the one who did that. After he removed the baby, he cut the baby in two with his machete. It was then that I began to cry. Even though I gave them some rice, they said I had to decide between killing me or pouring hot water on me. Eventually they poured hot water on me and I started to feel pain. Then the rebels just packed up and left,” she told Reuters Africa Journal.
About 50,000 people were killed during the 11-year war that started in 1991. The Revolutionary United Front rebels conscripted child soldiers and used them to kill and hack off civilians’ limbs. The RUF controlled the country’s diamond areas and the former president of neighbouring Liberia, Charles Taylor, is accused of arming the rebels in exchange for diamonds.
Taylor is facing war crime charges in The Hague and his trial has been back in the spotlight after prosecutors summoned British model Naomi Campbell to clarify allegations that Taylor gave her a pouch of rough diamonds in 1997 during a trip to South Africa.
Some of those who took part in the war live in Baiima today and to encourage them and their victims to talk and reconcile, a ceremony known as Fambul Tok or Family Talk is held.
In the village square, masked figures perform traditional dances to set the mood for the occasion. When night falls, residents gather around the bonfire. Summoning all her courage, Massah narrates her horrific ordeal at the hands of rebels. She is stunned when Foday — one of her neighbours — confesses to the crime.
Still trying to get over her shock, Massa dances with him as Fambul Tok requires that victims perpetrators do this to signify reconciliation.
But it’s not easy for Foday and Massah, who are still trying to heal their relationship. Foday is now a farmer and contributes money to help Massah’s family.
Massah says she was bitter and troubled when her neighbour confessed his crime. And people wonder if owning up and talking about it are really enough for victims like Massah, who have for years been tortured by the memories of the war and know that their former tormenters are not far off.
To watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daPNz-1TgSQ