Monday, March 5, 2012

Cultural History Research Paper

Research Paper on Cultural History

Historical Overview
Civil wars threaten the existence of the life of a nation because the strong trample over the weak. While some of the victims of these civil brutalities consist of old and young men, as well as boys, it has also been documented that in many instances, women and children have undergone heinous experiences: women are murdered, raped or gang raped, beaten and forced into unwanted pregnancies. Also, children are massacred, raped, forced to take up arms and engage in other atrocities associated with Civil Wars. These have been documented to be the case during the Civil War in Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire (Morgan-Conteh and Dixon-Fyle 1999; Gberie 2005). Based on the historical literature review, one may argue that violence rather than a peaceful revolution is a ubiquitous phenomenon in African Civil Wars. Stephen Ellis offers this insight:

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For while it is in many ways most desirable to seek the     causes of individual conflicts in local histories,     such an approach carries the risk of making contemporary     wars appear unconnected, as though there were no     relation     between, say, the war in Liberia,     that in Congo, and that     in Somalia. All have particular histories, of course, but     an exclusive concentration on a historical narrative     limited to a single country carries the danger of     obscuring some factors which may be common to wars in     even the most apparently unconnected places (Ellis     1999: 27).
Having pointed out that Liberia has had a long history of violence, many scholars on Liberia have documented that there were frequent tribal wars whose ultimate purpose was to decide control for a burgeoning slave trade (Ellis 1999). The bloody overthrow of the Liberian government in 1980 (Perkins 2006), the summary executions that followed and the bloody Civil War demonstrate Liberia’s thirst for violence. Simultaneously, historians have demonstrated that violence against women has been a customary practice in Liberia (Perkins 2006). In the context of this paper, I assert that violence in Liberia, extends far beyond the wars, but primarily manifests itself in rapes, murders, house burnings, destruction of government buildings, huge thefts, cannibalism, mutilations, drugging and kidnapping of children, nepotism, lies, wife beating, and many other atrocities. As Martin has pointed out, violence has become a habit, a customary disposition, and a “cultural liability” (Martin 2002).
Political cataclysms in Liberia reached their zenith during the Liberian Civil War where the young and old as well as men and women suffered grievously at the hands of merciless soldiers from their government and rebel forces who came to “liberate” them. The Liberian Civil War began on December 24, 1989, in Buutuo, Nimba County. General Quiwonkpa, from Nimba County, an arch rival of President Samuel Doe, was killed in a coup against the Doe’s government in 1985. Many of Quiwonkpa’s tribal men were killed and many fled into exile. These exiles from Nimba, along with other exiles, organized themselves into a guerrilla group. These guerrilla groups invaded Liberia from the Ivorian borders in the town of Buutuo, Nimba County. Quite a number of Nimba citizens especially those from the Gio (Dan) and Mano groups joined the rebellion to remove Doe from power. Seeing that the Dan and Mano tribes were adamant about removing him from power, President Doe organized death squads to murder any Nimba citizens in Monrovia, which was under the control of his government. The death squads terrorized the homes of local citizens: at that time it became illegal to harbor a Nimba citizen. The people of Nimba were dependent on the mercy of international organizations such as the UN and the Red Cross.

From historical perspective, the civil conflict in Liberia was brutal in all respects. Women as well as children were raped and murdered by the government soldiers, predominately of the Krahn ethnic group, and their sympathizers, the Mandingo ethnic tribe, as well as rebel forces of the Dan tribe, and Repatriate Liberians fighting for change in leadership in Liberia. The Krahn and Mandingo initially formed one rebel group, but because of internal conflict, they separated. There was also a split between the Dan and Repatriate Liberians. The Dan and Mano groups were divided into two. A majority of the Dan and Mano rebel forces stayed on with Charles Taylor, a descendent of the Repatriate Liberians who became the sole leader representing that group. The Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia of Prince Johnson became another Dan and Mano faction. Crimes were committed by every rebel faction and their leaders. All sixteen social groups of Liberia suffered as result of the Civil War and many fled into exile as refugees, including me as well as other men, women, and children. Alao et al., (1999) summarizes the civil brutalities:

