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Last updated: 12 July, 2007 - Published 15:57 GMT
 
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A bike taxi service in Sierra Leone
 
A biker tackling a muddy road in Sierra Leone
Bikers can earn about $300 a month from the taxi service - good money in Sierra Leone (Pictures: Fabio De Paola)
An Outlook reporter has visited Sierra Leone to hear about a successful scheme to integrate former combatants into society.

Angela Robson visited the district of Kailahun near the southern border with Liberia where ex-combatants are now running a motorbike taxi service.

Dabo Seidu for example fought with the anti-government RUF forces between 1992 and 2001, but now takes passengers and packages to local towns on his own motorbike.

"This is my own motorbike," he said, "I bought it with my own money and I'm proud of it."

Seidu said that he hopes this month to earn about 600,000 leone (about $300) which, in post-war Sierra Leone, represents good money and has enabled him to move on from the traumas of the war.

"When people came to this town," he said, "They didn't tell us what their mission was, what their programme was...if they see you as a young man and strong, they will just recruit you by force - and you will join them.

"With my own group we have never chopped off people's arms and limbs, but I saw it happen."

Now Seidu is more concerned about the quality of the roads - which thinks they will be an issue in the forthcoming general election.

Seidu Dabo
Seidu says that there's a saying in Sierra Leone that there's there is no bush to deposit a bad child - so the bad child must stay with the community.

"Since I was a little boy the road was bad," he said, "Nobody can blame the rebels that the road is bad. We just want the road to be developed.

"We are not just going to vote for the sake of voting. We are going to pray that the right person with the right vision, will be elected."

For Dowda Kano, local representative for the NGO, Plan Sierra Leone, the bike-riders have already made a huge difference.

"Honestly we must acknowledge the immense contribution that the bike-riders are making in developing the economy of this region," he said, "They are moving traders from one point to another..

"Particularly with the bad road conditions, business is flowing because of their support in driving people around.

"They are also providing courier services. You will see a bike-rider and he will tell you that he's going to this point and you can easily give him a letter and he takes it without any fee.

"So I think they are contributing immensely to the economy of this region."

One of the remarkable things about the new service is that combatants who were previously on opposing sides are now working together - and they are now accepted by society generally.

"People forgive us because we were born here and we live together," said Seidu, "We stay here in the same place with our relatives. Our relatives were victims. Our relatives were perpetrators...

"There is a local saying in the local creole that there is no bush to deposit a bad child - so the bad child must stay with the community."

 
 
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