Volume 14 No. 1

Fall, 1999

Our Stories: From Sierra Leone, Fear, Death, Separation
by Ahmed Kalil
   My country, Sierra Leone, was very amazing and everything was going fine for a while. The government at that time was the best government that the country ever had. This government was chosen by a people’s uprising in 1990. However, after that government took over, in the village areas we had a new rebel war beginning. This new rebel war was growing fast.
   People had to start their lives all over and get houses to live in. The city was choked because of people moving from their villages to get away from the rebel war. The military was joining the rebels instead of fighting them.
   One night, at around three o’clock a.m., we started hearing gunshots in the city. The gunshots kept going until the morning and they finally stopped. Then we saw a large crowd of people running up the street. Many of them were coming towards us.
   A few minutes later, we heard that these people had been set free from the national prison. There were murderers and rapists in this group of people. My father turned on the radio. Then we heard that the government had been overthrown. Hundreds of people went to demonstrate against the new military-backed rebel government. Not more than 30 people came back. We heard that they were shot at with grenade launchers.
   That night the looting started and it continued every night after that. The rebels and military people were taking people’s things at gunpoint. Civilians were doing this too. I was going inside houses looking for food. A few times I would get caught and sent home by the rebels. They could have killed me if they had wanted to, but they did not. I was lucky. Many of my friends, even kids my age, had been killed when they got caught. (I was around 14 at that time.)
   The ECOMOG troops from Nigeria came to help us. The ECOMOG is like the NATO of Africa. They put our country under sanction and embargo. That meant that there would be no food or arms coming into the country until the rebels surrendered. The rebels did not want to surrender, so they started to kill people. Most of the time it was just for fun only.
   I remember one day two rebels were arguing about what sex this pregnant woman’s child was going to be. I cannot tell you what they did in front of us. It was too horrible. After they did that terrible thing, they told us to leave.
   My family started thinking about escaping the country by land. We couldn’t go by sea because of the embargo. At first, it was a foolish idea. It was too risky because war jets would come at anytime and bomb where they wanted to bomb. This had been going on since 1997 and it’s still going on now.
   Around May 1998, my older brother and I were finally ready to try to escape to Guinea, the country next to my country. My father told us what to do. We left at six o’clock a.m. and went to the bus station. We left for Guinea by bus. On the way, we got robbed on the bus. Some of the bus riders were killed for fun. It was a long ride. Finally, at the end of the escape, we did not have any more money. We were stopped by some Guinean army people, and they thought that we were rebels. They had guns pointed at us, but luckily I had my Sierra Leonean passport with me which was proof that we were not rebels. So, the Guinean soldiers finally let my brother and me go.
   My brother and I lived in a refugee camp in Guinea for six months. Finally my mother sent for me to come to the U.S. She had already been here for seven years. I had to go to the American Embassy in Guinea for a visa. Luckily, I got the visa. I was very happy and also sad because I had to leave my father back in Sierra Leone and my brother in Guinea. I also had to leave other people in my life.
   My mother came here when I was nine years old. I don’t know her like I know my father, but it turned out nice. I like America better than my country. I guess because it’s fair here in America. It’s just like a dream come true for me.

Copyright Silver International 1999.