By October 1990, Liberian refugees in neighboring states numbered more than 600,000…unfortunately, brutal revenge-reaping was not the monopoly of the Armed Forces of Liberia; the National Patriotic Forces of Liberia in turn terrorized those thought to be Doe’s supporters and the conflict quickly degenerated into an inter-ethnic slaughter. The Dan and Mano people, along with other ethnic groups, were killed at will by Doe’s forces, while the Krahns and their Mandingo allies were butchered by the rebels and their supporters in reprisal attacks. (20-21)

Oral History: Origin and Definition
There is a consensus among oral historians that Alan Nevins, a Professor at Colombia University in New York, is credited for being the neologist of the term oral history (Yow 1994). Charles Morrissey, cited by oral historian Yow, stated “Nevins tape- recorded the spoken memories of white male elites” and called what he was doing “oral history” (Yow 1994: 4). But how does one define an oral history? An oral history, a number of oral historians claim is a taped memoir, an in-depth interview, and a typewritten manuscript. For example, Yow states “ the terms used here - such as in-depth interview, recorded memoir, life history, the recorded narrative, taped memories, life review - implies that there is someone else involved who inspires the narrator to begin the act of remembering, jogs memory, and records and presents the narrator’s words”( Yow 1994:4). I will utilize oral history as a method for this work.

Valerie Yow, a historian, sees oral history as a typed memoir, a typed written transcript, and an in-depth interview (Yow 1994). Such oral narratives tell the stories of these cultures and their people. An oral history interview is seen as a form of “a conversational pattern” between the narrator and the one to whom the narration is given (Rubin and Rubin 1995). Trevor Lummis, historian and scholar, draws attention to the advantage of oral history (Yow 1994). He argues that the advantage of oral history is its interaction because an individual is not left alone as he or she might be with documentary evidence. Another significance of oral history according to Yow is that “it reveals daily life at home and at work” (1994:13). This aspect of the significance of an oral history is integral for this paper. I have argued in this work that currently, to my knowledge, no research chronicles exist on Liberia that document abuses and violence against women. This work, therefore, is an effort and an attempt to establish one. Hearing the voices of some Liberian women and their experiences in patriarchal Liberia would elucidate our understanding of their quotidian lives as well as their past and present struggles and successes. I would like for these Liberian women participants to educate us by narrating their life stories.

Why Only Women Participants?
War, since antiquity, has been a male endeavor (Sanford 2003:20). This assertion, which points to the minimizations of the role of women in warfare, is true of the women in Liberia. My paper is about Liberian women exiled to the United Kingdom. I chose women and not men because, in the history of Liberia, apart from an interregnum and the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005 as a President of the Republic, women in Liberia have been marginalized, abused, and violated by the patriarchal society of Liberia. I chose the number four because four social groups have been instrumental in the violence in Liberia. These four social groups are Dan, Krahn, Mandingo, and Repatriate Liberian, and each has been trying to obliterate the other. These women are from each of the four groups. I chose the time frame 1979-2006 because these years consisted of both turbulent and “hopeful” years. Therefore, I proposed and examined the oral life histories of these Liberian women exiled to the United Kingdom, to understand how they have lived and what they have learned in response to Liberia’s violence. These four women are not representative samples of how women from each of the four social groups feel or how women feel in general in Liberia, but the purpose of the paper is to know and understand the experiences of these four.

Oral historians Howard Sypher, Mary Hummert, and Sheryl Williams observe, “Interviews are not impromptu. Interviews involve assigned roles, those of interviewer and interviewee. The principal responsibility of oral historian is to acquire information and the principal responsibility of the interviewee is to provide that information” (1994: 47). The participants individually engaged in a face-to-face interview with me. Each participant was asked series of questions [See Appendix] with the option to answer or decline. The duration of the interviews was approximately 2-3 hours. I encouraged each participant to invite a relative or friend to be present at the interview; since my gender is male, I was concerned they might not feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues. The work has risks. Some of these women’s loved ones were raped, beaten, and murdered. These were difficult memories to recount.  Since the Civil War, most Liberians that came to the United Kingdom came as refugees. These refugees exchanged telephone numbers and addresses to keep in touch with one another, regardless of whether they were a Dan, Krahn, Mandingo or Repatriate Liberian.
Sources and Conclusion

I utilized oral life histories of my participants to address Liberia’s violence. The oral life histories consisted of interviews via personal contacts. In the same way Sanford’s conceptual framework, “phenomenology of terror”, which consisted of interviews conducted among her subjects were a primary source for her study, so my primary source through this oral history methodology consisted of interviews I conducted among my subjects, and news media I investigated. Broadly conceived, my primary source documents consisted of interviews I conducted among Liberian women, and news media I investigated. My secondary source documents were the history of Liberia and books about Liberia that helped construct my reading of Liberian history.

