Zainab Kamara: Crippled NOT Disabled

By Fatima Babih

Having been in Sierra Leone for the past four weeks, wearing various proverbial hats, one of them as President of the Ansarul Alumni Association, my secondary school Alma mater. In this capacity, I had to visit a few of the many schools that are managed by our school’s Mission around the country.


By mid last week, I had visited schools in Bo (South), Kono (East) and Freetown (West). Next on my list was a school in a town called Mile 91 (North). This is the town where Zainab Kamara lives. She is the crippled woman whose video story went viral a couple of weeks earlier. Since then, women on my DIAMONDS Women’s whatsapp forum had sent me messages encouraging me to look for her while in Sierra Leone. After finally being able to watch the video, I too grew interest in seeing her, but did not quite know how.

On Thursday, October 13, 2016, the day of my visit to the school in Mile 91, I toured with the vice principal, spoke to an assembly of students, and to faculty and administrators, as I do on all my visits. At the end of my tour, I asked whether anyone could show me where the famous Zainab Kamara lives in this town. I was then told that one of her daughters is a student at this very school. What a Blessing! I was then given permission to see her.

Shortly after, a beautiful, pleasant and neatly dressed young lady came to greet me. Hawanatu and I had a nice brief discussion, as she had to return to class. She assured me her mother and siblings are doing well. I asked whether she needed school fees, she informed me that she has been given a scholarship by an NGO, One Girl Salone. She explained that this organization has paid her tuition for the year, provided her with books, uniform and other school supplies.

I then encouraged her to make good use of this scholarship and any other opportunities she gets, to stay in school, study hard and make her mother proud by becoming a professional woman in the future. I made this shy 15-year-old blush in the presence of her vice principal when I asked her to promise not to get involved with men or get pregnant like most girls are doing these days. She promised me she would not and would stay and finish school.

Then I told her that I would like to enroll her into the DIAMONDS Girls Circle, a program of our nonprofit organization Girls LEAD Change, Inc., which works to help adolescent girls in disadvantaged communities combat negative societal trends, such as teenage pregnancy. Sierra Leone has one of the highest incidents of teenage pregnancy, even though many NGOs are offering scholarships to increase the number of girls in school, a high number of girls drop out of school daily due to pregnancy. Girls LEAD Change is trying to reverse this trend so that girls could reach their highest potential.










I arrived and parked a distance away from Zainab’s place, as there is no auto road to her house. I sent word to her. She quickly appeared down the road to receive me; in the typical way a Sierra Leonean receives a long lost relative, very warm and welcoming. She invited me to her house and led the way. She offered me a sit and we talked like sisters. I was concerned about hers and her children’s health. She assured me there were no issues of chronic illnesses; except for occasional bouts with malaria and the common cold, they were all doing well.

We talked about the challenges she is facing with the small house in which she and her children live. She talked about Umaru Fofanah and others who were trying to help her with this issue. She introduced her two sons who had just returned from school, the boisterous and polite boys greeted me with big smiles.

I told Zainab I had just met her older daughter who attends one of my alma mater in town. I told her how the women in my organization and I felt it was important for me to meet her in person so we could have an ongoing relationship henceforth. Which she welcomed. I asked for her permission to enroll her daughter in our DIAMONS Girls program. She happily approved.

With Zainab on her porch

Zainab & Fatima

Of course, our discussion led to her famous garden. She gladly took me round, showing me the various fruits and vegetables she is growing. I asked whether she sells them. She told me she does not, that she shares her harvests with her family, friends and neighbors. She also said that thieves take a lot of them. She pointed to the banana tree near her kitchen, which had no fruits on it because thieves had plucked off the bunch the night before, probably to sell. These thieves are obviously able-bodied individuals with functioning legs, eyes, arms, etc., stealing what a crippled woman had labored to plant.

