WHO BORN SOLDIER

     He could eliminate the distraction but he was certain to give up his desire to win, since it had been rather too long now since he came to it. He detested the idea that he would have to succumb to the whims of his captors.

   But it was all over. The former chief executive of the country sat 
at the mercy of his captors, and he looked at the world with eyes unable 
to understand the trick that fate had played on him. Any sense of eagerness
 he had entertained faded from his eyes, leaving them cold as a winter sky 
after sunset.

     They wanted him to resign and he refused. As the last moment of his life went on, and pains searing through his head as blood oozed out of where his ears had once been, Samuel Doe could only bend his head in anguish.

  He did not want his captors to see his eyes, though he felt humiliated, and he could only bend his head to avoid the shame. It became apparent to him that his captors could not let him live, and so as one by one, they poured questions at him, wanting to know what had happened to the country’s money and then the economy, he could only hung his head, and insist that he wanted to talk but he needed to be released.

    He said, “I am in lot of pain.”

   They ignored him.

   The man, who had taunted him since he was brought at the INPFL Caldwell Base, said, “Where are you keeping the Liberian people’s money?” He ignored him, and hung his head. He knew barely a miracle could anyone rescue him.

  But, who would rescue him? He remembered the massacre that had happened when the Field Marshal (Prince Johnson) and his forces had forcibly entered the Freeport of Monrovia, and had, without warning, launched violent attacks on his unarmed men.

   Given the chance he could take his captors on. But when the Field Marshal and his soldiers invaded the Freeport of Monrovia, and when he found out he was without his weapon, and none of his men had any weapon, he realized that he had fallen into a trap of no return.

   But then they were supposed to be peacekeepers from other West African nations, and in fact he had come to meet with Gen. Arnold Quanoo, but where was he when he needed him most? Truth be told, the field commander and his forces that could help him had all bolted, due to the intensity of the Field Marshal’s fire-power.

   Doe regained the sense of reality when someone from behind him grabbed his head and pulled it backward exposing his swollen face.

   “Doe talk,” a voice said.

   He said, “I want to talk but release my hands because I am in a lot of pain.”

   “I can release your elbow,” the soldier said, “but not your hands.” He knew he still held some power over them, despite the truth that he had been captured, when he had no chance to challenge them, on one to one. He saw the unfair advantage that his captors had over him.

   Samuel Doe sat there, not believing what was happening to him. The pain on his face reminded him of the physical assault he had received from his captors. They wanted him dead, but why was death coming so late? Dying as a soldier was part of his duty. He had heard many soldiers said one bullet one man, and hence in all probability he was not afraid of death. As the war raged and many called for his resignation, he had declared to fight till the last soldier was dead.

   John Yormie said, “You said Nimba County would be wiped out from the face of Liberia…”

    Doe, like he was in a court of law, defended himself.

    “No, I never said that.”

    He knew they would not believe him, and it was less of his concern now. He lowered his head and gazed shockingly at his legs, as his captors had tied them together, after several shots hammered them. He felt no power in them and he believed even if he survived the ordeal; he would have less use for them.

   As he waited, his mind went to the tragic scene that led to his capture. How could he allow anyone, much less one of the leaders who had planned to murder him, come over and engage him into any discussion, as he did with Prince Johnson? Why at all did he believe him? It was a question that though at such a late hour, tortured him.

   Until his capture he had been able to manipulate his enemies and the cat and mouse game had frustrated them so much that he was convinced to insist whatever happened, and particularly to his capture, was influenced by the hand of God.

  He said, “What’s happened was ordained by God.” He could not make any sense of his eventual capture and now he was being tortured, he could only wait in vain.

   Behind him, a young soldier held a blood-soaked knife that they had used to forcibly slice his two ears off. Then he felt water being poured on him, and someone saying, “I’m doing you a lot of good, Doe.” He did not provide any answer, and hung his head, waiting for the end.

   Though he needed medical attention, it was evidently clear he would not have any.

   Looking at Yormie, he told him: “I’m in a lot of pain,” with his eyes as wide and dried as ever. Though he was in pain, Doe did not want them to think that they had broken him; he knew a soldier was born to defend and even if it need be, sacrifice his life. He was also aware that a soldier was to fight gallantly, but what had happened was far from the marks of a true soldier. When Prince Johnson and his forces stormed at the Freeport of Monrovia, none of his soldiers had a weapon. And for starters, Johnson had visited him at the Barclay Training Center some days earlier, and had indicated his willingness to join his forces so that they could fight their common enemy.

   It was clear to him when, before Johnson ordered a rebel soldier to cut off his ears, said, “Doe I fooled you.” It was a mark of deceit, for a soldier, he knew was the one who would stand up to his true calling. He wanted to fight and engage his opponents, one by one.  He remembered when he told Johnson about the lack of sincerity among Liberians.

   “Prince,” he had said during the visit, “you must be sincere with me.” Remembering his admonition to the man who turned out to be the cause of his current humiliation was too much to bear.

    Someone, whether he was a journalist or not, Doe could not determine, sitting across from him told him, “Say I Samuel Kanyon Doe,” the vanquished president repeated after him, for it was clear that the end had come.

  In the end he said, “I said my government has been overthrown by Field Marshal Prince Johnson, and it is time we rebuild our country.” Despite the physical demolition as well as human destruction, Samuel Doe felt the need to re-echo the urgency to rebuild the country that was weeping to be saved.

   Again, he felt cold water pouring over him, and the pain increased.

  He shook his head to the right and then to the left, to ease the pain that was building in there. His puffed up face, as a result of the physical assault he had received from his captors, stunned him and rendered him speechless.

   Doe then remembered the dawn of April 14, 1980, many years ago, when he made his first announcement that the soldiers had struck, and the True Whig Party was no more. He could still hear in his mind’s eye, the dancing and rejoicing by majority of the people.

    He was not too sure, but he could hear on the national radio, ELBC, the shrill voice of the singer:

   “Who born soldier ooo mama?”

  “Who born soldier ooo papa?”

  “Country woman na born soldier…”

  “From 1847 to 1980…”

  Yes, those were the days he was hailed as the redeemer of the people. Now all had changed, and he could recount events up to that time. With Liberia in tatters and thousands having lost their lives, Doe saw his end as the culmination of what fate had stored for Liberia in general, and for him in particular. In fact he had warned Liberians that a town trap was not for rats alone, but they did not heed his advice. He had also warned them that when two elephants fight, the grass would suffer, and they also did not heed his advice. He wanted to scream and ask: Are there no wise men in Liberia? And so in the end he felt that Liberia’s suffering was its own. He wanted Liberia to be rebuilt, which as he looked at his current situation, did not think too much about.

   Doe knew the war was lost, and he also knew it would need the committed effort and sacrifice to get the country back to its feet. In his heart, he begged the old man above to restore Liberia to sanity, after he was gone. He would be gone by then, which was not too much of a problem for him. But all things considered he knew he would be remembered, for all he did and did not do. Due to the soldiers’ failure to redeem Liberia, he told Liberians in his heart to forgive him. He wanted to rebuild Liberia and not to destroy it.

