Archive for June, 2011

Postcard From Freetown: Reflections!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 by Dante Bello

Moments have gone by and time is still relatively waiting for no man. This is the reality we are faced with as earthlings. I sit on a chair on my balcony reflecting and reminiscence the thoughts that flow through my mind, words lingers to chaste. It has been a while I put pen to paper and I can’t say it’s a writer’s block but rather I’ll succumb to the sentiment that it was a wilful decision to stop writing, read more about what others are writing, immerse myself in these spaces to acquire more knowledge, ideology, views, opinions, sentiments and indulge in the literal thinking of others.

It has been a long journey these past few months. It has worth the time and every moment in these spaces was groundbreaking as I had faced my fears, open my mind to see the world from others point of view, paying for my sins and taking responsibility for my past actions both commission and omission without playing the blame game. As the sun caresses my face, and the wind kisses me, soothing feeling it is. I embrace this space of appreciating, the breath of life, the gift to assimilate and think as I channelled this cause of seeing a generation of young men and women resonating to the highest height that life can produce and the desire to see the sons and daughters of this beautiful land living their dreams to the fullest someday without being oppressed by any sundry.

I am reminded of my own story, pain, weaknesses and strength and the learning patterns and curves I had to embark on to be where I am today, which I am still discovering. The passing away of my mother still hunt me daily. The reality of having a father that is practically alive but dead in action is sickening. Every day I search and dig deep within me for the unrelenting strength to go on and believe in my dreams to be the change I want to see in the world and to my generation (the youths of Africa).

Life will always go on regardless of your situation and circumstances, that is the ultimate truth that protrudes us daily but some live in denial to accept this truth. In the space of two years I have published two books and the third is due out this year. Reflecting on how all these came about is worth thanking the divine that has been the source of my inspiration and the giver of this gift of words. Friends like Audrey Beckford, Paul Simone, (TamareHouse UK), Bianca Williams (Black Heritage Magazine UK), Athi Geleba, Lusinda, Gugu Mhlungu Sindi van Zyl, Busi N, Dineo Motsoeneng, Paulina Joy, Rami Chuene, Khomotso to mention a few, have been amazing and to make it even more worth telling, my family of the brotherhood, men who are working towards making a difference to our society, Jimmy Grant Monareng, Romeo Mabasa, Tendia Sean Joe, Sentlese Dikanyo, Ulwazi Dladla Mgwadleka, Simon Hughes, Ndivha, Rushay, Siyabulela the list is endless. These men inspire the living day out of me. What would life be without these fine brothers that are ready to take on the world, put Africa out there on the map and correct the wrong mentality & ideology that has corroded many regarding Africa and it youths around the world?

In retrospection, l had to readjust my mind to the reality that we only live ones and I have to start maximizing each and every moment of my life. The alarm bell went off in my head when my best and closest friend Audrey Beckford BBM me to tell me she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Tears flow through my eyes like a passing stream, pain from the abyss of my core torment my mind as I try to come to terms with the reality of this news. Audrey is a beautiful soul that is making so much difference in the UK for “Black” kids to have proper and good education and all of a sudden she is greeted with a deadly disease that spears no one. Amazing, how she is full of so much hope, comforting me to be strong and I still can’t understand what a super human being she is. Hence I always say, she is the “diamond” standard of my life. I do believe she will beat cancer and the testimony we shall tell the world together someday soon.

It has been a tumultuous journey and a hard time for me personally, as I had to make drastic and calculated decision to stay aloof all that is being thrown at me from spaces and sources I have no idea where they came from. I resort to ideas to figure things out and I am still locked in that space. My integrity has been put on the line and the amazing part is those that know me or have known me over the years have stood by me. The reality of not underestimating the essence and importance of family I now have come to terms with. It is very important against all odds to stay in contact and at peace with one’s family regardless of whatever the circumstances. The support has been endless from friends, the love has been relishing and all I can say is thank you.

I’ve decided to face life head on and dance to the music that is being played for me and negotiate my way across high hills and low waters. At the end of the day, the truth is a defining factor that will stand the test of time. I keep on asking myself, can one man be wrong at all times? We all have a past and have made mistakes that we’ve learned from and have moved on. Can a person’s past be held against them when there is immense evidence to prove and show that a huge amount of restitution, responsibility and change has transpired for the betterment of the individual and society at large?