The peculiarity of the paper is to know and understand the experiences of these women before, during, and after the Civil War. The benefits to participants are twofold: providing closure to an unhappy or traumatic chapter in their lives and a researched chronicle of their lives that is a valuable tool that may also be passed on to their children as a living legacy. These women, I must admit, did not speak for all the women in Liberia. They spoke for themselves. Perhaps their experience will reflect that of others. In that instance, it is hoped that the benefits to my participants would also be transposed to others as well. In any event, this paper encourages other women to be vocal about abuses and violence they suffered, knowing very well that they are not alone.

The fourteen themes in Figure 1 illustrate how these women’s experiences answer the research question: Given the violent nature of Liberia, what were the experiences of four Liberian women exiled to the United Kingdom as they remember it?

 In Figure 1, one of the themes from the women’s narratives was oppression. The powerful in Liberia oppress opponents to acquiesce and do as they wish. Failure results in violence, which is another theme in the women’s narratives contained in Figure 1. Liberian leaders are willing at all costs to use force to maintain power, regardless of the consequences. Liberian leaders often defy the will of the people; any opposition means death. Defiance and death are also themes contained in Figure 1 in the women’s narratives. President Tolbert displayed that during the Rice Riot of 1979. President Samuel Doe did that to Thomas Quiwonkpa and those Liberians that challenged his leadership (Alao et al. 1999; Ellis 1999). President Charles Taylor did that not only to those members of other factions, but his fighting men. Alhaji Kromah in an effort to exert power in the ULIMO faction’s leadership resorted to murdering General Albert Karpeh (Ellis 1999; Alao et al. 1999).

In Figure 1, the central point, where all the other themes of the women’s narratives that gave birth to other miseducations in Liberia converged is cultural dishonesty. In Liberia, Yoder demonstrated, dishonesty is also exemplified when citizens do not pay their bills through the proper channels (Yoder 2003). After thorough scrutiny, one can argue that the problem in Liberia is more than Duahn and its affiliates, the Repatriated Liberians, Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, the various factions and their leaders, mismanagement and corruption. The problem in Liberia, one can correctly say is Liberians’ attitude towards themselves, their fellow Liberians, and the country itself. Liberia is a culture rooted in dishonesty. Liberians of the old school of thought criticize others but do not walk the walk themselves. When one enters the government in Liberia, the mentality is to become opulently wealthy. This, as it has been demonstrated, comes through other socially condoned but morally corrupt practices that many adopt as a way of life. In Liberia, violence and dishonesty have become a habit, a customary disposition and a “cultural liability” (Martin 2002). Martin states “poverty, slavery, terrorism, torture, domestic violence are not natural phenomena: they are learned, not innate” (Martin 2002:15). Elsewhere, Martin asserts “as far as I am concerned, racism, poverty, terrorism, child abuse, lynching, wife beating, and physical and psychological torture are cultural practices that should not under any circumstances be handed down as living legacies to future generations…How else are we to keep past mistakes from being repeated?” (Martin 2002: 11). In the Liberian context, we can also say like Martin that tribalism, hatred, Civil War, violence against women and children, academic dishonesty, mismanagement, embezzlement, corruption, and every social evil manifested in Liberia are cultural practices that should not be transmitted to the next generation.
From the practical and traditional perspectives, it is unlikely that a Liberian man could do a favor for a woman with no relation if sex is not the motive. Liberian men have been conditioned to believe in such practices. Most Liberian women and girls have also been conditioned to believing and engaging in such practices. It is a common practice that, when girls or young women coming to live in a city either to go to school or work, parents usually tell them to have sex with a men who will provide their needs. All these are cultural practices that in one form or another have been used as tools to devalue and denigrate women. Devaluation and denigration as contained in Figure 1 are other themes that appeared in the women’s narratives. Women in this sense are considered as sexual objects to their own detriment.

