In March 2017 a delegation from Sierra Leone including the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Maya Kai Kai, visited Belfast. The visit was the result of Professor Hamber visiting Sierra Leone in February 2016 on invitation of Catalyst for Peace (operational US Foundation) and Fambul Tok a local NGO. The trip focused on observing the work of Fambul Tok. Fambul Tok (meaning “family talk”) is a community ritual process that takes place at bonfires in which reconciliation between victims and perpetrators of political violence takes place (see http://www.fambultok.org). When the Ebola crisis hit, the same networks were used for post-war reconciliation were transformed into health prevention networks. Then in the last two years the networks have continued to develop, and have morphed into a local governance processes called the “People’s Planning Process”. Fambul Tok have run this new peace and development process in 3 regions. Through the trip Professor Hamber was invited to be an advisor to and Fambul Tok, as they set out to mainstream the process with government. As part of this process, Professor Hamber, funded and supported by Catalyst for Peace, hosted a delegation from Sierra Leone including the Minister of Land and Rural Development, MPs, a major, local council members and various civil society representatives in Belfast in April 2017 to discuss the inclusive local governance and peacebuilding process unfolding in Sierra Leone.
Great to hear John Caulker speak about “Sustainable Peace in Post Ebola Sierra Leone” at a recent seminar hosted by the Chair within INCORE. It was fascinating to hear how the community networks that the project John Caulker established called Fambul Tok (“Family Talk”) were used to help building community resilience in the face of the virus. Fambul Tok was set up to deal with the legacy of war and focused on sharing stories often from perpetrators of violence, but the community solidarity they built through that reconciliation project became instrumental in combating misperceptions and changing behaviour around Ebola. They are now looking to roll out a wider process of networks since the end of the epidemic. Caulker was also critical of the international community who treated the epidemic as solely a medical problem failing to see that engagement of communities was needed to stop it and that communities also had to deal with the problems Ebola caused (inter-community tensions and stigma). In post-Ebola Sierra Leone problems still prevail in that funding support is for “Ebola victims” which singles people out rather than support whole communities. Caulker believes any interventions should be community-centric.
The seminar was recorded and the recording will be posted on the Hume O’Neill Peace Blog soon.