We will drag ourselves out of this poverty zone
And we’ll care for our own, our Sierra Leone,
We will raise up our hearts and our voices as one
Extract from: My Vision, My Home, My Sierra Leone by Ustina More
Early in its mandate, the TRC decided to facilitate the construction of a vision that would act as a roadmap to examine the needs of post-conflict Sierra Leone. The question that gave rise to the National Vision project was: What does the TRC envisage for Sierra Leone after 11 years of war?
TRCs look to the lessons of the turbulent past in order to build a peaceful future. The Sierra Leone TRC decided that looking to the past was not sufficient, however. The future society had to be envisioned and described.
The TRC's forward-looking strategy required it to have a sense of the expectations, hopes and aspirations of the people of Sierra Leone. Developing a vision for the future necessitated reaching out to individuals and groups with the aim of understanding their unique perspectives on post-conflict Sierra Leone. Accordingly, the TRC initiated a national campaign to gather contributions.
The Call for Contributions
In launching a national campaign to gather contributions towards a national vision, the TRC hoped to encourage participation by a broad range of actors from widely varying backgrounds. The TRC sought to provide a platform for individuals and groups to participate in the reconstruction of their society. The Commission saw the Campaign for a National Vision as an inspirational project in which Sierra Leoneans of all ages and from all sectors of society could participate.
The TRC did not impose any limitations on the form or scope of the contributions. In initiating the Call for Contributions, the TRC invited the public to contribute essays, poems, slogans, songs, drama, paintings, or any other media expressing a vision for Sierra Leone's future. Contributors were provided with the following guidance for submissions:
- Describe the kind of society in which you would like to live.
- Suggest how to make Sierra Leone a better place to live.
- Set out your hopes and aspirations for Sierra Leone.
- Describe where you would like to see Sierra Leone in 5 or 10 years.
The TRC advertised its Call in newspapers, on the radio and in leaflets distributed in Freetown and the provinces.
Contributors were advised that their contributions may be included in the final report of the TRC and in national and international tours.
Response to the Call for Contributions
In two months, the TRC received over 250 contributions representing the efforts of more than 300 individuals. The contributors included persons of different ages, districts, religions and professions. Men, women, adults, children, artists, laymen, amputees, ex-combatants, prisoners and others submitted their impressions of the future of Sierra Leone. Their contributions took the form of written and recorded essays, slogans, plays, poems, paintings, etchings, drawings, sculptures, wood carvings and installations.
The TRC even received a seaworthy vessel called "Future Boat" and painted in the national colours. The creators of the "Future Boat", Ibrahim Bangura and Tejan Suma, explained,
“We built this boat as an inspiration to young people to develop themselves. This is to let the people of Sierra Leone know that they as carpenters can do something to develop Sierra Leone.”
The National Vision Exhibit was launched on December 10, 2003 at the National Stadium in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Chairman of the TRC Bishop Joseph Humper officially opened the National Vision Exhibit with these words:
“The Vision should not stop with this Exhibition. In fact it must live beyond the life of the TRC. Each contributor, as indeed each Sierra Leonean, has a role to play in his or her own sphere in advancing the causes of peace and unity. Each one of you has shown your love for your country. You have demonstrated your courage and your energy to bring peace and unity to all corners of the land. Each one of you gives me enormous hope that the future of Sierra Leone is indeed a bright one… There is much work to be done to build this country. We must start this work now.”
Over 400 individuals, many of them contributors, attended the launch. The event featured selected contributions and each contributor received a “Recognition of Contribution” certificate. The TRC awarded winners and runners-up in six categories and 30 certificates of Honourable Mention were issued. The National Vision has since been exhibited at the National Museum, UNAMSIL Headquarters, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) Horton Academy, the British Council and the National Library, amongst other venues. President Kabbah and members of his cabinet visited the exhibit when it was displayed at the National Museum.
Ahmad Saiwa of Peace Links Sierra Leone submitted his "Vision" painting to the National Vision. In the green, white and blue of the Sierra Leone national flag, Ahmad creates the 'V' of 'Vision' out of two hands praying. A lit candle of peace forms the 'i'. The 'o' of 'Vision' opens up into a rainbow that reveals the form of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans from the four corners of the country represent diversity as joined hands come together in unity and love. At the centre lie the scales of justice. In Ahmed's vision, as represented by the even scales, every Sierra Leonean is equal before the law.
Although contributors worked separately, a number of common themes and forms emerged from their efforts. The majority of contributions addressed the future by making reference to the past. Some of the contributions set out prerequisites for a future peaceful and prosperous Sierra Leone, while others pointed to the severe problems facing society. They serve as important signposts for the future which must not be ignored.