We’re Back!

I am back! Sorry for the hiatus, I have been helping the staff and communities move forward with Fambul Tok. However, it’s no excuse for not keeping you guys up to date. Your part of the Fambul! Before I move forward with the latest developments, I want to take you a few steps back.

The week of July 12th, 2009 Kailahun District hosted a three day Mano-River football event for Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea (Not Ivory Coast — political addition to the Mano-River Union). Each country was represented by a male/female under-15 team and each played the respective countries once. Over hundreds of people from the three countries were present at the event. It was full of excitement and patriotism. Kailahun Executive Committee and Fambul Tok staff ensured the teams and bystanders the event was to promote reconciliation in the three countries. Conflict simultaneously affects all three countries and it was evident when Liberia and Sierra Leone went through their civil wars.  Below are pictures from the event:

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From June 10th – 15th, Fambul Tok National Secretariat hosted Regional Civil Society Roundtables for organizations working on reconciliation or have the potential to work on reconciliation. Also included were representatives from the Council of Paramount Chiefs (traditional stakeholders in each district). The roundtables were held in Kenema (East), Bo (South), and Makeni (North).

The National Secretariat realized more organizations are facilitating reconciliation in communities with an ineffective approach. So Fambul Tok realized it was important to create space for a coordinated national reconciliation conversation. There was a total buy-in from all the organizations present on Fambul Tok’s approach to reconciliation. The National Secretariat, traditional leaders, and civil society are still in discussion on how to move the conversation forward. Below are some pics from the roundtables:

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Recently, the National Secretariat handed over the Kailahun Fambul Tok activities to the Kailahun Executive Committee (KEC). The District staff are still working hand and hand with the KEC until the staff deem they are ready to undertake their own activities. Nonetheless communities in Kailahun District are undertaking their own ceremonies without the assistance of Fambul Tok. The development highlights the way Fambul Tok works. We create the space for communities to own the process.

More to come….

Kailahun plans for March 23rd commemoration

Stakeholders in Kailahun district including Paramount Chiefs, Speakers, Women and youths from all 14 chiefdoms over the week end,March 7 gathered at the chiefdom headquarter town of Pendembu in the East of Sierra Leone to make plans for the commemoration of March 23, the day the first shot was fired to declare war in the country.

The meeting was organized by the National Commission for Social Action and was facilitated by Forum of Conscience, a human rights organization implementing Fambul Tok, a community reconciliation project in Kailahun, Kono and Moyamba.

In his opening remarks, Chief Administrator, Kailahun District Council who chaired the meeting took time off his speech to extend appreciation to Forum of Conscience for bringing people together through the Fambul Tok project. He said Fambul Tok continues to champion community reconciliation in the country. He went on to state that after the war the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed but not everybody has the opportunity to go to the Commission adding that Fambul Tok has made it possible for people to reconcile.

Bockarie Buannie said the purpose of the meeting was for stakeholders in all chiefdoms to make plans for the commemoration of March 23 scheduled to take place in Bomaru town and also for NaCSA to kick start symbolic reparation in the district

In his welcome address, host Paramount Chief, Cyril Foray Gondor of Upper Bambara chiefdom said the meeting was very important for the people of Sierra Leone. He said Upper Bambara was the first district that was attacked by rebels adding that thousands of lives were destroyed including property.

Chief Gondor told his audience that if January 6, 1999 is commemorated March 23 is also significant and perhaps more important t as it was the day rebels entered Sierra Leone. He stressed that March 23 should be a day for national reflection. He said diamonds were only used as catalyst to fuel the country’s war adding that they were not the cause for rebellion.

He said they are happy for Fambul Tok initiative to bring people and communities together. On behalf of his colleagues, Chief Gondor once again extended invitation to H.E. President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and other dignitaries to visit Kailahun on March 23.

Giving an overview of the reparation programme, Programme Manager, Reparations, NaCSA, Amadu Bangura said everyone has rights to education, shelter, food etc adding that during the war those rights were taken away from majority of Sierra Leoneans. He said because of the violation of these rights and based on recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commendations, government has deemed it fit to support victims.