As we were saying our goodbyes and passing the garden near her house, I expressed admiration for the huge garden eggs. She asked if I liked garden eggs? I told her I did very much and was planning to buy some at the next junction on my way to Freetown. Right away she started plucking garden eggs for me. Before long, Zainab was sending me off with two small bags of garden eggs. Who is the “disabled” woman now? I do not think I could survive long if I had to maintain a garden in order to eat.

On my way to see her, I thought I was visiting a crippled “disabled” woman. After our visit, however, her physical deformity was no longer prominent in my thoughts about her. Instead, I remember a gracious hostess who infused me with the human spirit; she made every effort to make me feel comfortable in her home and did not want me to leave empty handed. At no moment during my visit did I feel that Zainab wanted anything from me. An epitome of the Sierra Leonean women I grew up with, she reminded me so much of my grandmother, MaBatu (Habibatu Swaray), God rests her soul, in whose home no guest slept hungry; regardless of what time they arrived.

Zainab is passionate about her garden, which serves not only to feed her family, but also as a way for her to give to others as best as she could. This amazing woman is a positive reminder that no matter our situation in life, we must strive to sustain ourselves and maintain our dignity as human beings by using whatever physical and mental ability with which we are endowed.

I therefore do not see Zainab Kamara as “disabled,” despite her crippled condition. Rather, I see her as “disadvantaged.”  A woman with no legs to walk with and no formal education, in a country where you are already at a disadvantage as a woman; the odds are stacked against Zainab and other women with physical and mental disabilities in Sierra Leone. There are no dignified provisions by her government and society, for her to maintain her household and raise her children. She has chosen to do so by using her hands, brain and God-given talent, to function in a society where people in her condition often become beggars in the streets.

Zainab's Kittens

Zainab’s Kittens

This phenomenal woman does not need handouts from us; instead, she needs us to lend a hand in helping her do better what she has already been doing to sustain her family.

To avoid duplication of efforts, we are supporting Umaru Fofanah’s lead in helping to secure financial resources for Zainab and her children. He is a reputable Sierra Leonean journalist and BBC reporter who has taken interest in Zainab’s story.  He has set up a trust fund for her in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. For now, we encourage members of our DIAMONDS Women’s forum, Mama Salone readers and the general public to please give Zainab a hand by donating to her trust funds.

Thank you in advance & May Almighty God Reward your Generosity!!

As time goes on, we will share information on other ways of helping and we welcome any ideas of how best we can support this dignified phenomenal woman, Zainab Kamara of Mile 91, Sierra Leone.

Here is the Trust Fund information culled from Umaru Fofanah’s Politico article:

Domestic Contributions:

Account Name:  Zainab Kamara Trust Fund

Account No.: 210-049-956-01

Union Trust Bank

Freetown, Sierra Leone

International Contributions:

Account No.: 210-049-956-01

Swift Code: UTBSSLFR

Intermediary Bank: Ghana International 

1 st Floor, 10 Old Broad Street

London EC2 N1DW

United Kingdom

Swift Code: GHIBGB2L 



Sierra Leone Deputy Minister of Social Welfare Is A Weapon for White Supremacist War on Our Culture

Before Pedro da Centra set foot on the shores of our land and called it Sierra Lyoa (Sierra Leone or Mountain of Lion), the peoples of this land had forms of governing themselves and a social order that sustained our society and helped us survive the elements. Of course, we lost grip on self-governance from the first time our men and women were hunted down and taken into slavery by white supremacists and the eventual move of the British into our land as rulers. As the saying goes, “the rest is history.” We are still struggling to self-govern, despite nearly sixty years of “independence.”



The white Europeans who waged the physical war on our land and people resulting in the enslavement our men and women, as well as robbing us of our ways of governing ourselves, also waged a cultural war on us and have for centuries been trying to decimate our social order. White supremacists know that the key to complete conquer of a people is to make them lose sight of their culture; this is why Africans who were taken as slaves to America were robbed of their given and family names. In most African cultures, we assume relations and solidarity with others with whom we share family names; that kind of communal culture would have caused serious problems for slave masters. But the African slaves not knowing or perceiving each other as relatives made it easier for the white masters to conquer them as slaves by keeping them divided by their names and apart geographically.



