Saturday, February 3, 2007


Morning View from 'The Round House' in Kabala

I’m a linear thinker. I don’t often really care if plans change, so long as I know what the plan is was, what has been changed, how the new plan will accommodate, and what new ‘destination’ is being targeted. I wouldn’t say that this runs contrary to the way of thinking here – it’s just totally irrelevant. Plans? Why bother? No plan ever works so ‘leave it to God.’ The sun will rise; all else is up for grabs.

So we are facing a fairly logistically challenging couple of weeks. I’ll be leaving to meet Mary and Christy in Senegal in a few days! We will be returning in a week, just a few days prior to the onslaught of major church activity occurring in Foria. Over a dozen ‘toubaboos’ from U.S., Ghana, Canada and Nigeria will be arriving to witness and participate in the celebration of the new CRC. I think it is finally ‘sinking in’ to the event-planning team that it is going to be a really big deal, so now the issues of housing, feeding and transporting the 800 anticipated visitors are rapidly surfacing. So, I’m in my element: making lists, attending meetings, etc., though trying to stay reconciled to the truth: the sun will rise…

I spent the day at the Nar Sarah Clinic yesterday. Theresa was the sole health practitioner on duty, as Peacemaker (‘Peace’) was as a governmental hospital for a conference. The clinic was hopping – though no more than ‘normal.’ I observed the appointments of:

1) A woman with malaria with two children ‘in tow;’ one of which had worms and a bad cough.
2) A young woman in the first trimester of her first pregnancy, along with her husband. She was occasionally bleeding and they were concerned.
3) A child (with mother) who had a terrible burn from boiling water on his stomach. They had been in several times, and the burn was healing well.
4) A pregnant woman with a bad case of worms. She had been waiting until her second trimester for treatment as the drugs can cause miscarriage; but she was having real difficulty eating.
5) Someone coming in for the second in a series of chloroquin injections (to cure malaria).
6) A baby with a swollen ‘fontanel’ (top of head). Theresa asked them to come back the next day to see Peace.
7) A woman in her third trimester, with a series of aggravations.
8) An elderly woman with an infection between her toes (likely caused from standing in stagnant swamp water while rice farming).
9) A woman with major skin irritation.
10) A man with a ‘post-injury’ infection. He received an injection of penicillin and ibuprofen for the pain.

Theresa is the dispenser of matter-of-fact wisdom. She told the ‘expecting father’ to quit making his wife carry water, firewood or pound rice. She doles out very basic medicine, most frequently: chloroquin injections, pain killers, ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution), worm medicine and oral antibiotics. She takes her time though, listening to people and making sure that they understand the treatment. It’s her contention that people often want ‘medicine’ (pills) to make things better, when more healthful practices are really what are needed. “They think that drugs make blood. Drugs do not make blood, they give you energy to find, prepare and eat food. Good food and good diet make blood. If you just take the drugs and don’t eat – they will not help you.” She chastised a few of the pregnant women on this count, telling them that if they did not eat better (and she was very specific) they would die. No one takes you very seriously unless you state things in the extreme.

The conflict between the Fula and the Limba has resulted in a public hearing, which is transpiring in the town square today. I need to amend my last post to say that the ‘truth’ turns out to be somewhere in the middle of the two versions of the ‘story’ I represented. Cows have been killed; this resulted in a Fula rancher killing a Limba boy. No ‘retaliation’ has taken place - yet. The Paramount Chief is in an awkward position, as he is a Limba who is married to a Fula woman. He is one of the two Paramount Chiefs in Kabala (which sits on the border of Sengbeh and Wara-Wara-Yagalah chiefdoms). His inclination was to see if he could wait for things to ‘blow over.’ This precipitated his initial reaction: that the issue would not be addressed until the taxes have been collected for this region. However, the ‘district officers’ (Freetown governmental representatives) were drawn in, as this is a murder case. Thankfully, due attention is now being given to the situation. IMATT, UN officials and others have come to witness the proceedings, as this has been deemed a 'regional issue' with many small grievances (and some big ones) being addressed.

With the help of Aaron and a Sierra Leonean man who works for Red Cross, I was able to secure permission from the police to take a few pictures, which I will put on the website as soon as ‘uploading’ pictures is possible. The pavilion is so crowded that it is difficult to get in to see the actual proceedings, but outside the pavilion, crowds are peacefully assembled in the streets and on balconies of nearby houses with huge banners. One pictorially depicts the shooting followed by an X through a cow, with the header “Enough is Enough.” Others read: “Cows, Yes! Uncontrolled Cows, No!!” (again, illustrated – with fences and cows), “Where are the Authorities?” and “Respect my Place.” I am hopeful that all will go well - though there is some volatile 'talk' in town.

Enough is Enough

Protect Farmers Now!

Well, that’s the news from Kabala-town, where the women are very strong (I tried pounding plantains yesterday) and the men are quite good looking (Paul keeps getting told that he looks very ‘fit’ for an ‘old pa’). Quite contrary to the 7 degree blizzard that many of you are facing in the Midwest, the dusty heat kicking in by 10 AM prevents us from moving faster than a slow stroll. Smiles & winks have replaced pats & hugs as expressions of affection because I am known to growl, ‘too hot!’ I just spoke with Christy Wassenaar who is having a surreal time packing t-shirts and tank tops in the midst of a blizzard – but trust me, you will want them!

Grace and peace to each of you,


Thursday, February 1, 2007


Aaron and I have just returned from a short trip to Foria, where he made further arrangements for research on the mountain with Yegbeh, and I experienced more of the wonders of Kuranko-land, including the making of 'country cloth' and the eating of banana rice-cake bread.