   He could not bother himself with what others might think about him. He wanted to hold his young children, and tell them how much he loved them, but knew it was rather too late.

    In his situation he needed medical assistance, but as the young rebel soldiers, disorganized and shouting at each other, with no apparent leadership structure, moved back and forth. And with those considered leaders determination to humiliate him, asking childish questions, he knew only death would release him from his suffering. He would die, and go, and rest for eternity, which would also be at the whim of his captors. That’s how the man died.

The End

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THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES TAYLOR

By Omari Jackson

     The announcement that he would be concealed from the eyes of mortal men for almost a century did not come as a surprise to him. What concerned the former Liberian president were the intrigues that characterized the entire charade. So while he received the news about his concealment with a sense of foreboding, his mind was afar, hunting the experience he had gone through in The Hague.

    Though he must count his days, Taylor could only stare blankly at the prison walls, and beads of perspiration formed on his forehead, despite the humming air-condition, with its attendant mild temperature. But in examining the road he traveled so far, Taylor could sense that he should have had a premonition of his eventual fall into the hands of his enemies, especially the day he predicted that he would return, if God willed it. In his temporary prison cell, he knew the die was cast. He had come so far to cross the Rubicon, and yet, the Rubicon was so far away. That his chances of gaining freedom were gone, was nothing much to worry about.

   All said and done, he had fought a good fight. What else could a mortal do? Now that he had been condemned and presently caged like a violent animal, he willed himself away to God.
   He thought of his final days in Liberia, and particularly after he was assured of maximum protection by his presidential peers. That day was unlike any other day. It was after much consultation and self-examination before he reached the road of no return. He could see the day of all days. He was dressed in his lovely all-white attire and to the observers, from representatives of the United States to anyone interested in the history making epoch, he appeared well collected in his thoughts and in high spirit.
   But before he came to deliver his last farewell and departure message to the Liberian people, he had had the time to shed sincere tears at his residence. He could not understand why life was haunting him. Well, by every account he had reached the end of it. And it was either he remained stubborn and died like Samuel Doe, or he learned from history and preserved his life. He had chosen the latter and here he was on his way to deliver a message, clearly explaining the major reason he was about to give up the throne and not only that but also leave Liberia, at least, he believed, for a while. After the initial salutations, Charles Taylor appeared emotionally overpowered. His voice was somber, reflecting the days he had wept for the decision he knew he must make.
   In a voice indicating a man who had lost any hope he had for redemption, Charles Taylor justified the actions of the war. “The people’s revolution had been justified as former President Samuel Doe’s administration was corrupt and responsible for numerous atrocities and human rights abuses.” He knew too much was at stake, but the soon to be forgotten president was prepared to claim self-righteousness for the destruction of Liberia. He told of the beginning of the LURD rebels and pointed accusing fingers at the United States.
    “Our friend and ally the United States refused to acknowledge the existence of war,” Taylor said, with reference to the LURD rebels. In the beginning, many entertained the belief that there was nothing like the LURD rebels and that Taylor was creating imaginary enemies to perpetrate himself into power. “The international community, led by the United States and Britain, had denied Liberians the right to defend themselves by imposing arms embargo,” he said. Since he had lost all shades of trust, the international community realized that it was too dangerous to allow the government to make arm purchases for the war.
   So now that he was being sent away, Taylor went on, “A UN travel ban prevented government officials from visiting Western nations to defend our cause and timber sanctions starved our country of revenue.”
   “[The United States] caused this war… but we appreciate their presence. They can call off their dogs now,” Taylor said bitterly. After a lengthy diatribe against the United States, Taylor said, “I’ve decided to make the ultimate sacrifice, and be the “sacrificial lamb”, the “whipping boy”. That was the crust of the matter. Presently, Taylor recognized that he was day-dreaming and doing a lot of thinking. Why did he forget his own prophetic message that he was a sacrificial lamb? Now he was seeing the writing clearly on the wall. The only difference was that he was seeing it on the prison walls. Long before he agreed to go into exile and spared Liberia of bloodshed, he failed to note that he was a doomed figure of little or no consequence. And whatever anger he had against the United States and Great Britain, he realized that he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. His disappointment was the extreme power that other countries wielded over others.
   But he considered the ultimate sacrifice, which hung over him like the sword of Damocles: “I must stop fighting now.” But was Taylor making the decision out of fear? No, that could not be. He said, “I do not stop out of fear of the fight. I stop now out of love for you. For me it is no longer important that I fight. What is important is that you live and there is peace.” Like a dream, Taylor remembered his parting words to a stunned nation. It was a period of tears, anger and frustration.

   “”I’m stepping down from office of my own volition,” Taylor declared. “No one can take credit for asking me to step down.” But at the same breath, he contradicted himself, for leaving Liberia was too hard for him. “I did not want to leave this country,” Taylor said, choked with emotion, “I can say I am being forced into exile.” But now he was concerned about the suffering in Liberia. He said: “I can no longer see you suffer, the suffering is enough.” All along Taylor was fighting back tears while the women wept for him. The parting was unbearable!  But in his characteristic manner, Taylor prophesized: “God willing,” he said, “I will be back.” Remembering these thoughts ignited the sentiments of sorrow and regret that had buried deep in his heart. He wanted to return as a triumphant leader and not as a fugitive in shackles. Taylor saw it as the end of the world.

    For all his troubles in this world, Charles Taylor believed he was a good man. Though the world considered him otherwise, he had always believed that there was much humanity in him. The fact that he had been condemned for events he was far away from fitted his conclusion that he was like a sacrificial lamb, being disposed off for others. Yes, he made the ultimate sacrifice and willingly allowed himself to be sent into, what he had thought, would have been a brief exile, where he could have returned home to the loving arms of his people.
   For the last couple of hours, Taylor had been reviewing the road he had traveled so far and the people who had all contributed, and ganged up against him. Questions that kept coming back to him were: was my sacrifice, since the epoch year of 1989 invasion of Liberia, worth it? What did he achieve so far that now that he would spend eighty years sitting in jail, he could look back on as his legacy?  His heart beat faster and the thought that he was a failure or had been a failure because of the involvement and manipulations of powerful nations frustrated him. For the last fourteen years, whatever he thought he was determined to achieve for Liberia and its people failed miserably. But was he really a failure?
   Even if he was, he reasoned it was due to the involvement of powerful nations who had some stakes in the matter. “It was a system of divide and rule as usual,” he said to himself. “And the African just went for it, swallowing it without asking any question.”
   Then his mind went on the period when the revolution was launched. With hundreds and even thousands of volunteer soldiers, his forces swarmed across the entire land mass of Liberia. While his forces made significant gains, thousands of the young soldiers died, or were cut down by the enemy.
    As he reflected in German, “Heute rot, morgen tot,” in which by the rough understanding, meant, “Today red, tomorrow dead. Here today, gone tomorrow.” He was bitter that many thousands of his teenage soldiers in arms were gone.
   Taylor believed that his teenage soldiers who died for the revolution were the real heroes of the Liberian war. In pain, the former president reflected in Latin, “Heu, vitam perdidi, operose nihil agendo,” in which it is translated, “Alas, I have wasted my life, industriously doing nothing.”
   He could argue against that opinion since he succeeded in removing the despot whom at the time all Liberians, with some exception, wanted to be removed from the throne. Perhaps, Taylor realized that the lessons of the Liberian war could mean that at least one should not base his hopes in adventures that may eventually call into question the real motive. Like Ovid, (in Metamorphoses, 1, 190), Taylor could say, “Immedicable vulnus ense recidendum est ne pars sincera trahatur,” meaning, “An incurable wound must be cut out lest the sound part be infected.” This was the principle he had applied when he launched the ill-fated war. And still, it is what his enemies would want him to experience. He was highly convinced that he was on the right side of history. His captors provided a pseudo “Onus probandi” that is to say, “the burden of proof,” for the crimes (lies) he was accused of. At least he had shown to the world that he was a man who stood up against a tyrant and won. So now that he was being sent away for good, he could say, in a manner of consolation that, “Here The Man.” He looked at the temporary prison walls, and by calculation, he knew he had been up for the last four hours, unable to sleep, since he heard the number of years he would be put away. Even he realized that nature had denied him repose.

