Return to Kailahun
Tuesday, May 25, 2010Author:
Caroline Thomas is a documentary photographer based in Sierra Leone. She is a stringer for EPA and works with NGOs and the UN as a photographer and communications adviser.
The district of Kailahun is where Sierra Leone's civil war began. In 1991, rebels crossed over from Liberia and began their attacks on villages. These attacks spread throughout the region as rebels killed, mutilated, raped - and recruited. Thousands fled the violence, running into the bush, making their way across the border to Guinea, to refugee camps in Liberia and finally back to Sierra Leone, often ending up in the capital, Freetown.
The war ended in 2002 but many people remain in exile, separated from their villages and the lives they once knew. Recently, however, some of the displayed have been given funds and support by development organizations to make the journey back home. Gradually, people are returning to Kailahun.
THE MAIN ROAD INTO KAILAHUN / KAILAHUN
The former battleground of Kailahun has made a slow recovery from the devastation of the war. The returnees, however, represent a chance to regenerate the area.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.1
SIGNPOST IN THE CENTRE OF KAILAHUN / KAILAHUN
Kailahun lies in the far east of Sierra Leone, on the border with both Guinea and Liberia. As well as being home to the start of the civil war it was also the last area in the country to be declared safe.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.2
BOY PLAYING IN THE CENTRE OF A VILLAGE / BOMBOHUN, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Once a major producer of coffee, cocoa, cassava and palm oil, Kailahun is now known as ‘the forgotten district’. By the end of the war many villages were completely deserted and few buildings remained.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.3
VILLAGE CLASSROOM / FOLU, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Gradually, families are returning to their home villages of Kailahun. Often, the children they bring with them have never seen this ‘homeland’.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.4
BULLET HOLES IN THE WALL OF A MOSQUE / POTORU, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Evidence of the war is plainly visible in Kailahun - in bullet holes, graffiti and the charred remains of buildings. Here, bullet holes pepper the walls of the mosque in Potoru.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.5
/ MANDOPOHLUN, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
As people return, land is cultivated and seeds are planted. In this photo, a swamp area outside the village of Mandopohlun has been turned into a rice farm.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.6
WOMAN CULTIVATING LAND WITH A CUTLASS / SENGEMA, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Both men and women work in the fields, trying to grow enough food to survive. Any surplus will be sold at local markets.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.7
OVERTURNED TABLE IN A DERELICT HOUSE / KAILAHUN
Kailahun is full of the remains of buildings destroyed during the fighting. Memories of the war are also present in the form of Kailahun’s ex-combatants. Following a process of disarmament and reintegration, these ex-fighters now live alongside those.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.8
THE HOUSE LIVED IN BY REBEL LEADER FODAY SANKOH / NGIEHUN, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Rebel leader Foday Sankoh lived in this house in Ngiehun during the war. The walls are still covered in graffiti written by the rebels.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.9
BOY CARRYING WOOD IN THE RAIN. / KENEWA, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Heavy rains hit Kailahun between June and September. During this period, many villages are totally isolated as roads wash away. For some, this is known as ‘the hungry season’.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.10
LAND WHICH HAS BEEN BURNT AHEAD OF CULTIVATION / JENNEH, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
During the war, Kailahun’s once fertile farmland was overrun by jungle. In this photo, land near the village of Jenneh has been burnt ahead of being cleared for groundnut production.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.11
A VILLAGE CHIEF LISTENS DURING A COMMUNITY MEETING / NGEGEBMA, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Community meetings are held in Kailahun’s villages to ensure the returnees successfully re-integrate. Here, the Chief of the village of Ngegebma listens to returnees’ questions.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.12
CHILDREN PLAYING IN A VILLAGE / MANDOPOHLUN, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Perhaps Kailahun will never go back to how it used to be. But for those who have finally returned there is a sense that life can begin again. They are no longer running and no longer living a life in exile.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.13
GRAFFITI DEPICTING IMAGES OF WAR / MANDOPOHLUN, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Kailahun is familiar and it is where people belong but it is also layered with painful memories and reminders of those who didn’t survive.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.14
VILLAGE CHIEF TAMBA TENGBEH / MAKOR, KAILAHUN DISTRICT
Tamba Tengbeh, Chief of Makor, is looking forward to seeing his village come back to life. Families are reconnecting and new houses are being built on the ruins of the old. The people returning to Kailahun are finally home.
Photograph by Caroline Thomas / © Caroline Thomas. All Rights Reserved.15
Displaying 0 Comments
Added Fri, Jul 30, 2010 - 12:04 am by TL Bradley
Congrats on the feature. This is wonderful.1
Added Fri, Jul 16, 2010 - 09:28 am by Victor Acquah
One of the goals of African Lens is to serve as a platform of advocacy - for stories that need to be told. This is one of them. Hopefully, this story will generate enough interest to spur more action / help towards the street kids here.2
Added Fri, Jul 02, 2010 - 04:17 am by Thomas
What a beautiful report story !! Congratulation for your job.3
Added Tue, Jun 15, 2010 - 01:02 pm by Marcello
This is an awesome Photo story! Thanks for sharing it, currently only watched the photos, but definitely wanna read it!4