What Was the Agreement between the Elders and the Youth
Many similar experiences were shared that night. While older residents had left villages through agreements, mainly to escape debt, stagnation and “women`s problems” long before the conflict began, and delaying tactics had navigated through the connections they had built in the city, young residents used agreements to flee just before the conflict began. Salieu (fifty-one), who was twenty-nine when his village began to see war as inevitable, said: There was a mom next to us – she was selling fufu, you know, and I really like fufu. She was a little older but very lonely and she loved little boys like me. And those days, I was very hungry. She gave me Fufu every day for free and at night I kept her company. Because I was very good to her, she always made extra treats for me and I could have gotten very fat at that time [laughs]. I ate well and had a place to sleep and wash and she was happy with me. So what we have here is a transition of rural kinship patterns closely linked to different urban intimate economies, a stage that has been facilitated and continues to be nurtured by relationships of agreement that have moved from veil to revelation and from stigma to celebration. Transactional relationships are therefore creative attempts at self-determination through the exchange of intimacy, economy and emotions between elders, between elders and youth, and between youth.
One of the main reasons to seek agreements is based on the idea that a meaningful life is a connected life. In Sierra Leone, people are not seen as limited entities or lone wolves, but as links in a relational model. A rich life is therefore characterized by connections that give life its pulse and locate a person in a network of will and need, to give and receive. Through chords, connections can be expanded, positionality transformed, and loneliness bypassed. But because a person is rooted in a network of specific relationships, the ability to act is domesticated (see Nyamnjoh Reference Nyamnjoh, Moore, and Sanders2001 for Cameroon) and sociocentric and egocentric demands are constantly competing (Jackson Reference Jackson2012:7), and a person`s unique social and geographic position shapes the forms of connections that are tolerated and within reach. Agreements are therefore an exercise in balancing individual and collective needs, and their changing role reflects changes in the relationship between personal desire and collective responsibility. Their popularity among seniors and youth tells a story about the forms of resistance and negotiation of the lack of social positioning and clearly assigned relational models. Through agreements with people who serve as guarantors, who provide access to new geographical locations, social circles and employment opportunities, and who are important companions through the ups and downs of life, Sierra Leoneans forge self-directed alternative life paths. When properly maintained, connections deepen over time, and the older a person is, the wider their networks. After retirement and in old age, transactional relationships provide a safety net through which older adults continue to “win.” Less than 1% of Sierra Leoneans receive a pension (Pension Watch Reference Watch2019) and, as we have learned, relatives may be scattered and unwilling or unable to offer support. In the fall of life, transactional relationships allow a person to stay in touch with everyday urban affairs and maintain established interpersonal relationships. They provide comfort when spouses die, children are far away, and physical limitations lead to increasing dependence on others.
In this way, they make it possible to escape or at least reduce loneliness, which for many is an uncomfortable companion of old age and is particularly felt in retirement homes. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an important agreement between countries that have pledged to protect the rights of the child. Basically, such relationships have remained important because of the relational conception of a meaningful life. Not being necessary and not needing others without meaningful interactions, company or attachments has been understood as an unbearable state that makes a person`s existence meaningless. It is important that, in this context, necessity does not mean dependence, but added value. Meaning then arises from a mutually beneficial relationality, from a positioning such that one can give meaning to others and that others can give meaning to one`s own life. At King George`s, agreements bridge the gap between life before home and life today, and are of paramount importance to residents` efforts to continue living meaningful lives. As Mr. Dumbuya (eighty-six years old) repeated: In addition to working with young climate activists, the alumni also had roundtables on African leadership, debated the Egyptian revolution with young people in Cairo, discussed the refugee crisis and UN reform with young students at Sciences Po in Paris, and published guest blogs by young contributors on their website.
     Taken together, social networks woven by contractual relationships are an “accumulated history” from independence to the present moment (Bourdieu Reference Bourdieu and Richardson1986:241). Individually, they reveal a person`s social development and the connections that have allowed them to move through life as they did; Studied together, they teach us the general transformations of the Sierra Leonean social landscape. Through contractual relationships, Sierra Leoneans have negotiated a shift from hierarchical and involuntary rural and related entities (see Boissevain Reference Boissevain1966 for Sicily) to conscious and reciprocal networks that create links between former foreigners in the urban sphere and increase social capital, economic opportunities, mobility and attempts at self-creation. And indeed, if transactional relationships offer important human bonds aimed at making each other beneficial, nurturing and sometimes fulfilling personal aspirations without compromising masculinity or successful femininity, why should they be reserved for young people? Since agreements depend on successful social relationships and the strengthening of social capital over time, seniors` networks were at their peak, and to stop caring for them would have meant a drastic decrease in living standards and the degree of connectivity. Ms. Finda (seventy-seven years old) once explained to me: This article showed what we can gain by looking at seniors` views on transactional relationships. A processual approach and the investigation of transactional relationships in all phases of life can shed light not only on individual biographies, but also on the social development of a country and the ruptures and continuities that characterize it. In this way, a life-course approach can serve as a lens to conceptualize greater social changes within and between societies. .