   It is the beginning of a long and a tortuous road that would eventually destroy him. Ghankay knew, and had been aware that the world had already condemned him. But, whether the condemnation would lead to his death, he did not care. In those days where he was king in what he described as Greater Liberia, he remembered how the youths had sung his praises.
“Anybody say no more Taylor we’ll kill you like a dog…”
“Ghankay?”
“Our leader.”
“Looting?”
“Our pay.”
   Those were the days that had passed like a dream. He heard a voice from afar and the former Liberian chief executive stretched his head to see what it was. The time was far spent. He felt his body sagging and he leisurely lowered his head; his eyes shining as he thought about the end of his adventures.

The End

IN THE SLAMMER

By Omari Jackson

         He sat there waiting for it. No, he had long known that it would come to this. And now Ghankay’s eyes lowered below his chest, unconcerned, as the verdict was read to a roomful of spectators.

    “The court,” the judge said, “finds you guilty of aiding and abetting the tragedy in Sierra Leone.” That was the conclusion, and he felt insulted about it.

    The judge went on: “In a few days time from now, you’ll be sentenced to serve your time, and may God’s kindness descent on your soul.”

    Looking suddenly aged, Ghankay Taylor could not hide his emotions, but he would not give in to them.

   “It will give them a chance to deride me,” was his thought.

So it happened that after six years of back and forth trial, the misfortunes of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor came to an end.

   Ghankay bowed his head and what appeared like painful smile came across his face. Was he surprised at what had happened to him? Did he not inform the court, when the trial was in the second year, that he would not have justice? Now that the result of his being guilty had been pronounced, what was the difference he had expected?

   None.

   Now they would throw him into the slammer, and maybe forget about him, leaving him to rot and die like the others.

Ghankay’s heartbeat increased as his mind centered on those unfortunate ones that had gone before him.

Saddam Hussein of Iraq, he read the report was hunted down and hang like a dog in his own country.

    Muamar Gaddafi, who had then transformed his country to work against violent groups, was also brought down and his body dismembered in his home in Libya: both Hussein and Gaddafi’s children becoming victims in the course of their tragedies.

   Then tears filled his eyes, for he was aware of the tragic end of his son, Chucky, who was also hunted down and now residing in a prison somewhere in the United States.

   For 99 years, he heard when he was still being mortgaged to be packaged into prison, as they had done.

   Though his chances of freedom he had known was long gone, he could not fail to laugh when he heard that his guilty verdict would serve as a strong message against such behavior in the future.

    “What behavior?” he had asked in his own defense, at the prosecutor, “is there any of the witnesses who could tell if they saw me doing those falsehoods they claimed I was responsible?” Like a defense counsel, Ghankay had moved back and forth, his eyes directly at the judge.

   The roomful of spectators remained silent.

   His defense, seated at the far corner in the room, waited for a response. Ghankay told them he was a president of a sovereign nation.

“We declared independence when much of Africa was still under the yoke of colonialism,” he said, “and we spearheaded the formation of the OAU.”

The room was silent.

“After over one hundred years,” he said, walking back and forth, “our country was,” his voice broke; choked with emotion, “Liberia was like a village and my people were torn asunder by a despot,” that part was drowned by the judge’s banging gavel.

Referring to what he described as pack of lies, Ghankay said, “My downfall is the end of Africa’s right to choose or die.” Lifting his right hand, he mobbed his face with a white handkerchief, and resumed his summation of what he considered as the plot by evil men against him.

   “Today,” he said in sadness, “I’m a doomed man of no consequence, and like the Christ I am being sacrificed for my people, but at the whim of my enemies.” Ghankay’s eyes were red in color, and not wanting to give the impression that the tragic consequence of his struggle to reclaim Liberia from the throes of a madman, is something he would regret, he swiftly turned around, and pointing at the judge, said, “This is the end.”

   With dramatic effect, Ghankay folded his hands behind his back, and marched across to the defense table and with a remarkable dexterity, lifted and shuffled a number of papers.

   Across from him, directly to the right of the prosecution’s table, sat relatives and friends who had traveled from Liberia and the United States to give him moral support.

   He wanted to look them in the face and encourage them, but the time was different, as he was being prepared for his doom.

    Ghankay remembered back in Africa, in particular in Liberia when it became necessary that he resigned his post as the legitimate president of Liberia where he proceeded into exile in Nigeria, he told his countrymen:

   “I’m not leaving because I’m afraid to fight,” he said, “I’m leaving so that the killings will end, so that you will live.”

Those words presently came to his assistance, and began to haunt him.

   “I’m being sacrificed,” Ghankay said, “I’m like a lamb for the slaughter.”

That day, more than six years ago, he had watched as many Liberians wept for him, and it was then that he realized how his people loved him.

Though he had indicated at the time: “One day,” he said, amid thunderous cheers, “I’ll be back,” that prophecy would not be fulfilled. In the end, Ghankay could not bring himself to believe that the world had been overshadowed by evil men, who had no delight for the plight of the suffering.

Presently, as the bailiff told him to go and not look back, he could feel perspiration forming on his forehead. There was so much a man could take. All he had done was leading a revolution to remove a despot, but now he was being sent to his doom for another’s crime.

“Where is justice,” he said, eyes lowered below his chest.

He did not deny his relations with Foday Sankoh and his marauding soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front, but that he aided and abetted their actions, was far from the truth.

As Ghankay walked to his doom, he could not imagine a world where individuals had no choices for their nations and people’s sake.    He had fought a good fight, and whether his fight caused thousands to die, the world had indicated they did not care. He could be satisfied if he were being judged for his actions in his native Liberia, but now he knew the world did not care about those whose lives wasted on the Liberian theatre.

    Remembering his parting words to the Americans the day he set out for his Nigerian asylum, Ghankay repeated it to himself: “They should call off their dogs,” now that he was being thrown in the slammer.

    He knew he would soon be forgotten, and lost to oblivion. And that was the part, like a cancerous tumor, defeated his resolve to remain optimistic.

