Fambul Tok facilitates truth-telling bonfire at Gbapi Songo, Songo section in the Fakunya chiefdom, Moyamba district. Over a thousand people from the 17 villages attended the ceremony on Monday evening.
The truth-telling ceremony started with prayers, dancing and singing. Section chief John Sinnah welcomed the bonfire as an opportunity for cultural rebirth and community reunion. The Peace Mothers of Songo section spearheaded the truth telling, forgiveness and reconciliation process.
Women’s mask devils and dancers performed through out the night. Sallay Caulker, head of Peace Mothers, explained how much work they have done in the community and said the purpose of the bonfire was to resolve conflicts between everyone regardless of age, gender or community status.
Fambul Tok Joseph Benji and Sadiatu Pessima called on participants to come forward and feel free to express themselves, as the whole exercise is non-judicial and voluntary.
The first people to come forward were two women who were not on speaking terms for the past three years. They were married to the same man and sleeping under the same roof. They developed animosity to each other because of issues around food sharing in the house. After telling their stories, they shook hands and embrace. They drums went wild drowning the clapping of hands and singing! Then others followed!
Mariama Musa testified that she was abandoned by her husband for another lady for over four years.She said she stayed with her four kids all as a single parent until recently when her husband, Lebbie Musa came back to apologize.She did not want to reconcile but peace mothers committee took the bold be step to calm her and ask her to accept her husband again. Lebbie said he was responsible for what happened and took oath to support her wife again.Tears ran down their cheeks as both reconciled.
The Peace Mothers resolved twenty conflicts during the night alone! They were mainly family disputes and disputes between neighbours. A Peace Mother Sandra Sesay thanked Fambul Tok and prayed for healing and prosperity of Fakunya Chiefdom.
In the morning, the women facilitated Islamic and Christian prayers and the traditional pouring of libation to the ancestors for forgiveness and prevalence of peace.
Fambul Tok (FT) over the weekend trained 60 community based organisions participants from 15 chiefdoms in the Kailahun district on the Wan Fambul National Framework (WFNF) and the Peoples Planning Process (PPP).
FT Executive Director John Caulker challenged the community people to take charge of their own development through the PPP.
“Local people have the solutions to their local problems. You as CBOs should have the trust of the people and should be able to continue work on the peoples planning process in your chiefdoms. The plans produced by the people should be the guide to development partners and government. Local government will come up with their needs which will then be supplied by the central government.”
The Kailahun District Council Development and Planning Officer Alhaji Ansuma explained that the road to developing the PPP has been a long and hard one. “We have put so much efforts and resources into it and now is the time for it bear fruit. Therefore you need to learn and follow all the steps in developing the peoples planning process. The new focus in development has shifted the development paradigm to align it with the government’s Medium Term Development Framework. It puts people ant the center of development”.
Training Consultant Patrick Zombo told participants that the purpose of the training was to build their capacity to be effective partner to Fambul Tok and the government of Sierra Leone in the rollout of the Wan Fambul National Framework and to lead the PPP in their respective communities.
Emmanuel Mansaray, training head of FT, admonished CBOs to inculcate the core values of Fambul Tok work. These include: non-partisanship, transparency and accountability, respect for and revival of good customs and traditions of communities, accompaniment and the belief that communities have solutions to their problems.
The head of Peace Mothers in Kailahun, Fatim Sesay, welcomed participants and affirmed their commitments to take the knowledge and skills gained in the training back to their respective chiefdoms. This is the second batch of CBO trainings organized by Fambul Tok. The next batch will take place in Moyamba district.
The minister of State Office of the Vice President Frances Alghali, Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security and the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Melrose Kargbo attended Grievance Redress committee (GRC) meeting and visited inland valley rice farm at Mokanji and later participated in the rotational Multi Stakeholders Platform (MSP) meeting in Mosenesie at Mosenesie in Moyamba District. These activities are part of the project “Mitigating Resource-based Conflicts and Increasing Community Resilience in Pujehun and Moyamba districts in Sierra Leone” funded by the UN Peacekeeping Fund and implemented by Fambul Tok and WFP Sierra Leone.
Fambul Tok Executive Director John Caulker, in the MSP meeting at Mosenesie, outlined the findings of the GRC ranging from royalties from mining companies, marginalization of women to chieftaincy disputes. He said these are from the local people and community stakeholders. He cautioned them to manage their expectations and work for understanding with the mining companies so that the outcome will be a win-win situation for all stakeholders. He said there would not be any development without peace and stability in the communities. Fambul Tok will continue to work with all stakeholders for peace and sustainable development
Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President, Frances Alghali, said the GRC and MSP are working well and everyone must support the project. After the elections government realized that because of lack of livelihood and cognizant that the mining companies cannot employ everybody and therefore through OVP called on the UNDP to fund this project to alleviate the situation.
She observed: “In spite of the millions of dollars being taken out of the district, there are still bad roads. That’s why President Bio is putting together policies such as review of the mining laws that will benefit communities. I hope the MAFFS minister will bring the president here to see the success of the UNPBF project”. She explained that everybody and local institutions present were part of government and should address issues at their appropriate level. Failing which there would be intervention from the appropriate higher authority – GRC, MSP and ministries.
The Deputy Minister of Local Government Melrose Kargbo called on the mining community stakeholders to have a rethink about the allocations of the surface rent so that it will benefit major community infrastructure projects rather than sharing it among themselves. Mrs. Kargbo said for a long time the communities have complained of not getting good roads, electricity and clean water. “You can hang heads with your community leaders to see if you can set up a plan for monies from the companies to be used directly for the provision of these amenities on a long term basis”. She asked people to desist from vandalism and roadblocks, as that would not help development and sustainable economic growth. On paramount chieftaincy disputes she explained that the removal of paramount chiefs (PCs) have a tedious procedure and people aggrieved should be patient enough to allow the due process. Its only after a chief dies that a regent is installed. The matter of PC Russel of Lower Banta chiefdom was still on and therefore the chiefdom only has a caretaker chief until the matter is resolved.
Minister of Agriculture Dr Abu Bakarr Karim said, “Our problem is that as a nation we have been dependent on mining. We import food and those that sell to us are coming to us for land to do agriculture.” Fambul Tok in collaboration with UNDP and WFP have done laudable job by putting livelihood and peace at the forefront of sustainable development, he said. He assured the project of continued government support and asked World Food Programme Sierra Leone to ensure that the farming activities were sustainable. He said government has taken a policy shift towards agriculture support that will see the engagement of private sector providing support in line with government subsidy. He told the GRC that MAFFS has reached an understanding with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary School Education (MBSSE) to purchase local rice for its school -feeding programme to ensure sustainability for formers.
Also present were WFP and UNDP staff , councilors , Office of national Security, District planning Officer, civil society district representative, chiefs, religious leaders, youths, persons with disability, mammy queens (women leaders) and stakeholders of both lower and upper Banta chiefdom in the Moyamba Districts