One of the themes from the women’s narratives and the literature review is hatred. Hatred among the warring factions is widespread. (Krahn hates Dan and conversely, Dan hates the Krahns). These two ethnic groups are arch enemies. The hatred for the Mandingo ethnic group in Liberia is across the board. Mandingos, in the eyes most Liberians, are not citizens of Liberia (Ellis 1999). Mandingo women are prevented by Mandingo men from intermarrying to men from other ethnic groups, but Mandingo men do marry women from other ethnic groups. The Mandingo men, in turn hate those ethnic groups who hate them. The animosity against Repatriate Liberians is ingrained because Repatriate Liberians considered themselves as superior to the indigenous. To date, animosity among the various groups persists. The hatred among the warring factions created division. 

In Figure 1, as a result of the hatred among the four ethnic groups manifested during the Civil War, ethnic division is solidified. Each warring faction during the Civil War fought not only for victory but to preserve its kind. We see this division in the formation of various faction groups that are representatives of a social group. Distrust of one another in Liberia still is a norm. Liberians do not trust one another because of the deception and duplicity practiced by their countrymen across the board. Liberians, especially those in leadership, engage in malicious lies and oppression as prelude to stymieing the opposition.

In Figure 1, another theme the emerged from my work was a malicious lie. Malicious lie is a kind of lie designed to eliminate a potential opponent. An example of this kind of lie is the type Perkins (2006) narrated about how Samuel Doe accused his Vice Head of State, General Thomas Weh-Syen and others of a coup plot and eventually executed them. Charles Taylor is noted for employing this kind of lie to eliminate others. Alhaji Kromah, a Mandingo, engaged in such lie and that too led to the assassination of General Albert Karpeh, a Krahn, during a power struggle in the early days of Civil War (Ellis 1999). Malicious lie are a tool that Liberian leaders employed to keep themselves in power. Further, in an effort to maintain hegemony and obedience, Liberian leaders often engaged in oppression so others will succumb to their wishes. In Figure 1, distortion was another form of dishonesty formulated by leaders in Liberia to keep them in power.

In Figure 1, another theme from the study was death. Every human being in fullness of time will experience death, except in the event of supernatural intervention. It is one thing to die and, quite another, the manner in which a person dies. Death by beheading is one of the gruesome experiences the living family members find difficult to contemplate. Imagine the final moment of a beheaded person. What was his reaction? What did he say? What were the exchanges between the person to be beheaded and his captors? Imagine a loved one’s death by starvation. Imagine the death of a sick child because of the lack of medications. Imagine a loved one’s death during the heat of a Civil War and whose body was not given final respect like providing a casket for burial. These are some of the images surviving members ruminate; nevertheless, these were some of the experiences of three of the women interviewed for this study. When the women speak of family members’ death, these are the unanswered questions and concerns they ponder. These unanswered questions and concerns have become a part of their daily life. Death after rape is another gruesome experience the living family members could not fathom.

In Figure 1, destruction was another theme from the study. Destruction of properties and the infrastructure are conventional to Liberians. During the Civil War, both rebels and government soldiers burned houses and destroyed the infrastructure. Charles Taylor and his rebels, Alhaji Kromah and his rebels, George Boley and his rebels, Sekou Conneh and his rebels, and President Samuel Doe, and government forces, in one form or another, participated in the destruction of homes and the infrastructure in Liberia. For example, President Doe’s soldiers, predominately of the Krahn ethnic group were sent in the early days of the Civil War to repel the rebels of Charles Taylor in Nimba County, and burned cities, towns, and villages. Charles Taylor’s rebels, predominately of the Dan (Gio) and Mano ethnic groups, burned cities, towns, and villages in Grand-Gedeh County, the home of President Doe, in reprisal attacks. Other factions such as those of Alhaji Kromah, Sekou Conneh, and George Boley among others burned cities, villages, and towns in Nimba County.  When the women in this paper speak of destruction, this is what they meant. Historically, destruction of properties and infrastructures is not new to Liberians.

2. Interview Transcripts
The Dan Participant’s Experience
Esther is a Dan born in Nimba County, Liberia. Her father was a chief. Being a chief in the Liberian context, like that of Esther’s father, carries the potential of being a polygamist. Esther’s father was a polygamist. Her father had a stroke during the Liberian Civil War in Nimba County and subsequently died from complications. Esther told me “My father, being a chief, had many wives. I have about forty siblings.” One of her elder siblings took her to live with her in Monrovia. This elder sibling’s husband once was a cabinet member in President Charles Taylor’s administration. He defected from Taylor and joined a coalition, the Central Revolutionary Council. He subsequently served as a deputy speaker in the Liberia National Transitional Government. Esther’s sister and husband, along with two members of the husband’s family, were arrested and subsequently murdered by the order of Charles Taylor. She fled into exile for fear of being the next target. Esther stated:

I was brought up by my late sister who was murdered along with her husband by the order of Charles Taylor. She brought me to Monrovia for schooling, and later, my father took me to live with some family in Brewerville, and there [ sic] where I lived half of my life doing schooling. I rejoined my sister after the military coup of 1980. The family I was living with brought me back to my sister because they were leaving for the United Kingdom as a result of the military coup. While living with my sister, I was able to complete high school. I attended City Commercial school in Monrovia. When the Civil War started, we all went into the interior. We did business to survive. My sister and husband bought a home in Ghana and I managed to join them there for a period of time. My sister’s husband left from Ghana to work in the interim government in Liberia, but he and Charles Taylor could not get along anymore. He defected from Charles Taylor and joined the coalition. He and Charles Taylor were no longer friends. During the 1997 general elections in Liberia, my brother-in-law and I were members of the Unity Party of the current President, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but we lost the elections in 1997 to Charles Taylor. I ran as a congresswoman from my district in Nimba County. We accepted the results and we all decided to live in Liberia and look to the future.  Prior to the death of my sister and some family members, which I traveled with from Monrovia to attend a wedding in Sanniquellie, Nimba County were arrested at one of the main check points in Liberia which, is Gbarnga that was controlled by the then government of Charles Taylor’s and put in jail. While in jail, a number of security officers entered and said that Charles Taylor wanted Paye and his family in Monrovia for questioning which we didn’t know, but as God could have it, the security officers were not fully informed of what was going on, though they were given instruction. You know, Paye was like a father to me. So he said to the officers if they could please release and allow me to carry the wedding stuffs ahead to Nimba. The worst mistake the security officers made was to allow me to leave for Nimba County while my sister and husband along with two family members remained in jail. When they realized to [sic] come after me, I had already left and it was too late for them. The next morning, we realized that all of the people that I left back at the police station to be going to Monrovia to see President Charles Taylor were murdered. My sister was raped repeatedly until her womb came out. She was then executed. The other female relative was also raped and then murdered. My brother-in-law along with the last family member was beheaded. They were all burned and half-way buried in Gbarnga. That was what we discovered when the family got some information from the press about their whereabouts. Based on that, the civilians in Monrovia wanted me to go out and give information about what had happened during our arrest, and who made the arrest and what occurred in jail. Because I have to tell the story, (the then government of Charles Taylor, didn’t want the story to be told), the human rights organization helped to safeguard me in Liberia while I was there. They also gave me an idea to go to the British Embassy to get a visa to leave the country. I was practically smuggled out of Liberia. That is why I am here in Britain. Thank God that I am here. Coming to Britain was an opportunity but, on the other hand, it was tough because of the situation. I did not see any family members of mine and I had to come here before communicating with the rest of my family again. I am glad to even tell the story again.

The Repatriate Liberian Participant’s Experience
Sarah Mitchell was born in Millsburg, Liberia. She grew up in Montserrado County. When she was two or three years old, her biological mother gave her to another family not for adoption but to rear her. She was brought up in a Christian home and was reared by this family until they passed away. Sarah could not remember her biological father because she was too young, probably between the ages of two or three years when he passed away. She is a high school drop out, but worked as an elementary school teacher and later, was promoted to the principalship. Sarah got married, and she and her husband had eleven children. Her husband later passed away and she was left with all the responsibilities. She became the sole provider and shouldered all the responsibilities of her children’s education. Two of the children passed away during the Civil War in Liberia. Sarah’s experience of the Civil War was one of suffering and pain. Here is Sarah’s description when asked to tell me her experience during the Civil War in Liberia: 