South Africa has housed me for more than six years now and my home is there and I love this nation as much as she loves me. Beautiful people and tenacious souls everywhere. In the midst of having so many shortcoming and issues that are yet to be resolved, the amount of progress cannot be underestimated as we strive towards the emancipation of our people and country. So I intend to be part of the progressive and solution oriented persons that will contribute positively to the furtherance of this nation within the confines of the law and the constitution of the land. I have indeed defaulted in some ways unintentionally and I hope I’ll be forgiven considering the effort I have personally put in making things right but woefully failed in some instances.

My desire is to see my son Malakai who is at the time of writing this piece is seven plus months old. It is so painful and heartbreaking that the dream of being a father is being damped by a woman that think life is all about her and her dreams and none else’s matters, forgetting the fact that a child deserves both parents in his or her life regardless of parental differences. Every day I pray for you Malakai, daddy loves you so much and words cannot explain my desire to show you all the love in the world a father can give to his son. I am not giving up on this quest; prayers can make the impossible possible. I know one day you I will be father to you.

As I reflect on all these issues and on life itself, I hope against hope that in the end of it all, I will be vindicated and my desire to live a life that comprises of my inklings and realities will surface. I have fallen, I have made mistakes and I might as well offended many unintentionally. I am human and all I can ask is for forgiveness as I have forgiven those that have done the same vices to me. All that is left of me is to live and chase down this dream into fruition – To experience of fatherhood. To be able to see a society that is alive with possibilities, young men and women soaring above the skies and flying without wings with passion for their dreams and the creed they live for.

I hope to see one day, an Africa that has come to full maturity and transcend all the odds and obstacles that were set before her. I desire to see an Africa that have a new breed of sons and daughters without greed. Men and women that have stood the test of time and their testimony is an inspiration for those to come. I’ve been sent home by the powers that be but I am “going nowhere” regardless of what happened. I stand to revolve and revolutionize my own self into being the change I want to see in the world. South Africa is my home and my love for her is endless – I will return and raise my son in his country of birth and more so live in this land I fell in love with since I was seven years old. I hope she’ll forgive me and embrace me like the prodigal son. South Africa, I am reflecting on you daily and the memories are beautiful to keep my hope alive. Malakai – daddy will be home soon. I love you my son. I have made mistakes but daddy has not failed you. – I am coming home to you my boy.

@DanteBello on Twitter

Postcard from Freetown – Selling our Birthright at the Expense of our Children

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 by Dante Bello

“Nature is said to be transient while art is said to be permanent.” Having this in mind, I had the opportunity of travelling around Freetown, especially in the Regent and Goderich area, breathtaking lush green landscape and it reminded me of the beauty of Sierra Leone and all the arable land available. If this land is used properly and adequately it can benefit the people of this country immensely. Interestingly, I observed the new developments going on around the Goderich area, young Sierra Leoneans buying lands and building modern day houses and structures that are in par with the 21st century. Impressive and welcoming I must say.

Sierra Leoneans may not be keen or fussy about statistics, but the other day I saw the new Statistic Sierra Leone office looking revamped and refurbished with the latest and modern computers to collect and collate data nationwide, and this is another sign of great improvement by the APC (All People Congress) party.

It is worth noting that the population rate of Sierra Leone is now on the higher side, compared to the post war era where we were about 4 million people and now we are hitting the 6 million mark. The more worrying and call for concern part is that more than half of this population may well be staying in Freetown and the regional cities. I can testify to this because back in the 90’s when I was growing up in Freetown, it was not as congested and jam packed as it is today. Freetown is now the main commercial center and heartbeat of Sierra Leone. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is here trading their trade. Also this means that all the able bodied youths have left the villages for the so-called bright city lights, just like Jozi (City of Gold) plying their trade to achieve their dreams and grab their own gold whenever the opportunity presents itself.