The culture war, however, has been difficult for the white man to win in Africa. By some means, the peoples of Sierra Leone have managed to maintain social order, particularly through the two main cultural institutions, Poro Society for men and the Sande/Bondo Society for women. These two institutions have served to empower both men and women with knowledge, skills and social and political power in our society. In poro, boys become men; they learn essential skills, such as hunting and how to be pillars in society. In Sande/Bondo, girls become women; they learn essential skills that empower them to heal and be pillars in society, being the primary caretakers in the family and community. Whether times are good or bad, women’s roles are invaluable in Sierra Leonean culture.

The first thing a boy goes through in his initiation into poro society is circumcision. Likewise, the first thing a girl goes through in her initiation into Sande/Bondo Society is circumcision. This has been going on for ages, the first European invaders noticed how empowering these institutions are and tried, in vain, to invade them so that they could device means of decimating them. The main tool of that era in this cultural war was religion.


Fast forward to the present NGO Era, their new weapon is shrouded in “humanitarian assistance.” With this new weapon, the white supremacists have built a structure in which the foot soldiers of their cultural war are Africans themselves. Millions, if not, billions of dollars are given to so called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Africa every year for what they call female genital mutilation (FGM), a term white folks came up with to describe African women who are members of the Sande/Bondo Society. With such a derogatory term, they have tried for years to taint our culture. White supremacists have been spending tons of money to convince the world that the women’s institutions in Africa are “harmful,” as a way to end African women’s ability to maintain agency through their women’s society. No one is calling yet for the dismantling of the poro society, but we know that it would be their next target.

One of the main reasons Sierra Leone has one of the highest illiteracy rates among women is the grave fear the people have that once their girls are educated and exposed to western ideals, they would turn their noses up on our culture. This is why girls in most families are not allowed to attend school, some who start are not supported to continue into secondary or post secondary levels. Beyond the essential and life preserving practical roles women play in our society, they also serve as preservers of our culture; thus, most families believe that keeping girls out of western education is a means of preserving our culture.


For instance, our mothers often prefer that their sons marry women from their tribes or regions because they worry about whether their sons would maintain their traditions without a wife who understands or follows our culture. Men who marry white women or otherwise western minded women are often perceived as having gone astray, “their children would never understand our ways,” family members would say. Of course, many Sierra Leonean men have married outside their tribes and regions and have still upheld their traditions all the same. But this is just to highlight the invaluable role of women as preservers of our culture in the Sierra Leonean social order.

The new and current Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, who by all looks of things, from her speeches to her writings, is not an educated woman, is proving our people right; western exposure has not only robbed this woman of our values and culture, it has made her into a foot soldier and a weapon in the white supremacists’ war on our culture.

She was discovered by her “FUNDERS” in Guinea, during the Sierra Leone war. With no prospect of finding a visa to repatriate to greener land in America or Europe as many others did, she grabbed the next best thing; formed a fictitious NGO, as many others have done. She has received millions of dollars through her NGO from white supremacist German and other European foundations who are waging war on the women’s institutions in Sierra Leone and elsewhere, in the name of “anti-FGM.” She continues being used as their weapon even after her political connections to President Ernest Koroma led to appointing her as deputy minister.

The deputy minister’s bias toward the Sande/Bondo women, who make up the majority of women in Sierra Leone, is not only a gross conflict of interest, it is a gross injustice to women as she is now using her position as a platform to continue her white supremacist funders’ war on the women of Sierra Leone.

Stay tuned, Mama Salone has more!!




People of Kono District Must Unite to End Structural Injustice

The chronic polarization of Kono peoples must stop. While they are asleep by their focus on superficial divisions, the criminal political elite of Sierra Leone is robbing them blind of their land and their human and peoples’ rights.

