Ghosts from the Past, Prayers for the Future: Sierra Leone, Part II

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 | Bo, Sierra Leone (map)

At a roadside stand, locals sell bush meat in all its hairy, gristly glory. 
When I arrived back in the country shortly before the runoff presidential polls, Sierra Leoneans were tense. Sure, they reasoned, the first round had gone smoothly, but with the country's two oldest rival parties again pitted against each other, anything could happen. A nation was once more glued to its radios, hopeful but apprehensive.

For the runoff election, I was assigned to travel to Bo, the capital of Sierra Leone's southern region. From Freetown, to drive the approximately 200 miles to Bo took nearly seven hours.

Just outside Freetown, palm, mango, papaya, and banana trees populate the hillsides, while the lowlands are stocked with rice paddies and rows of cassava. Along the road's edge, native ferns and caladiums collect the red mud splashed by passing cars. Pied crows circle overhead, and brilliant songbirds flit among the fruit trees whydahs trailing long tail plumes like kite streamers, weaver