According to what I have been told, 75% of our population are in the agriculture sector, many are literally tied to the land, and they depend on the land for their livelihood and survival. Needless to say majority of the people who grow up in farming communities in the 50s, 60s, and 70s were educated from agricultural proceeds like cocoa, coffee, kola et cetera. My calculation and with what I have seen since I have been in Freetown is, at least 60% of our current Ministers, Parliamentarians and the bulk of the civil service workforce enjoyed the cash from agriculture while in school and college. So invariably whatever policies or programmes that affect land and agriculture has to be looked into keenly so that the interest of the poor and marginalized is taken into account before this becomes a dilemma that will choke us as a country in the future.

The bulk of the youth are waiting for jobs, they are not adequately trained to take up most of the available jobs since they require post secondary school qualifications and experience. Another disturbing factor in Sierra Leone is that the bulk of its citizens are too old to do work that requires expending energy so the farm lands remain under-utilized. Considering the latest trend of the 21st century, many of the young people prefer staying in the cities doing odd jobs, fending for their mouth than staying in the village, so how does government draft a policy and make agriculture and farming attractive to this present crop of youths is currently lacking.

A lot of resonance needs be done here to point to the future of this country and most importantly to the land and agricultural sector which to my opinion is the jewel of this country despite the clamouring about blood diamonds and the mining industry and what not. I think Sierra Leone has past that stage where government keep the people in the dark about things that are their constitutional right to know. The talk of villages receiving $5 per acre per year is ridiculous and upsetting and thus I reiterate, the imperialist will never leave Africa and our poor and illiterate citizens are the ones suffering from this menace due to the greedy and selfish politicians that struck these deals with foreign companies at the expense of their own fellow countrymen.

Another question I keep on asking myself, after leasing these lands to foreign companies, who is this finished product for? Does the Sierra Leonean populace benefit or share in the profits in this product? The answer is a big no. What appeared to my understanding is that the Addax investment in Sierra Leone (bio-fuel) benefiting Sierra Leoneans is a dream far-fetched, because the end product destination is Europe and our land and citizens are just modern day slaves being used with our own natural resources and labour to satisfy the western world.

Can we say our politicians got this wrong? Absolutely, they got it wrong. Re-negotiating these land deals to the benefit of the local people and their communities should be revisited. It is time we put on our thinking caps and remember that the present day generation of landowners will pass and their children will be the ones to accept this present dubious arrangement that their forefathers and fathers where led to have made.

What is the way forward for now? That we will need to deliberate upon critically and carefully but my uncommon sense tells me that; government should suspend all agreement with the foreign companies and struck a deal that is transparent, participatory, beneficial and fair to the owners of the land. This way we might end up with a win-win situation.

Let us remember land is an asset, it does not diminish especially in a developing economy and it is something we can be proud of. Let us not throw away our baby with the bath water or sell our birth right for a piece meal because when the meal is finished, what next Mama Salone?

@DanteBello

Postcards From Freetown: Sierra Leone, I Have Hope!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2011 by Dante Bello

I was born in Sierra Leone in the late seventies; the All People Congress (APC) was the party in power led by one of our founding fathers and a profound politician of note, Shaika Stevens. I must say he was a man of honour and indeed have some good leadership skills but the best of men also have their own weaknesses and one of his own mistakes was the fact that he gave in to tribalism and nepotism, it was rampant in his tenure which by my calculations led to Major Siadu Momoh taking over power in the eighties.

January 1991, was the defining moment in Sierra Leone, the crass of the war affected practically all Sierra Leoneans to the tipping point that it was felt in the core of our humanity even to the “unborn child” if I may put it that way. The humiliation of Sierra Leoneans by their own fellow citizens disguised as rebels fighting for a cause that they themselves have no idea of. The sad reality is most of these young men were brainwashed and drugged with cocaine, heroin, marijuana to pursue the cause of Foday Sankoh(Rebel Leader) whom till this day I can’t find any logic as to why he waged war on his own country. The thought of seeing kids as old as seven years carrying guns and killing people is disheartening to my sanctity. Women being raped, xenophobic and tribal attacks on fellow citizens and foreigners was a menace,  if it was not for the West Africa peace keeping force, (ECOMOG) Sierra Leone would have been another replica of the Rwandan genocide.