When a leader wants absolute power but still needs the outside world and donors to see him as a “democratic” leader, he crafts laws that give legitimacy to his nefarious plans; in this way, outsiders can ignore what he does in the name of sovereignty. This is how the Mines & Minerals Act of 2009 came into being in Sierra Leone, at the behest of the current President Ernest Bai Koroma, the “Supreme Leader” with absolute power in “democratic” Republic of Sierra Leone.

This Act instituted a structure in which a place such as Kono District, which is the most diamondiferous district in Sierra Leone, belongs to the political elite and their network. A quick glance at the act tells you that in a place like Kono, the people have lost all rights to their land; the land and what it contains not only belong to the president and his cronies, they have absolute power over the people. This law has taken the people of Kono into a deep hole from which they must find a way to crawl out.


Mines and Minerals Act of 2009- Section 2 – Ownership of minerals

(1) All rights of ownership in and control of minerals in, under or upon any land in Sierra Leone and its continental shelf are invested in the Republic not withstanding any right of ownership or otherwise that any person may possess in and to the soil on, in or under which minerals are found or situated.

(2) The Minister shall ensure in the public interest that the mineral resources of Sierra Leone are investigated and exploited in the most efficient effective and timely manner.

We have all decried the constant police brutality against the people of Kono, especially the youth, whenever they try to protest the injustices they are facing. We have wondered about the arrogance and over-confidence of cabinet ministers who operate in Kono. These ministers are well known for threatening, intimidating and ordering police to arrest, imprison and even kill Kono people who raise their voices against the injustices they face. The absolute power and impunity of Kono ministers are based in the laws.


Ancestral homes are bulldozed daily and people of Kono are relocated by foreign owned mining companies to shabby new locations far away from schools, markets and hospitals. Schools that have existed for decades are bulldozed and relocated to areas that are inaccessible to the children who attend them. The list goes on and chronically corrupt politicians, their network and local leaders continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the people’s lives and livelihood.

The daily or weekly kimberlite blasting by a powerful mining company, Koidu Holdings aka OCTEA, has been causing so much physical, psychological and emotional havoc on the people of Kono;  the tremor caused by the dynamite blasts leads to many miscarriages among pregnant women in the vicinity, it also leads to psychological trauma, especially for older survivors of the decade long war. But it is all legitimate because the Mines & Minerals Act of 2009 says it is,

Section 36: Compulsory acquisition of private land.

(1) The Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, compulsorily acquire private land or rights over or under private land for use by the holder of a large- scale mining licence.

As a result, the people of Kono are internally displaced and are facing serious oppressive treatment by the police and the government officials they take orders from. Protecting the source of their diamond wealth has led the politicians and their vulture western investment partner companies to commit serious abuse of human rights in Kono District, yet, these atrocities may seem legally justified based on the mining laws.koidu-holdings-company-2

In one rare video report of atrocities in Kono, (which may well be a government commissioned propaganda report), a government minister is asked to explain the situation regarding the recent Congo Bridge destruction and mishandling of the youth and other citizens who tried to protest in Koidu City. Part of the minister’s explanation is that the bulldozing, digging, dredging, etc., were being done to “remove unsuitable materials…to protect the people and their interests.” It is very obvious from his responses that the overconfident minister is fully aware of the injustice of this mining activity, which is leading to the loss of a vital bridge and the lives and livelihood of the people. The Mining Act of 2009 provides legitimacy for this minister to claim that he has commissioned a mining company to “remove unsuitable material…,” a language borrowed from the law,  which gives him the power to order the wrath of police brutality on the people, which in the last incident, resulted in serious injuries and at least one fatality that we know of in Koidu City.

Diamonds have been mined in Kono District for over 80 years; but the previous regime of the late President Tejan Kabba and the current regime of President Ernest Bai Koroma are probably the worst in history for Kono and its people. Things are only going to get better for Kono District and its people when,

  • the people use their collective political powers to demand changes in the structure that the current regime has put in place in the guise of a mining law.
  • Kono people unite in holding their legislators accountable for partaking in the drafting and passing of such laws.
  • People of Kono realize that politicians are false prophets, their promises are fake and only meant to deceive them into giving them the very powers they end up using against them.
  • the people of Kono use their voting power to push for changes in the laws that have built the structure in which they have lost their birth rights to their land.