Bangura disclosed that five categories of those that suffered from the conflict such as Amputees, war wounded, children (orphans) raped victims and widows would be considered.

The Programme Manager told the people that government supported perpetrators stating that it was the first step to take the guns away from fighters and engaged them in productive activities. He said government has now focused on those that suffered from the war by providing education for children from primary to Senior Secondary level. In addition to that Bangura said government will provide certain facilities such as Fistula centres, skills training, grants and support to micro projects. Bangura was full of praise for Forum of Conscience for facilitation the meeting.

Executive Director, Forum of Conscience and Programme Director of Fambul Tok, John Caulker said reconciliation does not come from outside.  “We believe Sierra Leoneans have answers to their problems” Caulker said adding, “Fambul Tok walks alongside communities and believes in meeting people in their communities and that is why we are here to plan together for March 23.  He went on to state that women and youth should have a say in whatever decision any community wants to take and therefore called on all to work as one family. He mentioned that reparation is the beginning of a long-term process.  The Director also said FOC is partnering with Catalyst for Peace, a U.S based foundation that supports community reconciliation in post conflict countries.

District Chairman for Fambul Tok, Chief Maada Alpha Ndolleh highlighted some of the activities undertaken by the project for the past one year. He disclosed that series of activities such as traditional ceremonies have been held in nine chiefdoms adding that very soon all chiefdoms would be covered.

Former Member of Parliament, Lydia Kutubu also acknowledge the work of Fambul Tok in Kailahun district. She said if everybody works as one family the district will develop. She mentioned that Bomaru should be transformed to a tourist centre.

Another speaker included Paramount Chief Musa Ngombugla Kallon of Jawei chiefdom.

However during the meeting, the 14 chiefdoms were divided into three groups to draw up activities for March 23. At the end of it all they agreed on the following: sensitization (discussions, jingles in all local languages) through the use of radios, printing of T-shirts by NaCSA, fasting, feasting, fambul reconciliation match on March 22nd, bonfire, cleansing of the bush-March 22,symbolic reburial, pouring of libation, disco, traditional and cultural performance, planting of peace trees on March 23.

“We are not here to break legs,” Chief says

Before the commencement of the foot ball tournament for reconciliation in Kissi Teng chiefdom, Kundu Section Chief, Sahr Wundeh Falleh called on participating teams to play the game as brothers and sisters in the spirit of reconciliation.

“We are not here to break legs but to build peace in our communities,“ Chief Falleh stressed, adding “if you kick a player you are kicking your own brother or sister because we are all from the same family in the district.” He emphasized the need for such programme to continue calling on Fambul Tok and PLAY 31 to continue the good initiative.

As the football for reconciliation tournament continued in Kailahun district, communities that were not part of the initial tournament are now determined to be a part of the tournament.

During the second leg of the tournament in Kpeingbakordu village in the Kissi Teng chiefdom, two teams were drawn from Dakalele section. It was a combination of Nyadeyama and Kuudu teams whilst the host team (Kpeingbakordu), formed one team. One female team represented each of the three communities in the tournament.

Chief Augustine Brima of Kuudu village also admonished players to play among themselves as a family and cautioned them to maintain peace if anyone lose.

Regent Chief of Kissi Teng chiefdom, Fallah Jusu joined others to extend appreciation to Fambul Tok and PLAY 31 for collaborating with communities to build peace in the country after the decade long civil conflict. “Foot ball has brought joy to our communities”.

Women’s representative, Mariama Jalloh called on her women folks to be law abiding, adding that she was extremely happy to see for the very first time women playing football.

‘I’m really happy for Fambul Tok because nobody has ever thought of organizing such a wonderful event’ Jalloh said.

The Programme Director, Fambul Tok, John Caulker called on players to be mindful of the way they play.According to him, everyone belong to one big family and therefore, if anyone deliberately hurts the other, it would not augur well.

In the women’s category, the host team Kpeingbakordu lost by a lone goal to the Nyadeyama female team.

In the men’s football, the host team proved to hundreds of spectators that they were determined to win by all means possible. They defeated the combined teams from Nyadeyama and Kuudu by a lone goal.