Sierra Leone: Agony of a War Generation
In the early hours of January 6, l999, rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched an offensive against the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, capturing it from government troops and the soldiers of the Nigerian-led peacekeeping force known as ECOMOG, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Cease-fire Monitoring Group. The battle for Freetown and the ensuing three week rebel occupation of the capital was characterized by the systematic and widespread perpetration of all classes of atrocities against the civilian population, of over one million inhabitants, and marked the most intensive and concentrated period of human rights violations in Sierra Leone’s eight-year civil war. - Sierra Leone: Getting Away with Murder, Mutilation, and Rape
On January 6, the rebels entered Freetown, destroying properties and killing indiscriminately. We spent most of our days and nights indoors, trying to protect ourselves from the bombing and stray bullets, and also not to cross path with the rebels, because the killings were just too much. We saw people being killed in front of our eyes but we couldn't do anything about it, we just tried to save our own lives.
A few days later, we heard on the radio that ECOMOG [Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group was a West African multilateral armed force established by the Economic Community of West African States] was advancing towards Eastern Police, trying to take back the city, and in a few hours time they would have liberated my area.
It was around this time that we saw three rebels trying to break and enter into a neighbor’s house. But the house had steel doors and it was impossible to break in. So the rebels were trying to set it on fire with the people inside! Dreadful, huh? But since we already heard that Ecomog is coming soon we decide to help the people because it would have been too late for them if we had waited.
So we took all we could find, domestic items like machetes, cooking knives, bottles and we set out to face the three rebels. We ended up causing some real damage to one of them (maybe he died later but who knows) but they eventually ran away and left the people alone. Little did we know that we just signed the death warrant of many many people in my area!
We were so nervous just hoping and praying for the coming of Ecomog which never came on the promised time.
Later we saw about 15 to 20 rebels storming my street fully armed. So we figured that the three injured rebels would have mobilized them. They looked so…so barbaric. Like some creatures from the underworld. They didn’t look like human at all. They were looking for us specifically but most of us were in hiding.
And that was when they saw my uncle coming out of the house. The thing here was: my uncle was having a headache so he was sleeping all the while. He didn’t even know what had happened. And we all forgot to wake him up to tell him to leave the house. So the rebels just met him coming out of the house and they started beating him up asking him all these weird questions. Questions he didn’t have answers to. "Sit on the floor!’’ they shouted. And the leader ordered him killed.
Well, my uncle’s older son was seeing everything and he decided to face the rebels to tell them that his father was innocent. That he was not part of it. That he didn’t even know what happened. Everyone tried to tell him not to go there. ‘’But I can’t stand and watch them kill my father for nothing!’’ he insisted. So he went and the next thing we saw was the rebels shooting both of them dead. They killed him and his father for crimes they didn’t even know about.
Sometimes I sit and think that if we had let the rebels burn that house with a whole family inside then maybe my uncle and cousin would still be alive today. Did we do the right thing? Saving some people and putting so many other people's lives in danger.
That same day, the rebels started to burn houses, kill people--lots and lots of people, and it's really scary, They even burnt down our house. We tried to put out the fire but it was just too big, but we persevered. But the rebels came back and started shooting at us, so we decided to leave our burning house and find shelter somewhere else.That's when I lost contact with my family.
I ran towards a house, and I heard a man crying, "I am dying, I am dying, me and Mr Shaw we are dying oh!" So I climbed over the wall and peeped and saw him lying on one elbow, and the other guy was on the floor blood gushing from his mouth, blood all over his face. His eyes met mine and I can sense him begging me to save him. He couldn't say the words though, but I could feel it from the way he looked at me. But I couldn't save him, I was not even sure if I could save my own life on that day.
Then I heard gun shots, I raised my head and saw a rebel running into the compound where I was. I ran outside towards another house, I saw him chasing after me, shooting at me, but he missed!
As I ran towards this house, I saw a boy, he's probably ten or eleven years old, I shouted, "Run inside the house, they're coming, Run for your life!" Then I just passed him and entered the house, and hid under one of the chairs. I couldn't fit very well and I know if the rebel entered this house that would mean the end of my life!
So the rebel came but the didn't enter the house. He stayed outside and said something but I didn't get the words. Next thing I heard were two gun shots, and silence.
I stayed under the chair for what seemed like hours. After I was sure that the rebel had gone, I decided to get out. As I crawled out and exited the house I saw the same boy lying on the floor. He seem to be sleeping, so I said to him, "Hey boy, wake up, the rebel is gone now." But he didnt move. So I tried to shake him, trying to wake him up, but then he went giddy on me. He went limp! That's when I realized that he was dead.
So I decided to look at his face, maybe I'd recognize him, and YES! I do recognize this boy. HE IS THE DEAF boy down the road.
OMG! That's why he was unable to hear me when I told him to enter the house, when I told him to run for his life, because HE WAS DEAF! He never heard me. He never even heard the shot that killed him!
And I started thinking to myself, maybe I was just being selfish. Maybe I should have dragged him inside the house with me, maybe I should have done something to save this innocent DEAF KID....but I was trying to save my own life. Lord please forgive me!
Now, these are some of the many dreadful stories that boil in my head everyday. Sometimes I wake up at night and just want to cry and cry. To all the people who lost their loved ones in that senseless war, I just want us all to take heart and try our best to pray and hope for better days.
Thanks for reading.
By LegoMe LefMe