Part 1: The Decision That Saved My Life

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Read the introduction

The war in Sierra Leone lasted for 11 years, 1991 to 2002. Within these years many people lost everything.

Some lost their lives, others were maimed by rebels. It was a spillover from Charles Taylor’s war against his people of Liberia just for power and wealth. Sierra Leoneans embraced the war because they were disgruntled with very poor governance that had lasted for decades. In fact there was a one-party state with no opposition. The days were dark and empty, with nothing to look forward to.

Augustine Kanjia, a student then after the attack on his home, decided to go see his grandmother. On his way a lot happened, as he retells in the beginning to this incredible story below.

Augustine Kanjia

The Worcester Sun / The Worcester Sun

Augustine Kanjia working from his home in Worcester.

The roads to Motema, my home village, from the capital were all closed for three weeks due to the rebel insurgence. After a month, there was an announcement by the then-minister of defense saying the rebels had been beaten back appropriately, and that it was then safe to move around. Cars moved up country in convoys, men and women walked on foot to their villages.

After one to two weeks, the rebels resurfaced in pockets along the roads to main towns and cities. They were mostly bandits that had left the mainstream army to become rebels, thus nicknamed, “Sobels.” This was a mixture of soldier and rebel, a new word. My grandmother wanted to see me. She never knew if I was alive or dead, and she wanted me to see her before either of us would die or be killed or separated.

First, it was a decision between life and death because no one knew the consequence of travelling. Secondly, there was [a] money problem, the lack of it. I felt I had no defense at any time if the “Sobels” had attacked; no one would have known that I was killed, neither would anyone really care about my death at that time, but I had to go pretending that nothing dangerous would happen when I was there.

On March 15, 1995, I decided to go to my Motema, my hometown in the diamond-rich area of Kono in the east of Sierra Leone. It was evening, the dust rose over the city with human activities.

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