Bidding Bye-bye To Sierra Leone
I heard a knock on my door at the Hotel Barmoi around 2.am, on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. I opened, and saw the receptionist who said she was knocking on doors as a wakeup call for the ECOWAS Team that had to get ready and depart at 4.am to the Sea Port to board the Sea Coach from Freetown to Lungi – to catch our ASKY flight back to our various countries (Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Niger, Liberia, Niger).
The Coach set-off at 5.05am and we glided atop the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and looking through the widows, I could not help being amazed at the wonderous handiworks of God. Watching the lights of Freetown fade off, the writer in me pulled out my notepad and I began to write this piece.
Three weeks as part of the 15-member Long-Term ECOWAS Observation Mission for the June 24, general elections, I was bidding bye-bye to my “Salone” (that is how the Sierra Leoneans pronounce it). No matter which part of the planet you emerge from, travelling to Freetown comes with its own uniqueness.
The uniqueness, is hinged on the fact that you will experience a multimodal means of transportation – land, air, sea. When departing Ghana, I travelled by road from my home to the Kotoka International Airport, I flew with ASKY to Lungi Airport, and journeyed to Freetown by sea.
That is to say, in a matter of about 12 hours, I had experienced travelling by, land, air and sea. Of course, when departing, it was the same story – leaving the hotel by land, using the sea to Lungi Airport, and flying to Ghana.
The road was always the constant by being the first mode of transportation; the sea and air interchanged.
The moment I was notified by ECOWAS that I was part of the Long-Term Team to Salone, I told myself that despite the busy schedule, I would visit Fourah Bay College (FBC) – and I did. Driving up the mountain to the College was an experience on its own and once I arrived, I could not help recalling things I read about FBC in my secondary school days.
The first western-style university built in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the first university-level institution in the whole of Africa, established in February 1827, in the neighbourhood of Mount Aureol in Freetown, as an Anglican Missionary School by the Church Missionary Society, with the support of Charles MacCarthy, the Governor of Salone, the first student to be enrolled was, Samuel Ajayi Crowther (a Yoruba linguist, clergyman, and the first African Anglican bishop of West Africa). Ajayi found himself in Sierra Leone as a freed slave and that is how he identified with Salone’s ascendant Krio ethnic group.
Salone became the magnet for Africans seeking higher education in British West Africa, and under colonialism, Freetown was known as the “Athens of Africa” due to the large number of excellent schools in Freetown and its surrounding areas.
My favourite spot on the FBC campus was the Department Of History and African Studies – obviously a citadel of African history. Kojo Botsio, who obtained his undergraduate degree from FBC, became Kwame Nkrumah’s first Minister of Education and J.E. Casely Hayford, who was a prominent member of the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society, also schooled at FBC.
I refused to miss church so on Sunday, July 2, 2023. I joined Mrs. Worwornyo Agyemang, Ghana’s High Commissioner, to worship at the Pentecost International Worship Center (PIWC) in Freetown. Feeding on the sermon – calling on Christians to be “Builders”; I dropped tears when the preacher went on his knees recounting the horrific times of the civil war – hence the need for Salone people to be builders and not destroyers. Being called out and prayed for by the Head Apostle, was spiritually uplifting.
As we hit the sky, I could not block the deluge of memories – driving from Freetown to the North-West Region because my Team worked in, Port Loko, Kambia, and Karene; my colleagues; the sweet weather; and the hospitality.
Civil War is not good!!! May Salone never fall back into war.
Samuel Koku Anyidoho
Founder & CEO Atta-Mills Institute