In honor of World Refugee Day, June 20, a first person account of life as a refugee:
I left Liberia because of the continuous fighting of aimless civil war, which claimed many human lives. I only thank God that I am still alive today to tell people the story of all I went through, as a survivor of violence during the 14 year war in Liberia.
The war started in 1989 in Liberia, the Charles Taylor group came beating, torturing, making you explain what you don’t know, and if you don’t know what to say you would be killed, which claimed many people’s lives.
The first time I went to Ivory Coast to run away from war was in 1994 and I stayed there until 1998, I went back for school after the elections, they forced us to go back home, but the war did not finish properly and another war came. We died a lot, so we ran back to Ivory Coast. We were caught in a maze of security and they beat us a lot. In Ivory Coast we faced a lot of difficulties, we did not have food to eat.
I was born in 1981, in 1994 I was just 13 years old. We would go in the bush, get sticks, sell them, get gari to eat for the day. What they gave us was not enough for the day, so we faced a lot of things that human beings should not go through. When I first got to Ivory Coast there were no shelters, just a big tree. When the sun shines, the sun shines on us. When it rains, it rains on us, nowhere to go. We pray to God until we endure to the end.
In 2002 war broke out in Ivory Coast, and they said Charles Taylor was behind it. So they were killing Liberians, chopping them, beating them. So we were forced to go back to Liberia again. There we were when I was coming home from a certain study class and they caught us, they were catching young boys to carry the war on by force. Although you are not a soldier, you are caught.
They carried us to a certain base before going to the war front. One guy with us escaped, while he was escaping others fell and others died, others got wounded and we managed to escape again back to Ivory Coast at night where we stayed. Later on we passed in the bush to go back to Liberia and find our people. There were three of us and they caught us in the road. They said we were soldiers, but we were not soldiers we were refugees. We are going back home, we said. They started to beat us, they say we should carry their loads, heavy loads, but we were not able to do it so they beat us.
We tried to resist them, they said we were trying to fight them, so they killed one of us three, right in front of us. They put a bullet in his head. We all became frightened. So, they said we should get down on the ground. We laid down flat on the ground. They said we should look straight at the sun, without closing our eyes. We should look right at the sun. While I was trying, they were torturing us, beating us, we were begging, crying, one of them took out a cutlass and chopped me in the stomach.
I was about to be killed when we heard a heavy firing sound that drew their attention, and I managed to crawl into the bush bleeding. I stayed long in the bush with no proper medication and hunger.
After surviving in the bush, I was able to escape through to Ivory Coast and then Ghana, where I stay now. Even now I still feel the pain of my stomach. It did not heal completely. For these reasons I cannot go back to my country.
Another reason I cannot return to Liberia is that my uncle was a wicked militant. For this reason: the friends, families and tribe of my uncle’s victims are there. For him and us his relatives who are far and near, we are in danger. So due to this tribal problem and my past experience, whether peace or war, I do not want to return to Liberia.
So it worries me a lot, when I think about my people. I have no information concerning their whereabouts. Sometimes I go hungry, all day long without eating. I do not also have the option to return to Liberia because there’s no family, no friends, no homes. I have survived many sufferings which have left marks over my body.
I really need a place to call home, where I can have quality education and do something for my future. The more I suffer in Ghana, the more I reflect on my past experience and the more I want to get out of Africa.
We want to be resettled out of Africa. We don’t want to go back to Liberia. Our houses are burned and destroyed. We don’t know where our families are. No job, no quality education. If we go back to Liberia, what job can we do? There’s nothing of such, so our lives here are like wasted years. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We need something better so we can have a quality education, build our future and have something to do for ourselves.
Who are we, where are we heading to, what is our right? They have been trampled upon. We are totally being neglected and we are human beings, we form part of the society and we should have equal rights. Who am I? Did God forget me? The more I think about my past experience, the more I want to make tears to roll down my eyes because you think of how you were. You were living with a loving family, you have your people, you used to go to school and now you are running here and there looking for food. Food to eat was not a problem, but now our problem is food to eat.