From 1991 to 2002 the Republic of Sierra Leone suffered greatly under a devastating spiral of civil and political violence triggered by a diamond-powered conflict. At the same time, Sierra Leone will continue to fill the windows of jewelry shops with diamonds, a business worth $300 – $450 million per year, making it one of the world’s richest countries in diamond mineral deposits.
Although this may be true, Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in richer, whereas the common people have the lowest average income in the world. During Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, 75,000 people have been killed and an estimated 20,000 innocent people have been forced to live without limbs. Rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) developed the horrific tactic of chopping off the hands or legs of civilians as a way of sowing terror in the population. Abu Bakarr Kargbo, 31, was one of them.
The amputees of Sierra Leone remain a visible, potent, and poignant reminder of the barbaric nature of the country’s civil conflict that raged for a decade and claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives. The amputees are also a symbol and permanent legacy of the horrors of a war in which the different factions transformed children into fighters and killers, raped old and young women, and turned girls into sex slaves. Although it’s been three years since the United Nations introduced a costly peace plan, the nation still suffers from corruption and the consequences of that devastating war.
Yannis Kontos (Ioannina, Greece, 1971) has gained international recognition for his work in the photojournalism field. As a freelance photographer, he has covered the conflicts in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sierra Leone, among others, as well as the most important world events. His works have been published in the main international media, and they have received, among others, the 2006 World Press Photo prize and the 2005 Fujifilm European Press Photographer prize.
He holds a Ph.D. degree in Documentary Photography (University of Wales), an MA degree in Photographic Journalism (University of Westminster), and BA degrees in Photography (Athens Technological Educational Institute) and Physical Education and Sports Science (University of Thessaloniki).