The people of Kono must unite and find legitimate means of using their collective voices to uplift themselves out of this hole dug by crafty laws drafted by crafty politicians.

Watch a video showing a light sample of OCTEA Dynamite Blasting in Kono

Mines & Minerals Act, 2009

A Call for Kono People to Instrospect & Unite




Lives In Sierra Leone Endangered by Government Officials: Trash Gate

On January 9, 2016, a newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon, The Daily Star, reported, “Sierra Leone agrees to take in Lebanon trash.” The report goes on to say that this comes after a nearly six months trash crisis in Lebanon. The country had apparently entered into contract with a company in the Netherlands, Howa BV to search for a dumping ground for its non recyclable waste. In other words, it useless trash.


Photo Credit: The Daily Star. Lebanon Trash

It took this newspaper report in Lebanon for people of Sierra Leone to know that their government was about to enter into a secret agreement to bring roughly 200,000 tons of trash into the country from Lebanon. Otherwise, people in Sierra Leone would have never found out. If ever, they may have found out after the deal was done, every participant was enriched from the proceeds.  Perhaps the poverty ridden masses would have found out after some mysterious illness overtook them.

In a letter from a Sierra Leone government official, dated January 7, 2016, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo, the Special Adviser to the President of Sierra Leone, advises the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, with whom the agreement is to be signed,

If the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Chief of Staff agree on the legality of the transaction, then there will be no difficulty to sign an agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and your Chamber…It should be noted that the President, Dr. Ernest Koroma, has the final say on this matter.

Civil Society has no say

According to Alhaji Kargbo’s advise above, civil society, as stakeholders who pay the ultimate price should this turn out to be disastrous for health and lives, they are clearly being overlooked and dismissed as irrelevant in the matter.

Alhaji I.B. Kargbo, at the date of signing his letter of acceptance for the Lebanese trash, was holding the title of “Special Adviser to the President” as well as a newly “Elected Member of Parliament.” This shows that in Sierra Leone, it does not take a high level government official to enter into contracts that may potentially  harm the people. Also as an Elected Member of Parliament, he is supposed to represent and serve the people, as such, overlooking the people’s relevance in his dealings of this sort is injurious and a disservice to them.

As a preemptive defense, Alhaji Kargbo states in his letter, that the trash “…should not be of any toxic nature…be part of development of fertilization for agricultural purpose.”

He also stated in a BBC radio interview that the purpose of the trash was for his Dutch business contact to set up a fertilizer plant in Sierra Leone.

If this were true, it makes one wonder:

  • What should come first: the fertilizer plant or the trash?
  • Why isn’t there any record of exchanges regarding a fertilizer plant but there is an exchange for trash transfer?
  • Is it in the terms of reference of the “special adviser” to the President to broker such deals?

Apparently, this is how all “investment” contracts are entered into in Sierra Leone. It does not have to be in the job description of the contracting official. The evidence of this danger is in numerous parts of the country, where mining and non-food agricultural land grabs are taking place. People in those regions are enduring a plethora of injustices from effects of contracts that they were never part of making.

A boy walks through the river in Kroo Bay slum looking for scrap metal to sell. The river is effectively a giant sewage and everyday new garbage arrives in the water from the hills around. Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

A boy walks through the river in Kroo Bay slum looking for scrap metal to sell. The river is effectively a giant sewage and everyday new garbage arrives in the water from the hills around. Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

This is a country that has never figured out what to do with its own trash

But our government officials want us to believe that we have room to accept thousands of tons of trash from other countries, in the name of “developing agricultural fertilizer;” when in fact the Lebanese news paper report indicates that specialists have declared the Lebanese waste “infectious and compacted.”


