Deep in the heart of what used to be Sherbro
Country, only one fact makes the village of Tihun a stand-alone
from the other
rural communities on the bumpy road from Matru Jong: it is the home village of
Julius Maada Bio, former Sierra Leone head of state and presidential candidate
of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) in 2012.
Now dominated by speakers of the Mende language, the
only activity on a recent afternoon was the bustle of pupils returning home
from school and the passing of a white truck with "World Food Programme"
painted in large blue letters on its side. At a nearby intersection signs
announced the presence of non-governmental aid agencies. An almost collapsed concrete
bridge near where women were making palm oil led the way out of town. Another
signboard on the outskirts of town inaugurated by a Michael Colin of Charity ,
UK was dedicated to the memory of the over 2000 residents of Tihun and its
surrounding areas who perished during the eleven year civil war.
But at the end of a cul-de-sac next to the kind of community
meeting place known all over Sierra Leone as a "bari," a large two story well
painted building told the story of a native son made good in the military and national
politics. The building looked uninhabited, with the only noise coming from a
meeting in progress at the "bari." Friendly neighbors waved to a passing
stranger in a car and bothered none when photos of the two story building were
taken. The building belongs to Bio.
A friendly teacher and a native policeman near what
passes for the center of town estimate that Tihun now has about one thousand
souls and produces mostly rice, cassava and palm oil. They also said the area
has lots of Fula cattle herders.
Palm trees, symbol of the SLPP surround Tihun
and other villages and are a major source of survival in the region. It is also
the symbol, accompanied by a photo of Bio that hangs in many homes. Bio is said
to be a frequent visitor to his village.