Visiting Njagbahun village in Sierra Leone , we witness a greater role and value that culture can bring.Eight (8) villages converge at Njagbahun Junction after every fortnight, to reflect, to share, to plan, to celebrate their unity, to dance and to bond!At this critical juncture of our fast-paced life we live now, brutally burdened by conflict, socioeconomic inequalities and divisive politics, it is almost a miracle seeing hundreds of people from several villages coming together for any reason other than weddings, burials or political rallies.
Sierra Leone was devilishly plunged into a devastating civil war that stretched almost two decades. As if that did not spell enough doom, 2014 found the country suffering a dillepidating Ebola Outbreak that hounded hundreds of lives away for more than a year.These two scourges influenced local initiatives to innovate strong strategies to bring people together, bond and rely on one another to hold together their social fabric as a fundamental anchorage for peaceful coexistence, and economic development.
Fambul Tok, a local organization meaning “Family Talk”, introduced a concept of conflict resolution and reconciliation through born fires, centres of testimonies and forgiveness, where victims as well as perpetrators arrived for reconciliation. However, a pre-thought meticulous process of arbitration takes place weeks, or months before the ritual born fire events.Beyond the reconciliatory born fires, the communities were enticed, trained and mentored to create communal activities that bind the people together to rebuild their lives post civil war and Ebola.
At Njagbahun village, we witnessed 8 villages happily sat together, dancing, contributing 50,000 Leones per village for their various economic activities. As part of the ritual, each village gives a report on their unique village level activities as well as money collected from the communal enterprises.
When all is done and dusted, the people break into a dance that lingers into late afternoon, where people dance, play, hug each other and share pleasantries before saying bye and return to their villages, happy, excited and once more energized.
Indeed, culture can be a habinger of peace.