London-based broadcaster Forna somberly chronicles her search for the truth about her father’s 1974 arrest and subsequent hanging in Sierra Leone.
Mohamed Forna was the first of his family, a regionally powerful clan, to attend university. He studied medicine at St. Andrew’s in Scotland and in the 1960s went back to Sierra Leone with his young white wife. Their daughter begins her story with a description of the first ten years of her own life, leading up to the day she last saw her father, accused of carrying out a bombing attack on a government minister. Forna recalls that her parents were initially happy together during the years he ran a small clinic and hospital he had founded in a rural area to help his people. But her father’s increasing involvement in politics led to estrangement, the couple separated, and her mother took the children briefly to Scotland. They returned when Mohammed was appointed Finance Minister, but the marriage continued to unravel, as did the country. Forna affectingly but dispassionately details Sierra Leone’s long, bloody spiral—still ongoing—into chaos. Her father was removed from office. Corrupt dictators ended democratic rule, destroyed the economy, and ruthlessly punished opponents like Mohammed Forna, who believed in democracy. His daughter also describes her encounters with racism as a child at English schools, her mother’s remarriage and disappearance from their lives, and her relations with Mohammed’s new wife, who had to protect his children as well as try to save his life. Returning to Sierra Leone in the early ’90s was not easy; Forna’s investigation into her father’s death revealed unrepentant complicity and lying that said much about the current state of politics in a country that has wantonly destroyed its future.
A searing indictment of African tyranny mingled with bittersweet childhood memories.