Slum in Freetown Sierra Leone Living on heaps of trash

The worst danger is the fact that this deal, and others like it, are motivated by financial incentives. The Lebanese are ready to pay millions of dollars to get rid of their trash, and a few individuals in Sierra Leone stand to gain a great deal. Alhaji I.B. Kargbo may become a scapegoat and released from his post to shut us up and defuse any tension at this particular moment.

However, this deal might go through at a later date, after a more discrete transaction can be brokered. There are many more officials in Sierra Leone government who are, at any point in time, striking deals just like this. We often find out when out of no where, our people start dying like flies from a mysterious foreign disease they cannot pronounce.


Susan’s Bay Slum. Sierra Leone Photo Credit: Zander’s Blog

There must be an uproar of civil society. Why do we only rise up when the issue is “politics?”

The people of Sierra Leone must demand transparency and detail information about all such contract deals for which the people are the ultimate victims.


The Daily Star – Lebanon




Dr. Minkailu Bah, Minister
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology
New England Freetown

Sierra Leone, West Africa


Dear Honorable Minister Bah:

With all due respect Sir, your April 2015 education policy, which excludes pregnant girls from continuing their education is like putting plaster on a jigger toe. Your policy puts the blame of girls’ pregnancy solely on the girls and shields the men who impregnate them.

But we all know that the root cause of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone is the appetite of older men for young girls. So by punishing only the girls, you are leaving the jigger in our national toe. Your policy is a first aid band-aid covering a jigger, which needs to be removed.

Many of the worldwide reactions decry your policy, pointing to its  adverse effects on girls’ education and the further depletion of women’s socioeconomic status in Sierra Leone. As women who grew up in Sierra Leone, we have always known that pregnancy ended a girl’s schooling in our country, due to stigma and shaming of the girl. No pregnant girl wants to sit beside her peers with her projected stomach. We have always hoped for a solution.

We are surprised that a government that is legally and morally obligated to protect their rights as children, has formally implemented a policy that further erodes girls’ basic and human rights, which are protected by national and international laws.

We posit here that pregnant adolescent girls, in majority of the cases in Sierra Leone, are victims of rape, in violation of the laws of Sierra Leone. A policy that makes them the only “culprits,” while shielding the adult men who impregnate them, will not only fail, it will make girls even more vulnerable.

OLDER men WHO IMPREGNATE GIRLS must be prosecuted as a fundamental remedY FOR a national crisis.

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IT IS BECAUSE OUR SOCIETY TREATS GIRLS AS INFERIOR. One morning recently, Sierra Leoneans around the world woke up to social media photos of the body of a young woman lying face up on a sandy beach in Freetown (Lumley). Her … Continue reading

Women’s History Month: Ending A History of Violence Against Women

“Make It Happen” is the 2015 theme for International Women’s Day. How do we end a history of violence against women? Women must “Make it Happen.”

Women must do some reflections.

It all starts with thoughts, words then action. The physical violence we see in the clip below (which could well be in Africa) is the culmination of how society perceives women – the inferior sex; which manifests in government policies that do not promote or protect women’s rights, society’s comfort in verbally insulting women and the culminating physical violence on women around the globe.

But this does not happen without women’s contribution. Woman on woman violence is rampant. One good example recently in Sierra Leone when the Vice President was expelled from his political party. Many people expressed their reactions by audio clips, which were making rounds on social media. Sadly though, two of them were the voices of women cussing the mother of the President and other officials as well as cussing themselves in the process. In a country where women are the silent majority who are voiceless in every relevant socio-political arena, it is truly sad that those who decide to be vocal are using their voices to promote violence against their own lot.

When a woman is not seen for her worth, as an intelligent human being who is in fact contributing to society in meaningful ways as much as any man, it is easy for her to be treated in the manner that we see in this clip.

This is Women’s History Month, how are we going to end violence in all forms against women?

Our take: Women can “Make It Happen.”