However with the passage of time, the tide of the battle became unpredictable, coup after coup, junta after junta, Sierra Leone suffered coz of the selfish interests of the parties involved. It is a fact that Sierra Leoneans have gone through the bitter experience of war being ruled by those who seized power through the barrel of the gun. The consequences are so unpleasant and disastrous that not one citizen will encourage or be a party to an emergence of another civil war.

As I walk through the city centre of Freetown daily the remnant of war is seen everywhere, people with no arms or limbs, blind or have one injuries or the other are everywhere, begging for their daily bread. Freetown is now congested; people from the rural areas have all trouped down to the city centre making it the main commercial hub and evidently it is a rat race here, survival of the fittest and you snooze you lose kind of an atmosphere.

The statement that “the worst civilian government is better than any military rule’ is more of a truism and practical reality than ever before.  I don’t see Sierra Leoneans living under a government where the sacred document, the constitution is suspended, basic human right is nonexistence and trampled upon by constant fear of detention and imprisonment and even being executed by death sentence a reality. I am sure twelve years of civil war is enough lessons for us to have learned that democracy is needed in this country and all Sierra Leoneans must rally around “Mama Salone” to build her, put her interest first before ours and for the generations to come.

The art of patriotism need to be embedded in Sierra Leoneans, the youths have to come on board and participate in this process of nation building, restitution, reformation, responsibility, accountability and discuss issues and find lasting solutions to the present challenges this nation is facing. Sierra Leoneans have endure harassment, humiliation, undue molestation of all sort and it is time for us as Sierra Leoneans to be the defender of our present fragile democracy and constitution and be the top security men for any “bush shaking”. Regardless of which ever government is in power, the lessons of the past should be a reminder that we must protect this fragile democracy and constitution , basic human rights, our dignity and most especially of those of our women and children.

The darkest days of 1991to 1999 are over, a new dawn and era is here for Sierra Leone and its time we rally hands together to forge ahead and build a one united country that represent all regardless of creed, caste, class or colour. The challenges and task at hand is huge as I have seen these few months I have been in Freetown, joblessness is achingly disturbing, idle youths everywhere, the educational system is poor, overcrowded schools and almost not functioning to it full capacity. The university students are on strike in protest of a too costly tuition fees and couple with the fact that the pass rate is appalling and even when they graduate, job opportunities are scarce.

The Sierra Leonean government is practically functioning on handout from the United Nation, European Union, and African Union and donor countries. My hope is for things to proactively change soon for the betterment of all Sierra Leoneans. I love this nation, I owe my allegiance to Sierra Leone coz I was born here, I had a good life growing up in Freetown back in the days and at this point “mama Salone” is in her lowest ebb ever and all I can do is to make myself available to contribute and help raise her back to this once glorious nation she was. I have hope, I have a dream that Sierra Leone will rise again despite all the pain she has gone through.

“I am the watchman, I am at the city gate, raising my voice and calling on all Salone pikini dem – Arise! There’s work to be done for the land that we love – Sierra Leone!”

@DanteBello

 

5 Creeds I Live By

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2011 by Dante Bello

What exactly is your duty in life you may want to ask yourself? I woke up this morning with the urge to reaffirm and remind myself of my duty in life and I felt I should share these creeds I’m living by daily. Let me summarize them for you:

1. Tend your parents with love and reverence and gratitude. 

2. Speak the truth and act virtuously at all time, regardless of who is involved.

3. Whenever you have a few moments to spare, repeat the name of the Lord, with the form in your mind.

4. Never indulge in talking ill of others or try to discover faults in others. 

5. Do not cause pain to others, in any form.

The journey continues as I keep on evolving on this earthling experience.

@DanteBello

The Humanness in Human Values!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2011 by Dante Bello

Humanity is fast straying away into oblivion, this I see daily in all aspect of our lives. Society and communities that upholds our moral values is fast decaying, the elders have become muted because the tales of yester years is now fringe stories with no effects to cause change and reflection. Now I’m asking you-yes ‘you’, where are the human values to be derived from and how are they to be developed?

