FB_IMG_1461756224259For many years, it seemed, Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora never surfaced in the inhumanely cold countries of the Nordic region in Europe. True. The fact is that, these countries, especially Sweden which presumably hosts the largest number of Sierra Leoneans in the Nordic region had relatively lesser colonial relations with Africa than some of its EU counterparts. Factually, this country embarked on slave trade on a comparatively much smaller scale, in the Gold Coast (Ghana). The fact that no slaves were brought in Sweden presents it as a non-colonial participator.  And much of these facts are not written in Swedish history books. This partly explains the reason why the advent of Africans in Sweden in the early 1960s was seen as a strange phenomenon in the country’s contemporary history. Nevertheless, since gaining economic strenght, Sweden has always projected itself as a force to reckon with in international political affairs, and in particularly in the domain of humanitarian work.

With a stable political atmostphere and a vibrant economy, this nation has made tremendious contribution to human capital development both within and beyond its borders, and has also become a safe haven for refuges seeking aliens.  As a result, a lot of Africans have leapt at every opportunity that accompanied this country’s hospitality, as many came to realise that this country is an ideal place to seek refuge from the troubled continent of ours.

Nonetheless, Sweden was and is still a country which is undoubtedly unpopular among many Sierra Leoneans both at home and in the diaspora. In fact many Sierra Leoneans normally mistake this country for Switzerland. The first Sierra Leonean to have  seemingly ventured to settle in this country in the early 60s was the old music legend Chernor Amadu Jah. That was a time in which this country, with a beautiful landscape, was literally blanketted by snow throughout entire winters. The impact of the weather  have  ipso-facto been the underlying reason why the presence of  few Sierra Leoneans went unnoticed.

But as time went on, more and more Sierra Leoneans arrived in this country which suddenly became their new home. It was obvious that the majority had come to settle in this country in order to escape the political dictatorship that characterised Sierra Leone post independence era. Some came to pursue higher education through scholarships given to them by institutions and colleges in Sierra Leone. Others came to join their families. It would be however, rather farfetched to establish that they all had pre-knowledge of the conditions of living in this country. One thing that was certain though was the fact that they all came to search for greener pasture. Swedish’s hospitality, though some what ambivalent had enabled some to adapt to a Western life style.

One would obviously expect that the presence of intellects and the feeling of nostalgia would be a stark reason for unity and the formation of a viable Sierra Leonean community for those who had earlier on settled in this country. But it is rather ludicrous to maintain that. Ironically the very fact that they had different perceptions of Europe, combined with preconceived notions about how things worked in Europe undermined all prospects of creating the much needed forum for Sierra Leoneans. Adding to these factors were the different personal goals which every one had on arrival. As usual, many in the diaspora saw and still see education as a better way of transcending both implicit racial boundaries, and as a way of  mitigating the impact of prejudices and stereotypes often directed at them, and while others see education as a slow, time consuming and pains tasving endeavour. Both these claims could be right in theory depending on the results or impact they have on the individual. It is said, however, that attempts had been made to form a descendant association, but those formed had been short lived for reasons beyond normal human reasoning. The ambition to form a viable Sierra Leonean organization had over time dissipated.

But as the end of the 21 century and the beginning of the new millennium ushered in a wave of Sierra Leonean immigrants in Sweden, there was some kind of excitment to revive the idea of forming an organization. Like the old guard, many came to join family relatives. Fortunately for others, the Swedish government in concert with UNHCR had put in place mechanisms to resettle a good number of Sierra Leoneans who had survived the brutal and nasty civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone between 1989-1999. Sweden once again displayed its international prominence in caring for the most vulnerable. The majority of the resettled were located in isolated Swedish villages and towns in the notoriously cold northern part of the country.  But many were quick to realise that, conditions of living in the harsh terrains were unbearable. That promted an exodus of some sort. Even before that, a good number of them had meandered between the cold valleys of the north to enroll at universities. Stockholm was however seen as the ultimate target to settle. It is the locus of the country, and it is believed to have better opportunities to offer to all immigrants.

It is important to note that a good number of Sierra Leonean footballers had earlier on immigrated to Sweden. But these were neither interested nor willing to organise themselves collectively. As usual, their business was strictly confines to the appeals of their proffession. 2003 was, however, the year the idea or recreating a stronger and lasting Sierra Leonean community gained impetus. The project was at first very inauspicious as many had learnt lessons from past failed attempts, and unnecessary bickering which commonly erupted at meetings. Many have openly objected the idea and some times argue that  they have no need join any organization. So at first many Sierra Leoneans took a very reserved stance towards the new idea. The months preceding the formation of the new organization in November 7, 2003 were described as testing period for leadership ability. The tenacity and enthusiasm displayed by the founders (Ishmael Kargbo and Vivat Arvidsson) have been greeted with praises. The notion that Sierra Leoneans are very prone to disputes was disproved, and even sceptics have during these years shown interest in the newly formed Sierra Leonean Organization. It has however been incredibly hard to get support from all Sierra Leoneans. Throngs of energetic Sierra leoneans have given their suport to the organization, as they have contributed in different ways to get it where it is today. Much credit has been given to all new ideas that have bolstered the activities of the organization, and to those whose participation have  reinforced the belief that we are a collective force.

With time, the Organization of Sierra Leoneans has grown, and the members’ unshakeable desire to lift our Sierra Leone in international context is reigning high on the agenga. Many have sought membership , and many others are expected to join in the months and years ahead.