The End

419 Is Just a Game

By Omari Jackson

1
  
No one would agree that he was a greedy man. But as a man who believed in the act of business and risk taking, it was worth trying. And before he embarked upon the journey to the beautiful African city of Abidjan, three months after he received the following letter from a Miss Sako Edwige, he was convinced that fortune had invited him in celebration of a future of prosperity:

From Miss Sako Edwige
Salvation Arm Church Of Jesus Christ
Church House Ave 14 Rue 12 Marcory,
01 BP Abidjan 03

 

Dear Beloved:
   May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you in Jesus name Amen. I know that this timed contact will bring us into an everlasting relationship which will be built upon truth and will be rooted with the fear of God and I want you to know that the death of my parents has been an inspiration for me knowing God.
   In brief introduction: I am Miss. Sako Edwige; I was born on the 27/08/1980 the only daughter of Mr. Sako Felix N’Guessan Sutu, of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. My mother is Mrs. Fionna Botchkareva Sutu from a city called Krasnogorsk in Russia and I am also single and presently residence with the Salvation Army Church of Jesus Christ here in Abidjan. My Dad was a gold merchant here in Abidjan before he died along side with my mum in a car accident at Cocody near RTI station.
  I lost both parents some years ago on a ghastly car accident and before the death of my Father, he told me as his only daughter that he made a deposit of seventeen million ,five hundred thousand United State Dollars. USD ($17.500, 000) left in fixed / suspense account in one of the prime bank here in Abidjan, that he used my name as his only daughter for the next of Kin in depositing of the fund. And he further explained that I should seek for a foreign partner in any country of my choice where I will transfer this money and use it for investment purpose such as real estate management or hotel management.
    The only thing that I needed from you is to provide me with an account where this money will be transferred and also arrange for me to come and join you in your country in order to further my education and also I am willing to offer you a 15% of the total sum. Please the confidentiality of this business is of utmost importance to me.
   Before replying to my mail, I will like you after reading this mail to talk to the God that you serve to reveal the truth to you and please if you know that you are coming to betray me, stop to avoid the wrath of God falling on you as I have suffered so much in this county where there is war, political crisis and the depose of a toxic waste which have claimed the lives of many people.
   You can reach me on the address and phone number above and may the year 2007 bring you good tidings in Jesus name Amen.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Sako Edwige
 
  
He described himself as an astute businessman who would go anywhere in the world to invest. His fortunes, having worked for the last fifteen years, amounted to $20,000, 00 (twenty thousand US dollars); and the young man was determined to go to where money could be made. And little wonder that, Samuel Edison of Atlanta, Ga, decided that the invitation he received could stand between him and affluence.
The twenty seven year old Edison was frantic when he received the letter, though unsolicited and he spent no time to send a reply:

“My Dear Sako,
    My name is Samuel Edison. I received your email with a great deal of interest. I am a businessman and I have long wanted to invest in an African country and therefore I think your proposal holds the key of a good business investment for me.
I have heard much about Africa and as you may be aware, many of my countrymen have done enough for your people and that’s why though I am a bit skeptical about your proposition, I still feel that I should give it a try.
    Hence, as you said I am emailing you my information and let me hear from you so that we can continue with the next trend of the business. I am interested and I am prepared to come over to Africa to see it through. I believe seventeen millions US dollars is a lot of money and I am willing to come over and help you get it out.
In his name,
Samuel Edison
Atlanta, Ga
 
  
As Edison clicked the send button on his computer, the yet-to-be-married man felt at ease. There was a feeling of comfort deep down his heart. He did not know why or how he felt good inside. But before the next email-letter came, two days later, he had examined the possibilities of going to Africa and had checked on a map to discover what part in Africa Abidjan was located. He was a graduate of a university in Atlanta but he felt ashamed that he could not right away place Abidjan on a particular region or country.
   Since his supposed counterpart, Miss Sako did not indicate the country which she was sending the invitation, it took Edison at lest thirty minutes to locate Abidjan on a map, and to discover that it was the capital city of the Ivory Coast, in West Africa.
   He was initially in doubt of the offer. Was it possible that someone in Africa could have such a huge sum of money? And could he be cognizant of his impending death, especially on a continent that he had learned three out of five persons were infected with the aid virus, which meant the life span of an African was practically half of what was naturally reported in the ‘60s? But on a continent that he had heard had known nothing but misery and disappointment could someone, like in the current case, manage such a huge sum of money and delegate it to an only daughter as the recipient or beneficiary? He, however, convinced himself that the man in question, according to the daughter’s letter, was a gold merchant in Abidjan. Wasn’t it true that real gold was from Africa? He had heard much about the natural resources on the continent and he was also aware of the recent diamond-related civil-wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast itself.
   And recently, he watched a movie where blood diamonds were said to be responsible for the mutilation of thousands of people on that part of the world.
After all, he said to himself, at least I could believe her.
  That was how he concluded the reasons he should go to the Ivory Coast, if possible. Perhaps it was a co-incident or otherwise, when the next day, another email came from Miss Sako:

My Beloved Samuel:
I received your interesting letter and I know God is leading you to help me out of this country. Please note that the contents of the first letter still stand and please send me your phone number, full name, your address, your fax number and you must pray to God for our business. I am awaiting your information.
I will also appreciate you sending me your bank account information so that I can transfer the money into it. Please don’t reveal the current transaction to anyone.
May God bless you and let me hear from you soon,
Miss Sako Edwige.
 
11
  Samuel Edison sat silently at the window in his apartment on Clearinghouse Trail in Lawrenceville, his heart thumping in his chest. One minute he wanted to laugh and another minute he wanted to just shut up. He could not believe that what was coming to him was his good fortune. How much did she say she had over there? His mind wondered and he felt himself swimming in money, the green notes.
   Africa of all places, he had come to agree, was where his future was, beckoning him to go and get rich. Then as the cold breeze in the spring morning surged through the window, he could hear in his mind’s eye, a voice warning him against his plan to travel to Africa or better to send his bank account information to someone he had never met.
   “The woman sounded truthful,” he told himself, “even calling on the name of God, and didn’t she request him to pray to God?” He believed in God, but until now he was not the church going type, but still felt that he was a son of God.
   If he wasn’t the son of God, how, among all the people in the United States, and in fact in whole wide would a complete stranger had found his email address with that exceptional invitation? No, God was in control, a statement he heard mention in several church-related programs he had listened to and watch on television.
    Now the second letter from Miss Sako Edwige was short though, he could determine the truthfulness in the content. However, he decided to, instead of sending his bank account information through the email, he would rather inform her that he was prepared to travel to Africa to meet with her to handle any part of it together.
With trembling hands, he turned on his computer.

Dear Sako Edwige,
Samuel Edison here. I have decided I can come over to Africa and meet with you so that we can handle the business over there. I have no problem sending you my bank account information but I believe it will serve a useful purpose if we can meet and do the transaction together. Let me know what you think….for I am ready to come.
Yours,
Sam Edison.
 