Human values are born along with human birth. They exist in union with the self and relative to the individual. Unfortunately, man today separates himself from human values and yet wants to live as human beings. To recover human values, man has to take the spiritual path. However great an intellectual you may be, however great one may be as a scholar or a man of learning, you have to acquire humanness. Without humanness, scholarship and intellectual eminence are of no value to society. It is only when man cultivates humanness that society will shine with radiance and the nation and the world will progress.

Humanness can be promoted only through spirituality and not by any other means coz even religion has it own high walls and sects. Just as a seed can sprout only when it is planted in the soil and watered, human values can grow only in a spiritual soil. If a man wants to cultivate human values, he has to apply the manure of spirituality to his heart, water it with love so that human values will grow. Human society needs essentially fellow-feeling and unity. When these two are present, humanness will flourish. Control of senses and being considerate for the next man beside or opposite you is an important human value.

I dont want to sound all religious, stripping down the normal spiritual rhetorics on you and listing the do’s and don’ts portraying God as one macho man with a serious face that does not smile, rather I believe human values start from: “Loving yourself and loving your neighbour as yourself. Let this be foundation and all other elements will fall through as you journey on in life.”

Live in the moment, maximize the moment. Let humanity be the focal point of your engagement with people before color, race or creed and if possible do away with the race conundrum and see a being, in the image and likeness of the creator. Explore the humanness in your being and let’s build a better and progressive coexisting society.

Adios…

@DanteBello on Twitter.

Postcard From Freetown – “The Cassava Leaf Soup & Rice Tale”

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by Dante Bello

So the chatting continued with my sisters as we talked about childhood stories over dinner, reminiscing memories of all our childish antics that we used to embark on back then. Laughter galore was all over the place, I even spilled some drink on myself because I just could not resist laughing to stupor. As we were chatting and laughing, out of the blue came an unexpected flashback of how we used to eat roast cassava and cassava leaf soup like maniacs when we were young and apparently we were going to have cassava leaf soup and rice for dinner that evening. I guess the aroma and sweetness of the food had managed to bring back that memory of the past.

I remember those days when we were still at 1 State Avenue on the West End of Freetown, one of our neighbor aunty Salamatu used to cook one of the best ever cassava leaf stew that my sister and I have ever had. We used to chase each other from school just to be home on time to eat aunty Salay’s cassava stew and rice, I’ll never forget such a blissful memory ever.

In retrospect, I thought I should share the reason for my craziness about cassava leaf soup and rice. It had been ten years since I last had the pleasure of eating cassava leaf soup and rice because back in Johannesburg there’s nothing like that and I remember seeing cassava in Eastern Cape at Mdantsane and that was the end of it as no one could help me as to how I can get the leaves for me to prepare it.

I did ask a couple of friends and the consensus answer was for me to go to Swaziland, it is readily available there. Oh well, my urge for it just simmered down, because even in Yoeville market I could not find all the ingredients for me to be able to cook it.

Coming home to Sierra Leone and the first meal that was served to me was cassava leaf soup and rice was like heaven on earth, gigantic fish and some fried meat. I could not have asked for more. I so savored the moment that I thought I should unveil the process and ingredients needed for you cook it if you can wherever you are.

Ingredients Needed: Grind Cassava Leaf

Grind Groundnut – Peanut Butter can be used.

Palm Oil/Groundnut Oil

Pepper

Onions

Maggie Cubes

Fish/Beef/Chicken – I recommend you have a bit of everything – variety is bliss.

Okra – which is optional but it does add some extra flavor to it.

Method: First put the cassava leaf in a pot and place on the stove to boil for 10 minute.

Add groundnuts and let it boil for 5 minutes.

Add pepper and onions and maggi or any spice you love and allow to boil for 5 minutes.

Add palm oil/groundnut oil but personally palm oil (palm kernel) is much preferable and allow to boil for another 10 minutes.

Then add your fish/meat/chicken and let it cook for another 10 minute and you good to go.

I am hoping that you’ll try this African dish and I am certainly sure you will thank me later. More postcards to come as I journey on in my country of birth, exploring and bringing back stories that are almost forgotten.

