By Juliet Efalola Thomas
Who will forget this day? Even the younger generation is struck by the upheaval of January 6, 1999, in Sierra Leone. The Armed forces revolutionary council and the Revolutionary united front [AFRC & RUF] stormed Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. It was the hallmark of the 11 years civil war that claimed the lives of over 50,000.
The rebels' concomitant acts were marked by acute violence of terrorism, murder, mutilation, and rape on the defenceless civilian population. Today some attributes of brutality and barbarity in the conflict still trail along with many Sierra Leoneans. The war undoubtedly left permanent scars on the bodies and minds of our countrymen and women.
Young non-existence minds like ours until roughly when the war ended wonder about the root cause of the over one decade of civil war in the land of our birth. It seems so senseless. Some elders interested in recollecting history tell us that we can never truly understand the cause of that war in this ingrained society. Still, we should know that some of the motives were 'greed' and 'aggravated grievances'. The context of those two is so vast that they can never be indeed covered. We are left to ponder on those words and make meanings of them our entire lives.
Although the conflict ended many years ago, our beloved country is still grappling with the carnage that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people. Mentally, the war killed many who are still alive. Think of the thousands of rape victims living with the agony of such ghastly incident, young boys who were forced to take arms, what of the people, including babies that were amputated? Or those whose eyes were gouged out? Parents who witnessed the killing or rape of their children and children saw their parents' brutal murder likewise. What was the fate of those abducted? Entire families wiped out, thus the end of their lineage. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless, and some never got back on their feet. I don't even know how long we can take to discuss the economic and infrastructural damage caused by the war.
We can go on and on, but we should be concerned about the lessons learned at this point. Many Sierra Leoneans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] resulting from the war traumas knowingly or unknowingly, which can be triggered by seemingly unrelated occurrences. We all as compatriots are wounded in one way or another, those wounds from the war could take forever to heal. The best we can do as a nation is never to "add salt to injury". We must always have our history written on the tablets of our hearts, and never allow our differences to cause division.
Today is not a day to elicit terrible memories but reflect on our past as a state. Killing fellow countrymen were not and should never be the solution to any problem. Twenty-two years have zoomed by but have we learnt our lesson?