   
Two days passed and there was no response, and the Atlanta business man was a little disturbed. He felt somehow betrayed and while not discarding the idea altogether, he resorted to praying every now and then. He wanted very much to know what was happening that there was no response to his urgent letter to Miss Sako Edwige.
Had someone cut before him? Had she found a new person who was willing to send his bank account information, and as a result he had been forgotten? His mind was turning in circles. Then he decided that he would do what he had refused to do after the second letter came from Abidjan.
   He pulled out his bank book and with his computer already turned on; he typed in the routing numbers and the account numbers. Afterward, he dictated a letter, making sure that every word represented the next course of action to take.

Dear Sako Edwige,
I have decided to prove to you that I am serious about the offer you made me. To prove it to you, I am sending you in this email my bank account information so that you can transfer the money into my account, and the moment the money is sent into my account call me on this number: 678——- with further instructions as what I must do next.
I am waiting your call,
In Christ’s name,
Samuel Edison
 
 
The following morning, Edison awoke from a disturbing dream. In the dream, he was on a flight to Africa, after he had received confirmation from Miss Sako Edwige that the money was in his account, and he must proceed to Abidjan for further discussion, “after you received the money,” Miss Sako had written, “you will send me some of it so that I can get my passport ready to come to you, my love.” This was something strange!
   It then occurred to him that instead of traveling to Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast, his destination was in Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa. He arrived in South Africa’s Johannesburg Airport before he detected that he was on a wrong destination.
This dream made him uncomfortable and he felt uneasy.
   He turned on his computer and to his happiness, was a message from Miss Sako Edwige. With trembling hands, he opened the email message and saw a picture of a house, with the location in Marcory, near Abidjan. The instruction was that he was to proceed to Abidjan within a week, and he must come along with the picture so that he would know his destination in the city.
Until now, two days after he emailed his bank account to his business counterpart in Abidjan, he had not checked his account to make sure that the $20,000.00 (Twenty thousand dollars) in his checking account was still there. It had never occurred to him that his business partner could perform any magic by making sure that his account was cleaned and possibly, go into an overdraft.
   Trusting on the email, he purchased a round-trip ticket for Abidjan, by way of Brussels, Belgium with an American Express Rewards credit card. On the third day after he received the email requesting him to proceed to Africa, he was on his way.
 
111
   The sun swept the horizon as the Swiss Air Boeing flight 119 torched down at Houephout Boigny International Airport. Throughout the long flight, Samuel Edison sat as if his world had come crashing down on him.
   His discomfort began when he transited at Brussels, Belgium and wanted to get some cash from his bank account. At the airport, the bank terminal had informed him that he had no money in his account and in fact the receipt had come back with -2000.00, as an overdraft. He wondered what could be responsible. He had a total of twenty thousand dollars in his account and what might have happened to the money? To make matters worse, he had received information that he had an overdraft of two thousand dollars.
Was Miss Sako Edwige a scam artist? He couldn’t agree that there was an apparent scam in the transaction with the woman, and since he was now in Abidjan, he would see to the situation. But why didn’t he check his account to make sure that the total sum of the seventeen million was there?
   Whatever the case, whatever had to happen have already happened and he was now in Abidjan. From the airport, he took a taxi cab, with the picture of his destination in Marcory in his hands; he would present it to the available driver as his destination.
   “Are you an American?” the driver asked him, when he heard his accent.
   “Yes, I’m here to meet a business partner at Marcory,” he told him. “Take a look at this picture.”
The driver looked at the picture and what seemed like a smile swept across his face.
   “I am a Liberian and I’m going to give you the load down straight,” the driver said. Samuel Edison found himself admiring this driver. His speech was mixed Americanism and he was glad that he had someone to help him out of this crisis.
    “How far is it from here to the location?”
   “Ok, you know,” the Liberian said, “before anything about this business you just talked about, can you tell me the nature of it?” Edison watched the Liberian, and though he didn’t want to disclose his reason for coming to Abidjan, he felt he must as well tell the driver who could provide him with the information he needed.
   “It has to do with some transaction and a business proposition with a lady,” he said, as the car hummed towards the city. “This lady wanted me to help her get some money transferred…”
   “That sounds like 419,” the driver interrupted him.
   “What’s that?”
  “You never heard of 419?”
  “What’s that,” the American repeated. “Never heard of it.”
  “Now the money in question; is it a large sum of money and did you receive the offer through the email?” Edison could not believe that a mere cab driver knew the method that he had communicated with the woman.
   “Yes, the offer came through my inbox.”
  “Then I’m afraid you cannot find her.”
  “So this building does not exist in this city?”
   “Even if it is possible that it exists, what chances do you have that you will find her?”
Truly the Liberian was making sense to him.
    “Tell me about 419?”
   “It is a new scam that is in town,” the Liberian continued, “It’s been around for a while, care of Nigeria. Those who do such business target people in the United States and Europe and other places outside Africa.”
   “But in this particular case,” Edison wanted to help out, “the young woman said her parents, I mean both died in a wreck and left her nearly seventeen million dollars.”
   “And you believed her?”
  “Yes, she sounded sincere with her email.”
   “Then tell me about it,” the Liberian said.
By now the American’s sweat had soaked his shirt and his breathing was getting louder. It might have scared the Liberian who suggested that the stranger should go to the United States Embassy in downtown Abidjan for assistance.
 
111
   The ambulance sped through the crowded city of Abidjan with his American cargo. In the ambulance was the American who recently arrived in the West African city of Abidjan, chasing the green notes.
    At the US Embassy he had read forty five pages of a document co-prepared by the United States and the Nigerian governments with extensive data on the Advanced Fee Fraud scam or the 419 scam. The American, before he collapsed, was convinced now that his adventures had ended up in a fiasco and he was twenty thousand dollars the loser. He still had the overdraft fees to pay, upon his return to the United States.
It was then that his body went limp as he walked to the counter in the Embassy’s dinning hall for a drink.
   In the hospital’s emergency room, the young American was shouting at the top of his voice, “I’ve chased the windmill; I’ve chased the windmill.” The Ivorian staff who could not understand the American thought he was going out of his mind.
   However, the American knew that he was neither going out of his mind, nor legally insane, as he continued to declare, he had just chased the windmill and reaped interestingly, the wind.
Across from the hospital, near the American’s window, he heard the popular Nigerian musician, Nkem Owoh’s shrill voice drumming out the message, “419 enobi thief, it’s just a game, everybody de playam, you are the mugu and i be de master.”
   It was then that the American wanted to get the meaning of what the Nigerian singer was saying, and therefore he urged a young Ivorian to explain to him what the Nigerian musician was saying.
   “Me no speak good English,” the Ivorian told him.

Miriam

      By Omari Jackson

 

     The city of Dakar is one of the beautiful places in West Africa, and as the morning sun glared at her, Miriam turned her eyes away from its rays. She could not particularly be aware of what was happening this morning for the sun normally would not come up with such a force.

 

     It could be nothing, but Miriam could not easily get her hands off the reason. Perhaps something was amiss? Not now since she received the email reply from the fellow, asking her if she could forsake all and be committed to a love for one. Who was the love for one he had in mind, himself, Jones or who was he referring to? Was he the one?

 

   It could be but he did not say so. But again Jones had asked some interesting and challenging questions. He wanted to know what religion she was, and also wanted to know why with all the men in Sierra Leone, she would still put her market out there and seek someone from elsewhere.

