Sierra Leone Takes a Deep Breath as It Sees Fresh Hope; Welsh Photographer Glenn Edwards Captures on Film the War-Torn Nation's First Free Elections in a Decade
Byline: JOANNE ATKINSON
VICTIM of the rebel forces in Sierra Leone, Ishmael Daramy typifies the plight of many affected by the country's recent civil war.
A driver from the Kenama district, both his hands were cut off by a commander of the Revolutionary People's Front as he walked to a friend's house in June 1996.
Welsh freelance photographer Glenn Edwards met Daramy last week when he visited Sierra Leone for the nation's first free elections in a decade.
Mr Edwards said Daramy's shocking story was all too common in the troubled country, where civil war raged for more than a decade until peace was declared in January.
He said, ``Daramy was captured by rebel soldiers and two boys were shot in front of him.
``He was next to be shot but the commander decided to take his money and cut off his hands.
``Daramy told me, `I was numb with fear; they held and tied my arm on wood, and with a long cutlass he took one hand.
`As I looked at it on the ground the other was taken.
`The commander shouted at me, `Go to President Kabbah and he will give you your hands'.' ``Daramy,'' said Mr Edwards, ``is just one man in the amputee camp in Freetown, but tens of thousands have been killed and injured, and more than two million were displaced from their villages during the war.'' But there are signs of a positive future in the troubled country.
The president to whom the commander referred led the SLPP (Sierra Leone People's Party) to a landslide victory in last week's elections.
Mr Edwards, from Penhow, near Caldicot, travelled to the West African country to record the historic events for a book he is compiling about Sub-Saharan Africa with MEP Glenys Kinnock.
``I visited Sierra Leone for the politicssection of the book,'' he said. ``It was such an interesting situation, with the signs of the war still evident, but the positive effect of the elections was also very powerful.
``There was a positive atmosphere, with people so glad to see the back of conflict.
``Everyone made such an effort to vote, especially the amputees who had suffered so much as a result of the war.
``By voting for the SLPP and democracy, they felt they were making sure others would not have to go through what they had gone through.''
Mr Edwards said the people of Sierra Leone - many of whom had not experienced a free vote election before - were given advice as they reached the polling stations.
``You are going to be very nervous when you go to vote, and your hand will be very shaky,'' said a radio presenter.
``So you must take a big blow and let it out slowly. You will find you have relaxed and your hand will be steady and you can make your vote. …