Tomorrow the 27th of April will mark the 50th anniversary of Sierra Leone's Independence from Great Britain, and right now, especially in Freetown, the air is just thick with excitement and celebration. Sierra Leonean's living abroad are coming back to their home(s) to get married just so they can say that they got hitched on this special day. The streets and beaches of Freetown are full to maximum capacity, in a city already overpopulated due to the prior mass migration of people from the provinces during the civil war. There are parades and marches occurring all over the city and they are quite the spectacle. If there is a particular occasion to celebrate that warrants a parade, ordinary people will congregate on the streets, often in matching attire, and will march in long lines, in excess of 100s of meters sometimes, and strut or bluff (Krio word for showing off). It's awesome to watch because these people will not be walking casually, oh no, dis na Africa mi padi (this is Africa my friend), and here, every occasion must be accompanied with music, song and dance. So in these parades, the people will be marching behind a vehicle or truck of some kind with HUGE speakers blaring music for all in the immediate vicinity to hear and dance to including the people marching behind the truck. Everyone will be doing a kind of march-jig, dancing to the beat of the music. It's like one big dance party except everyone dancing is walking in one direction, just enjoying life and being happy to be alive.
Sierra Leoneans really do have a good reason to be happy. Sierra Leone is a young republic, a republic that has had its share of serious problems in its short and sometimes turbulent history since independence on 27 April 1961. Wherever I go though, I get the sense that the only direction people are looking is forward, something that I really find admirable considering the muck these people have had to pull themselves out of. A couple of days back on Easter Sunday, I along with a friend of mine participated in the Golden Jubilee march. We marched from Aberdeen street all the way to the National Stadium in Freetown where there was singing, dancing, performances, speeches by important government dignitaries including the president himself, and praying, lots and lots of praying. That was my first time participating in a parade of that kind since being here in Salone. We all wore matching white shirts with the logo: 50 years forward, celebrating a new Sierra Leone along with white caps. As I was standing there amidst all the jubilant people celebrating both Easter Sunday and their upcoming independence, I became a bit emotional because my mind flashed back to that toddler I spoke about earlier in this post. I mean here you have Sierra Leone, a young republic with big aspirations, for example, of one day being a donor nation. Despite all of the problems they have had and are currently having, they are still exploring, searching, for their respectable place in the international community. There will be bumps and scrapes along the way, but they are really trying. They really want to be something, do something meaningful with their lives, its just that the opportunities are not always there. What happens when that toddlers falls and scrapes his knee? His mother or caretaker will faithfully come and pick up the crying child, comfort and mend him, so that he can dutifully begin exploring the world and find his place in it.
The path to development for Sierra Leone has not been easy but considerable progress has been made with the help of donations from the international community. At this point in time, real development will require assistance from other developed, wealthier nations. Already outside nations have given financial and material assistance in various sectors of the economy in Sierra Leone. But soon, across all sectors of the economy, Sierra Leone will have to be able to support itself and not depend on outside aid for development. Nonetheless, this nation is moving forward. I guess that witnessing the parade scenes two days back really made it clear to me, more than it has ever been in the 10 months I've been a PCV in this country. Heres to many more prosperous years to come. Now I'm going to get some rest so that I can fully enjoy the independence day festivities tomorrow!