 

   They were interesting and challenging questions indeed!

 

    And that was the reason she took her time to send him a reply. Twenty six years on this earth had given her much to think about. She was a woman now, weighing about 60kgs and her waist ran around thirty. What would he say since she was ready to let him know the truth?

 

   She remembered what he said in his email, about maybe not coming to Freetown, assuming that she was living in Sierra Leone. She had sent an email to him, indicating that he might not be coming to Freetown or Dakar, but because of love, any wonder could happen. What would he think about that?

 

   She had long been aware of the power of love. She thought of the sentimental love that could fly a lover away to far away lands! It could move mountains, could it not? As a believer and a Christian she remembered what the son of God said when he was on earth. “If you love one another,” Jesus had said, “all will know that you are my disciples.” How sweet of him, the son of God!

 

    Now she was putting it into practical terms and, would it work like magic? Of course it would. Then Miriam remembered what she had also communicated to her new found friend. She told him: “I value faithfulness and like people for what they are and not for what they have.”  She felt the power of the statement and a smile lingered on the corner of her mouth.

 

   Now she was moving to sit at a nearby chair, and then her mind returned to her city, Freetown, Sierra Leone where she was born. She would want to return home but now that she had graduated as a Graphic Designer, and had a job, she would better stay in Dakar, and see what the future held for her.

 

   What was she thinking about? Oh, she was thinking about her friend, the guy, and where did he say he was residing? He could be in the United States or Europe, and may be somewhere in Dakar or Monrovia or Accra? But imagine he was residing in Lagos, Nigeria?

 

   It would be a nice thing to know but the email address indicated that he was residing overseas, like America or somewhere thereabout.

 

   Hmmm, she gave a deep breath, and Miriam’s smile came to her assistance again. Now one thing she wrote her friend that came back to her as she straightened up her dress, was the part in the email, where she told him, “I want to be your friend if that is ok with you.” She could feel how profound that statement was.

 

   Miriam realized she had thrown the challenge on Jones’s lap and whether he would take it or not, she had made her position loud and clear. 

 

   She could also feel her pulse, and there were some feelings in her heart that seemed to indicate the fellow could be a nice guy. Now since she told him she was a single woman, without kids, why she did not say she would like to have some kids in the future, and maybe with him? But would that not mean she was pushing too much?

 

   Well, hmm, Miriam gave a deep breath again, and looking up she saw one of her best friends, Angela coming towards her. She did not see her coming and with the way she had made her face, she sensed Angela might be wondering about what she was thinking about.

 

   “A penny for your thoughts, Miriam.” Angela’s statement forced a smile, but Miriam checked herself, and said, casually, “Oh you Angela how are you?” Her friend’s face did not change her initial curiosity, and now close and standing beside her, said, “I heard you got a reply from the US.”

 

   How did she know her new friend was in the USA? Angela was her best friend. They were in schools together back in Sierra Leone, and since she had been in Senegal for the past seven months, they had always shared things together.

 

  Miriam remembered she had discussed the issue with Angela the day she sent the first email to Jones, and she now realized where Angela might have had the idea that she was thinking about this fellow.

 

   “I got a reply from a friend.” Her brief statement was meant to be like that. Miriam did not want anyone, let alone her best to snooze around her thoughts even before she came to know her friend well.

 

   “Why are you acting so strange,” Angela said, with curiosity in her countenance. “If you are successful, please show me the way.” With that statement Angela walked on, and entered into the apartment.

 

   Miriam’s smile came back, and as she thought about what might happen in the future, she was full of hope and anticipation, wishing that God would perform a miracle and that she would be lucky to have her friend as her own.

 

   “My friend say I am a quiet person,” she remembered writing him, “I’m honest, understanding, straight forward and easy going.” She also remembered telling him about trustworthy friendship. Thinking about what she wrote to him made her feel better.

 

   With that said, she pulled the email reply that Jones had sent her, and moving away towards the other room in her apartment, she began to read it, though it would be the tenth time, or more. Then she smiled again.

 

   She felt comforted, as a Christian, she knew that with God all things were possible. She sat down, and placed her head on her bended knees, and there was a smile on her lips.

 

    And she was thinking about him, wishing that if wishes were horses, she would just go and ride at least one of them.

 

    “I’ll wait for his time,” she said, “for wonders these days come true.”

 

 

Dangerous Encounter

By Omari Jackson


It is said that true confession is good for the soul and I felt my soul needed it. There was no fear hanging about me. Now I am free to open my mouth wide.

The feeling to confess had been urging me to come all out and clean but at the same time when I considered the issue at stake, I felt somehow that I would be exposing myself to public ridicule.

But with the shameless war waged in Liberia, which tormented and turned good people into murderers, zombies and dead bodies, what did I have to lose? After all many Liberians lost their lives simply because they were what they were.

Though I found myself at the receiving end, I could not feel that with the end of the war, and what seemed to be a new dispensation coming to life in this place of all places, I could not prevent myself from expressing myself, since the days of horror were gone, at least for now.

What confession did I have to make that at certain point in my determination, I could not gather my strength to do it? Well, let me tell you my story.

It was somewhere around the sixth month of the war, and rumors about what the rebels, the soldiers then in the bush were capable of doing had come bit and pieces.

The government, reeling over the losses it had suffered and continued to suffer placed an embargo or blackout on news reports about the war, and in an announcement meant to intimidate journalists, threatened that any reporter who would report about the rebels’ advancement would be arrested would be carried along with the soldiers to physically show where the reporter might have seen the enemies’ progress.

Meanwhile, the BBC, meaning the British Broadcasting Corporation, and other international radio media outlets were making brisk business.

There was clear evidence, though the government wanted to tell otherwise, that things were not bad after all.

From reports on the BBC and the VOA, several areas in the country were no-goes for the national army, meaning members of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Why was it like that?

While many of us believed the BBC and the VOA, the government considered it otherwise.

However, this Monday afternoon seemed not to be different.

I had just gotten down from a Bus, from my residence on Bushrod Island, and all around me, I saw marketers doing their business. There were people, the young and the old, men and women shouting out their wares, urging customers to come over and make some purchases.

The feeling of despondency, as a result of the rampaging war, was written and visible on all the faces I ventured to look. There were a number of stores, owned by several Lebanese national still in operation.

Walking along on Water Street, I did not hear the order for me to come over, till I saw several eyes staring me in the face. When I turned around, there were two soldiers, all members of the Armed Forces of Liberia standing at a corner of a nearby store, beckoning me to come over without delay.

“You mean me,” I pointed my right hand to my chest to make sure the soldier was not making a mistake. “You want to see me?” I repeated.

“Yes,” the one on the right, with the muzzle of his M-16 rifle, directly towards me, indicated, before I heard him add, “You sonnamabitch.”

With the last description, I knew the game was up for me.

When I moved closer to the soldier, he grinned and smacked his tongue, and I saw an array of several crooked teeth, which had been discolored because, I figured, he might have been eating or chewing the local cola.

“I can kill you now if I want,” was what he said, as a warning to me. I gazed at him sheepishly, unable to even find my speech mechanism.