We arrived to find Kabala-town in uproar last night. The 'story' floating around for the past day and a half has been that a Limba farmer killed two Fula cows that were perpetually invading his rice and cassava farm - and that the Fula rancher had retaliated by abducting and killing one of the Limba farmer's children and laying it on top of the cow. This precipitated an escalating conflict in which the Limba had gone and massacred part of the Fula family. With the two ethnic groups up in arms, the Fula, owners of almost all of the shops in town, including the 'grocery', drug store, gas station, and the bakers of all the bread sold in the central square, decided to strike.

Joseph Sesay is concerned, as a similar incident with the Fula and the Yalunka led to a short but brutal war 25 years ago. He's been trying to get the 'straight scoop' unearthed, feeling that it's usually milder than the 'stories' and that centralized public acknowledgement of the 'truth' will be the fastest way to de-escalate the conflict. Essentially, the informal stories circulating are growing in tragic and gruesome detail, while the formal story unfolding is much less violent and quite comprehensible.

Most of the Fula in this region originate from Guinea. Even those born in Sierra Leone frequently do not identify themselves as nationals of this country. They are nomadic traders and herders, and don't heed any official national borders. They are 'Fula' above and beyond any other identity. They also, historically, were slave traders in this region back hundreds of years ago. Even though an outsider like me tends to think of this history as 'ancient', you will still hear Fula quip or joke (to the Kuranko, Limba, Yalunka and other people groups), 'Oh, leave me be, you're all just slaves.' Even Kumba, when introducing me around town two summers ago, brought me into a Fula shop with the half joking / half serious admonishment, 'you watch this man. He's a thief. All Fula - thieves! He'll steal your children if you are not careful...' The Fula trader laughed - as he seemed to know and get along with Kumba pretty well, but there is an underlying tension between the people groups.

Apart from 'ancient' history, this tension is fueled by current conflict between agricultural farmers and nomadic herders. Fula typically enter a new region as herders, make as much money as they can on 'beef' and then use this money as the capitol to start businesses. It's an admirable model, with the exception of one critical factor: this is a subsistence farming region and the Fula recognize no boundaries for the grazing of their cattle. Farm after farm after farm in this region has been destroyed. Even farmers that are extremely vigilant and who build extensive fences often find that Fula cows have somehow worked their way onto their farm and destroyed / eaten a whole crop. This type of occurrence pushes the farmers beyond frustration into real despair, particularly as they feel that they have no recourse or advocate. The chiefs, who by all counts should be an advocate for the farmers, are all too frequently known to be 'in the pocket' of the Fula.

One (of many) illustrations occurred in the village of Borehkoro a few years back. The place was absolutely over-run by Fula cows. Destruction of crops including palm oil seedlings, rice and cassava was so extensive and that the Kuranko were at their wits end. According to Robert Jawara, director of C.E.S. (Christian Extension Services), one could not walk at night without stumbling into a cow - even on their front porches eating from baskets of produce harvested from the farm. The villagers finally decided to 'bring a case' against the Fula to the Sa Nieni Paramount Chief. In this case, the 'evidence' was clear; even documented by volumes of pictures. On the day of the trial, C.E.S. organized dozens of people to witness to the proceedings of the trial. They parked (sat) themselves in front of the chief's house and made it clear that they were present so as to make the 'verdict' of the trial known throughout the chiefdom. The Paramount Chief responded by refusing to 'hear' the case; deciding to 'refer' it to the court in Kabala. This precipitated unveiled grumbling on the part of the Fula: that they had "wasted a cow" (used in bribery of the chief).

Today, bits and pieces of the current story are becoming clearer. It seems that the people of Kabala have been pushed beyond the threshold of tolerance in regard to Fula destruction of farmland. This has led to the poisoning and shooting of a number of cows in recent weeks and months. The Fula, confident that the 'law' will be on their side, recently brought a case to court regarding the issue. The Limba, who happened to be the faction accused, essentially responded, 'fine, let's bring this to court but we'd like some restitution for destroyed crops while we are at it,' ...and proceeded to get organized for the trial. The Fula then failed to show up for the meeting. This did not produce the 'results' that they were hoping for, so they have now closed their shops to emphasize to everyone in town how important they are to the local economy with the hopes that people will recognize how much they 'need' and depend on the Fula. This might backfire on them, as (according to Kumba) much 'talk' is stirring among the Limba and Kuranko about how they need to get their act together and generate capitol for 'their own' shops.

It does not appear, despite the rampant rumors, that there actually were any murders this time around, though it does sound as though these stories were 'borrowed' from real incidents that occurred a few years back in a nearby region. The most significant turmoil on the streets is the result of 'strike breakers,' as some Fula shop owners are not quite sure 'why' they are striking and can't afford to do so for very long. Other Fula seem to be harassing those who find themselves in this position. The Paramount Chief of this region, who so far seems to be a pretty smart and level-headed man, has taken the interesting 'stance' that, though it fall within the rights of the Fula to strike, if they choose to do so, they cannot re-open their businesses without collectively getting permission from him. He has also spoken with the 'head' of the Fula and they together have agreed that businesses like the petrol station must remain open, as it is a 'branch' of a company in Freetown that would not agree to its 'shutting down,' and nor would it be a good thing for the whole of Kabala that depends on it.

For us, the consequences are relatively minor: no good bread, no Magram (my favorite tasting brand of bottled water), no other niceties like biscuits, soap etc. We are pretty well stocked and anticipate that the situation will blow over in a couple of days. I'm all of the sudden craving sandwiches though, now that I can't get bread.

This is a LONG standing conflict, and we don't anticipate that this flare up precipitate any real change... but it sure would be nice if dialogue was set in motion to arbitrate disputes and establish policies leading to a greater degree of justice.

We are looking forward to Paul's (Aaron's dad) arrival this evening!

Grace and peace to each of you,