|Map of Freetown Sierra Leone|
|Freetown and harbor|
It is also a place where agriculture should be thriving. In other words, there is every reason for Sierra Leone to be rich and prosperous. Yet it is one of the poorest countries in the world. It languishes at the bottom of every league table used to measure decent and civilized standards. Why should this be?
|Blood Diamond movie poster|
|Beach in Sierra Leone|
|100-year old Cotton Tree planted by freed American slaves|
At the time of the founding of Freetown, the event was marked by the planting by the resettled American slaves of the famous Cotton Tree which dominates the center of Freetown to this day. Pat and I sat under the Cotton Tree on our visits.
|Siaka Stevens first President of Sierra Leone|
|Sierra Leone currency|
Let me conclude with a story that shows just how impossible it was to obey the law. We were leaving Freetown on a flight to London with Sierra Leone Airlines. As we were arriving at the airport by taxi, I removed all foreign currency from my wallet, leaving in there only Bank of Sierra Leone notes, worthless outside that country. I pushed all my foreign currency into my socks so that the soles of my feet covered the banknotes. As we passed through the airport, we were stopped at least a dozen times by police and customs officials. They all reminded us that it was a crime to take foreign currency out of the country and demanded that we turn over to them any foreign notes in our possession. I told them that I only had Sierra Leonean currency left. Some of the more aggressive officials checked my wallet to confirm this. Finally I boarded the plane. After takeoff, I decided that I deserved a strong drink for having run that gauntlet at the airport. I ordered what I wanted and tendered Sierra Leonean currency. The airline staff would not even accept their own currency. They insisted that I had to pay in pounds or dollars. After reaching into my socks, I did so. I then noticed that all the other passengers on board were drinking. Had they all paid for their drinks with foreign currency, which they also had smuggled through the airport check points? They most certainly had. When everyone has to break the law in order to survive, anarchy can truly be said to have arrived.
This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on December 27, 2008.