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Why we're talking about Sierra Leone's civil war

Ben Sutherland Ben Sutherland | 14:53 UK time, Tuesday, 30 November 2010

People gathered in Sierra Leone

This entry was written by Ros in Freetown and posted by me.

I just had an interesting chat with a British expat here. In passing she mentioned that "the BBC is obsessed with the civil war."

I've heard the accusation before, levelled at us and other international media. The line goes that to dwell on the past is to ignore the positives that can be found in Sierra Leone today.

Similar arguments have been paid during trips elsewhere in Africa.

There's also the suggestion that people here are over it, so why isn't the international media. It's the "Afro-pessimism" that I've been accused of many times in South Africa, but in a different context.

I reject the argument on several counts.


Firstly, we're here for three broadcasts and I'l be very surprised and disappointed if we don't talk in detail about life here now, and what's going right and wrong.

Of course, we shouldn't only talk about the civil war - and we won't.

Second, the idea that a civil war that ended eight years ago and left many tens of thousands dead is 'old news' that is no longer relevant is absurd.

So many here have terrible stories to tell, and examples of how their lives were changed by the war.

Everyone wishes for a better for future, but history suggests wishing away the past doesn't work.

For some Sierra Leonians, these issues are real and raw. Just because they're not offered up in day-to-day conversations very often doesn't mean that they don't exist.

And talking about them on WHYS, is not an obsession but a justifiable choice during our first visit to the country. It's nothing to do with always wanting to see the worst.

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