“What have I done now?”

“When I looked at you,” the soldier said, still the muzzle of the gun pointing at my direction, “I can see that your face looked too serious.”

“My face look serious?” I probed on, in shock, and not knowing what to say.

“I think you’re a rebel supporter,” he accused me before I could blink an eye.

“Sir,” I began a weak defense, “I am not a rebel supporter. I have not seen who a rebel is…”

“Shut your damn mouth, rebel,” the soldier charged. “Walk in front of me so that I can see your hand.” Saying that he shoved me with the muzzle of the gun, and when I looked around, all eyes stared at me, some with sympathy, while others were simply amused.

The other soldier was, I figured, forty-something and I decided to engage his assistance, since he had not said anything from the time I was called to be interrogated. He looked away from me and I smelt strong liquor in the breath of the one wanting to do me harm.

“Officer please do me a favor and don’t let your friend take me away,” I pleaded, tears coming to my assistance.

“I can help you,” the officer now said, “How much money do you have?”

Hurriedly my right hand dug into my pockets but the soldier, wanting to arrest me, did not allow me. He instead shot his hand into my pocket and he hurriedly pulled my wallet out of my pocket. I had an amount of two hundred Liberian dollars and he took possession of it.

“I now have the Fruit Of the Crime to kill you,” he threatened.

Fruit of the Crime?

I could not make any mistake about it. I watched him for a second and then I would turn to the other soldier, tears beginning to come to my assistance.

“What do you have here?” The soldier wanted to know as he glanced at my press card, which had been issued to me by the Liberian Observer Corporation, publisher of the Daily Observer. I was still thinking about what to say when the soldier said, “That you people can send message to the rebel.” It was not a question.

It was then that I heard the other soldier, say to his colleague, “We got his money and I order you to let him go.”

I felt some relief as I realized that there was a conflict of interest between the two men.

“Hey you,” my captor said, “I want you to move away from here, and don’t look back.”

I could not been happier, as I walked away, though I was aware of the intense danger that was waiting for the entire Liberian nation. I did as I was told and moved away, thanking God for saving my life. I have had the urge to write this confession, but anytime I considered it; there was a feeling of horror within me.

But surviving the Liberian war has now provided me with the positive urge to make this confession. But in everything, I can only thank God for my survival.


 

A Strange Visit (1)

By Omari Jackson

 

  The scent coming from the cemetery indicated that there was someone there. It could be a prank since I told a couple of friends I needed time to commune with my folks, who died during the Liberian war.

 

  “Are you not afraid to go there by yourself?” Solomon wanted to know from me when I told him earlier about my impending trip. Solomon was one of the few friends who had always stuck with me since my parents lost the battle, when they were ravaged with hunger and disease. The Liberian war had been going on for months and it appeared that there was no peace in sight.

 

  “I wish I can tell you how I feel right now,” I told him, “after all I am visiting where my parents are presently concealed to wait for the Lord’s return. How could I be afraid of the dead?”

 

  “You could be right,” he said, “but just for the sake of the present occasion, you discover that there are evil people in the cemetery, then what?”

 

  I was no coward and I could not allow my friend, though in good faith, to prevent me from the Palm Grove’s cemetery, no matter what.

 

  Lately there had been news that several Liberians searching for a place to reside had decided to make the cemetery their rent-free abode and the government had prevented them from doing so.

 

  “You remember those who wanted to use the cemetery as their new home?”

 My question might not have meant anything much to my friend, who again insisted that the place of the dead was too dangerous for the living to visit there, and by implication, for me to go there alone in the night.

 

  It was not the first time I was planning to visit there. The war had ravaged my sense of direction and the more I saw the dead and the suffering, the more I gained the confidence that the best place for any sound person to go was the place of the dead.

 

  “Don’t think I’ve lost my senses,” I told him that evening, as we discussed my options in New Kru Town. “I’m in earnest and sometimes I think about my folks a whole lot.”

 

  “You could be right,” Solomon said, “Remember that I’ve also lost some friends, some relatives and other people. But to think that I should go to where they were buried and to commune with them sounds spooky to me.”

 

  “I don’t need your help,” I said with defiance in my eyes, “if you hear I’m dead, rejoice for a day.” Realizing that I was determined to do what I had decided, my friend could only make a face, in resignation.

 

  Perhaps the reader would want to know why I was determined to visit where my folks and other Liberians were buried, and my reason was that for several nights, I had had visions of what seemed like the ghosts of my folks visiting me and asking me to come over there.

 

   In my dream, whenever I put the question to my visitors, “Why do you want me there?” the answer would be, ‘Just come, and you will be blessed.”

 

  A day before I made the trip, I contacted the local pastor, Anthony Wesseh of the Bible Faith Ministry Church, and during our discussions, he examined the Bible with me, and said whatever was calling me could be, either the work of the devil or the spirits of my folks who were not happy about something and therefore they wanted to communicate that with me.

 

  “But pastor,” I said, “why would they not reveal it in the dream, rather than for me to go there?”

 

  The pastor had relapsed into some recitations, and in the process had called the name of Jesus Christ several times, and after clasping his hands behind him, and then in front of him, had prophesied that, “There is something that would be revealed to you,” indicating that there was nothing wrong if I went there.

 

  He, however, gave me a little cross, and a small-size copy of the New Testament, to keep with me just in case I needed some divine protection. He also made me to recite, “In the blood of Jesus,” several times as a way of protection if things went the wrong way.

 

  Center Street section leading to the Palm Grove Cemetery was as usual quiet at eleven thirty in the night, as I neared the place. The darkness that had descended the area was more depressing to me than ever. Though there were some houses around the area, the feeling of hopelessness, which indicated the end of the human race, pervaded my mind.

 

  The cloud was clear, and I saw the moon moving about in the heaven. I was then wondering whether God was looking down on my mission.

 

  I was nearing the first couple of gravestones, and looking down I came across that of the late BBC Journalist, Klon Hinneh, who was my good friend when he was alive. There was a sense of hopelessness and foreboding, and it was then that I made a firm commitment to search for God, meaning to become a regular Church-goer, to be able to have a permanent home in the memory of the Lord if my time came.

 

  It took me twenty five minutes to locate the burial places of my folks and moving there, step by step, the sound of the breeze sounded like there were some people who were busy doing some stuff in the cemetery.

 

  Then I saw what appeared to be the back of someone sitting near the venue I was looking for. My heart then began to beat, and all my bravery left me. Cold bumps descended on me, and the only thought that came to me was to run like hell from there.

 

  In all this, I never remembered that I had the New Testament and the Cross in my pocket, and I had been made to recite something as a protection. The last straw was when what seemed like a man in an all white attire stood up, few feet away from me, then asking, “What do you want?”

 

  The tone of the question was like someone speaking through his nose, and it was enough for me, as I fell backward.

 

  I awoke in a zinc house of Malam Abdulla Konneh the next day, who later explained that he had a vision that there was someone in a difficult situation at the grave-site the night in question and therefore he had run to see, and found me stretched between two grave-stones.