My experience during the Civil War, first of all, I was a widow with ten children and their children. It was very, very hard on me. At that time, men could not walk; it was the women. I had to leave my children to various areas when it got hot [fighting became tense]. When it is hot on this side, I will go on that side. Things were hard. Food was hard to find. We were leaving from one place to another. The check points, oh yes, so many check points. They will be checking in your clothes for money or whatever things they can get. Putting people one side and saying that you were an old soldier or you were in the government eating government’s money, but all those things with the grace of God, the only problem that I faced that hurt me was that I had to leave all of my sons behind. They were all young men and therefore, it was risky for them to travel because they could be murdered either by the rebels or the government’s soldiers. I had to leave them behind because they couldn’t travel. I traveled with the girls and their children. It was not an easy thing for me but I trusted the Lord and he carried me through. When we got to a certain place, I really thought that some of us would have been murdered. When they were searching me and the girls, the only thing that they took from me at that check point were batteries I had to keep the flashlight on while going through the bushes. The young rebel was so wicked; he took the batteries. One little child said to me, “Old mom, the man is taking your batteries.” I put my finger to my mouth so that he can know that I want him to keep quiet. I did that because they would have forcibly kept him, or done something to some of us for saying that. And we traveled. I had a son who was suffering from sickness and there were no medicines—nothing for me to treat him with. If you ever heard that human beings got killed, I saw it at that time. We traveled. We had no money. We had no food and for days, imagine someone being sick. One place we were hiding, he passed away. We couldn’t get food and we couldn’t find medicines. He passed away and was buried in one of our bed sheets we were traveling with. No casket—where will you find it? Then I decided to go back to Millsburg. It was a one day walk from 6a.m. to 7 p.m. but we made it. When we got home, I felt so good. But then for someone to ask me about this particular child, because he was too friendly, it just made me [feel as if] I was nobody to myself again to remember that he had died and we had to leave him behind. Anyway, we went through that; we went back home. The girls were having problems with their children. No food, no medications. We walked from Millsburg three days to get to Bong Mines.

When we got to Bong Mines, to my sister’s house, everybody broke up in tears because they were happy. They were crying for joy; we were crying for joy and what we passed through. And so, we had a big cry in the house and we consoled one another. After Bong Mines, to go back to Monrovia, it was not easy. My sister had to walk through the bushes three days and three nights. They just had to sleep in the name of Jesus. It wasn’t easy. People were being killed left and right. Anyway, we got through. One little child could not walk; so I had to stay to take care. I stay in one family home. I had to take the heat and the abuses. On the road again, we got to a certain place, then I said I will die right here. The driver of the car we were riding pulled over and said, “If anybody here knows God, that person must pray because we are going to the “God bless you gate now.” Oh! Yes Jesus! I said, “God you know I put this problem in your hands ever since. I am in your hands. Please carry us over this gate.” Luckily, for us, the wicked guy who should have been there had gone to the bush to toilet. One rebel boy was sitting at the gate. When we got to the gate there, he let us passed. By the time we passed, we saw the wicked guy coming out of the bush and everybody said “God, thank you.”

When we left from there, we went back to Monrovia again. It got rough there again. The fighting between rebels and government soldiers went on and on. My oldest daughter, they took her husband and two sons to Kakata. They were murdered. She just worried over it. Whenever she hears guns sounds, neighbors say, she will run. One day, she ran and up to date, we have not seen her. My two children died. For us to really know that she was dead, a friend of hers who was a minister and his wife, used to be together working for the native people to survive. They told us the story. They give us her slipper, her New Testament Bible with my daughter name in it. They told us that she died from cholera. “Your daughter died. There was no medicine” her minister friend and wife said. So, my two children died.  So this war, when I said by the grace of God, this is it. You know for those things to happen and for you to go through and still be on your two feet, it is not your own strength but that of God. My sons that I left that could not travel with us, they suffered a lot. Some of the students that I taught and some of the citizens of the town said they did not know my children when rebels entered the village. One of the boys from the village said, “If I have to die with the children, I will die with them. How some of you say you don’t know these boys when their mother was a teacher in this town?” That was what saved my boys. During this period in Liberia, when people of a town say they do not know you, the rebels will call you on the side and take you to the river and they will not see you no more. The town people denied that they knew my boys but God saved them. So, this is how my sons are living. Other than that, they would have been dead… I lost a nephew, my sister’s son. He was beheaded. Another nephew of mine was beheaded. I have so many relatives that died apart from my own two children. In Bomi Hills, one of my nephews was beheaded and his head put in the tree. Another one was beheaded in the city of Monrovia. He was the only child of my sister. They cut his throat and put it on the street. My sister suffered from that loss until she died. There are so many that that I cannot think of now.