@DanteBello

 

Postcard From Freetown – “A Story of Reconnecting With The Self Long Forgotten”

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2011 by Dante Bello

I was born in Sierra Leone in the late seventies; the All People Congress (APC) was the party in power led by one of our founding fathers and a profound politician of note, Shaika Stevens. I must say he was a man of honour and indeed have some good leadership skills but the best of men also have their own weaknesses and one of his own mistakes was the fact that he gave in to tribalism and nepotism, it was rampant in his tenure which by my calculations led to Major Siadu Momoh taking over power in the eighties.

January 1991, was the defining moment in Sierra Leone, the crass of the war affected practically all Sierra Leoneans to the tipping point that it was felt in the core of our humanity, even to the “unborn child” if I may put it that way. The humiliation of Sierra Leoneans by their own fellow citizens disguised as rebels fighting for a cause that they themselves have no idea of. The sad reality is most of these young men were brainwashed and drugged with cocaine, heroin, marijuana to pursue the cause of Foday Sankoh(Rebel Leader) whom till this day I can’t find any logic as to why he waged war on his own country. The thought of seeing kids as old as seven years carrying guns and killing people is disheartening to my sanctity. Women being raped, xenophobic and tribal attacks on fellow citizens and foreigners was a menace,  if it was not for the West Africa peace keeping force, (ECOMOG) Sierra Leone would have been another replica of the Rwandan genocide.

However with the passage of time, the tide of the battle became unpredictable, coup after coup, junta after junta, Sierra Leone suffered coz of the selfish interests of the parties involved. It is a fact that Sierra Leoneans have gone through the bitter experience of war being ruled by those who seized power through the barrel of the gun. The consequences are so unpleasant and disastrous that not one citizen will encourage or be a party to an emergence of another civil war.

As I walk through the city centre of Freetown daily the remnant of war is seen everywhere, people with no arms or limbs, blind or have one injuries or the other are everywhere, begging for their daily bread. Freetown is now congested; people from the rural areas have all trouped down to the city centre making it the main commercial hub and evidently it is a rat race here, survival of the fittest and you snooze you lose kind of an atmosphere.

The statement that “the worst civilian government is better than any military rule’ is more of a truism and practical reality than ever before.  I don’t see Sierra Leoneans living under a government where the sacred document, the constitution is suspended, basic human right is nonexistence and trampled upon by constant fear of detention and imprisonment and even being executed by death sentence a reality. I am sure twelve years of civil war is enough lessons for us to have learned that democracy is needed in this country and all Sierra Leoneans must rally around “Mama Salone” to build her, put her interest first before ours and for the generations to come.

The art of patriotism need to be embedded in Sierra Leoneans, the youths have to come on board and participate in this process of nation building, restitution, reformation, responsibility, accountability and discuss issues and find lasting solutions to the present challenges this nation is facing. Sierra Leoneans have endure harassment, humiliation, undue molestation of all sort and it is time for us as Sierra Leoneans to be the defender of our present fragile democracy and constitution and be the top security men for any “bush shaking”. Regardless of which ever government is in power, the lessons of the past should be a reminder that we must protect this fragile democracy and constitution , basic human rights, our dignity and most especially of those of our women and children.

The darkest days of 1991to 1999 are over, a new dawn and era is here for Sierra Leone and its time we rally hands together to forge ahead and build a one united country that represent all regardless of creed, caste, class or colour. The challenges and task at hand is huge as I have seen these few months I have been in Freetown, joblessness is achingly disturbing, idle youths everywhere, the educational system is poor, overcrowded schools and almost not functioning to it full capacity. The university students are on strike in protest of a too costly tuition fees and couple with the fact that the pass rate is appalling and even when they graduate, job opportunities are scarce.

The Sierra Leonean government is practically functioning on handout from the United Nation, European Union, and African Union and donor countries. My hope is for things to proactively change soon for the betterment of all Sierra Leoneans. I love this nation, I owe my allegiance to Sierra Leone coz I was born here, I had a good life growing up in Freetown back in the days and at this point “mama Salone” is in her lowest ebb ever and all I can do is to make myself available to contribute and help raise her back to this once glorious nation she was. I have hope, I have a dream that Sierra Leone will rise again despite all the pain she has gone through.

“I am the watchman, I am at the city gate, raising my voice and calling on all Salone pikini dem – Arise! There’s work to be done for the land that we love – Sierra Leone!”

@DanteBello