The Mandingo Participant’s Experience
Bandu was born in Monrovia, Liberia. Her father was an accountant and mother a registered nurse. Bandu’s experience of the civil brutality in Liberia was similar to that of Esther and Sarah. The similarities are death and starvation. Her father was beaten and subsequently murdered by rebel militias. Four siblings, were also murdered by rebel militias. Bandu escaped death and experienced severe starvation during the Civil War. Here is Bandu’s description of her experience during the war.
Too many people lost their lives during the Civil War. I experienced injustice and violence. I experienced grief and pain. Quite a number of my relatives and friends lost their lives. Food shortage was another problem during the war because of the war, there was no food to eat. Many people died from starvation. Mothers cried for the death of their children. I did not have sufficient food to eat and water to drink. There was no money to buy food; even if you had money, you cannot go looking for food because of terrorists’ attacks, fighting, shooting, and bombings. Too many people suffered from hunger and died. What a life? My family and I suffered so much during the war in Liberia. They beat and killed my father. Two of my brothers and two sisters were also killed. That day, my whole life changed. My family’s quiet routine changed into a nightmare, fear, and anger. I know I will live with this pain for the rest of my life. Some time I tell myself life doesn’t like me. I say this because the people I love very, very much, life has taken them away from me. Yes indeed I experienced the war, food shortage, poverty, pestilences, and lawlessness. My country ruined itself. Some tribe loves themselves, money, no affection for other tribes, and religion. My family comes from a tribe (Mandingo) that most people hated. They were looking around in Liberia to find my family and kill them. Luckily some of my family survived. Now, I call myself the survivor. I tell the Almighty God thanks for keeping me alive today… the pain of my father’s death as well as four siblings is still with me, and I must admit I will live with it as long as I live. No one would like to be in my shoes. The Almighty has been my strength. I am angry with those who killed my family and friends. My country was destroyed by the Civil War. Students and teachers shot in schools, rebels sexually exploited young people followed by the waves of assaults from the warring factions, seen the dead, the wounded, lack of medication resulted in flu killing people, moral break down, loss of faith, destruction of homes, food shortages, among other things make me sad. How will children survive? How will they take care of themselves in this world of unequal opportunities? Because of these things, children are practicing prostitution, abusing drugs, being sexually abuse and for money, and engaging in pornography just to make a living. What a life? It is all because of the Civil War.

The Krahn Participant’s Experience
Marie was born in Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. Marie’s mother gave her to her younger sister to be her daughter. “My mother had, I think, five sisters and two of them didn’t have any kids; so she took me and gave me to her younger sister to be her daughter,” Marie said. This “other-mother” educated Marie from elementary until she graduated from high school. Upon her graduation, Marie went to Monrovia for further education. She was graduated from the University of Liberia in 1982. Marie further pursued higher education in the United Kingdom where she obtained a degree in education. She came to Britain as a refugee because of the Civil War in Liberia. Marie observed:

I am in the United Kingdom as a refugee. I came here because of the war. I have no intention of living outside of Liberia. In fact, before the war started, we were building our house and were planning to move in the house by Christmas of 1990. So, we were doing everything possible to move in the house by December of 1990 and then we had to flee. So, I am here because of the war. During the Liberian Civil War, Marie did not experience direct violence, but on many occasions she and her family were on the floor to guard against bullets. She did not witness any executions but did see corpses, and people tied and beaten. Marie observed: To be frank with you, I did not see anyone being physically killed, even though I did see a lot of bodies. I saw people been tied “tabied” but I didn’t actually see people been shot physically in my presence but I did see a lot of bodies…actually, my experience during the Civil War, I mean apart from the fact during the Civil War, a lot of time we have to be like laying on the floor to dodge the bullets, and stuff like that; but my experience during the war, I saw the best and worst in a lot of people including myself because I saw people who put their lives on the line for their fellow Liberians and I saw people who felt justified letting their fellow Liberians get killed for whatever reason. I think I saw the best and worst in a lot of us. That was my experience.  Well, I think the violence that erupted in Liberia can be attributed to historical as well as personal factors. If you look at the history of Liberia, from the Rice Riot in 1979 up to the time the war started, you know that something was cooking. You, know that something eventually was going to explode because of the distrust, because of the inequities of the distribution of resources, of the way Liberians look at each other. You know, we were not really trusting of each other. Some groups felt that they were at a higher level than other groups and even those of us the indigenous people who have some education, felt that we were better than those who didn’t have as much education. So, there are lots of disparities in the country and so, we were not really working as a country. One other thing I noticed is that because Liberia was not colonized, we don’t have that patriotism because we didn’t fight for our freedom so to speak and everybody is just carefree.

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