 

   Three weeks after the incident, I had been visited every night by the ghosts or spirits of three women and four men, asking me to return to the cemetery for a secret message. I have been horrified about the invitation, and have visited Mr. Konneh, as well as Pastor Wesseh for help.

 

  It looked like I would have no choice but to attempt another visit.

 

Don’t Kill Him Before You Die

By Omari Jackson

 

   I never thought that what seemed like the hand of God could conspire to set me free the day I was set to die.

 

   It was eight months in the Liberian civil-war and traveling all by myself, as hundreds of Liberians streamed up and down, searching for the elusive safety zone, a young soldier, who I never knew was hiding in an ambush, waiting for the enemy, yelled at me to stop.

 

   “You soldier?” The boy asked me, as he directed his weapon, the lovely AK-47 at me, probing for an answer. I gazed at the young boy with the gun and my heart almost missed a beat, when I regained some strength, I retorted, “no I never been a soldier.” I was careful how I answered this boy since I was aware that there were others like him behind the silent confines of the bush.

 

    Still looking me over from head to my toe the boy said, “If I kill you, then what happened?”

 

   I was not sure I heard that one, but I kept me eyes on him, not wanting to give the soldier any new idea to complete his suggestion. And he was right, after all if he were to shoot me dead, then what would happen?

 

   I am not sure if the soldier believed in any form of retribution. I t seemed to me that despite the rebel soldiers’ excitement to murdering all those they chose with impunity, there was an element within his heart that wanting a reason before killing me.

 

   “I need a place to stay,” I told him, “I am no threat to you.”

 

    I am not sure I made any sense to the young soldier of the National Patriotic Front, but it appeared that my answer had given him some reason not to investigate me further or to hold me captive, for he said, “I will hold you here, and decide what to do to you.”

 

    It was clear that I was in luck. These rebel soldiers were impatience in killing their enemies.

 

   “But big brother,” I heard another voice behind me, and turning around, I saw a young boy, about fourteen years, also with an AK-47 standing there. The evening weather felt cold on my entire body. Looking at him I saw his tattered clothes, coupled with what I considered to be a woman’s wig over his head, which made him look like a clown.

 

      “Yes,” I responded to his call.

 

     “I want your shirt and the trousers.”

 

       True, I had heard much about the rebels since it was reported by those Liberians who had encountered them they were taking everything they wanted from those who had them. Now this soldier was proving the NPFL right in its fight to torment me, and free me from the oppression of the government of Liberia.

 

   He wanted my shirt and my pair of trousers. You may think there was another pair of clothes he had requested for. No, he wanted the very shirt and the pair of trousers I wore.

 

    “We fighting for you,” he said, grinning, a reminder of the difficult war he was fighting.

 

     I did not know what to tell him, and I was not prepared to disobey the “freedom fighter,” since he had made me clear that he was fighting for me.

 

     So what was I supposed to tell the “freedom fighter?” He had just told me he needed my clothes and I had no option. I had no choice in the matter, but was I prepared to forgo my clothes and walk about in my underwear if that meant survival? Supposed he decided he wanted my underwear, then what?

 

   It was an interesting supposition but with no chance to argue out my point, I looked at the young boy, and said, “I will be glad to share whatever I have with you, but now as you can see what I have on is the only one.”

 

   It was not that I did not know he was aware of what I had at that moment. He was fighting for me and soldiers deserved to be paid.

 

   “You think you smarter than me?” The soldier wanted to know from me, since he realized I was unwilling to part with my clothes and walk about naked. Though I could not change his mind if he wanted to murder me, I did not want to die naked. Already I had seen many Liberians who had been killed and their clothes removed from their bodies, and I was not ready for that.

 

    “I am sorry you think like that,” I said, and to my surprise, the other soldier who had earlier encountered me was no where to be seen. He had disappeared just how he had come.

 

   I realized that the one before was the commander, yes the CO of the group, camped outside Caldwell where the current encounter was taking place.

 

     What I saw next convinced me that the young soldier meant business. In a swift movement, the AK-47 which was behind his back was directly in front of me, with the muzzle pointing at my face. My heart beat increased, and the thought of death came to my assistance, but my tears forsook me.

 

   He signaled with the gun for me to move forward, and then I knew that I could be dead the next moment.

 

   The evening weather poured its coldness on my face and the moon’s rays descended directly towards us, its light making it possible for me to see what my captor wanted to do to me. Moving by his instructions, I felt my legs wobbling and losing my balance, my body then fell like a piece of wood. And in truth I did not feel any pain.

 

    As I dropped face-down, the soldier moved and I felt his leg on my head and his soldier’s knife very close to my neck. He was saying to me, “You make noise you die.” Dirt and weeds filled my mouth and my heart beat increased. The idea that death was imminent filled me with dread. But it was clear that I was eating dirt, in any case.

 

    I realized that even in death I was not supposed to cry, but I held on and waited for him to complete his mission. I had willed myself to God, remembering when Jesus said, “Father It Is Finished.” It just came to my mind without much effort from me.

 

   In another swift moment, I saw his right hand in midair and just then, like a miracle a voice from somewhere in the horizon said “Don’t kill him now, let him go before you die.” The message was repeated itself several times.

 

    Then, like he had been bitten by a soldier ant, the rebel soldier stood up, looking around him, he lowered his arm to his side, and said to me, “Move away from here and don’t come back here.”

 

   Drenched in sweat, I gathered myself erect and hurriedly moved away across from him, tears already coming to my assistance. I was several steps away from him when I saw a parrot I had kept at my residence, perched on a nearby trunk of a tree. I had found the bird three months before the beginning of the war, and I kept it as a pet.

 

    As I scooped the bird from the tree where it sat, it repeated the earlier warning, “Don’t kill him, let him go before you die,” and then I realized that it was the bird who, I believe; providence had sent to set me free and save my life.

 

    Beaming with smile, I took my friend away and rejoiced, thanking God for his deliverance.

 

 

 

 

Who Killed Angel Togba?

By Omari Jackson

 

  In the end her mangled body was exhumed and given a thorough examination. The whole country was alive with anticipation. Everybody wanted to know who might have killed Angel Togba.

 

   For Angel Togba was 13 years old and full of life!

 

  Before she died, James Masterson, just ten years old, and a friend of Angel said, “She was so sweet.” That expression from that innocent lad contained much that was missing from the noise that was all over the place.

 

   The whole of Monrovia could not accept that a young girl of thirteen could take her own life.

 

   “What could cause her to do a thing like that,” many of the people asked in disdain, “What life had she had to worry over many of life’s difficulties?” There could be no argument that many of the people did not think that Angel Togba was brave enough to kill herself.

 

    But there it was, the final report of the postmortem examination, under the signatures of T. L. Bennett, MD, M. I. Okoye, MD, JD, and K.U. E. Ogbureke, DDS, FDSRCS, MSc, JD, DMSc, all agreeing that the young woman died of “asphyxiation, by hanging.”

    That was what broke my heart.

 

     Why, she was just thirteen, and as a father I could not imagine that a baby girl of her type could accept the truth that to take her life, she had to do it by hanging herself.

 

   What was coming to this world? That question did not make any more sense to me than it would have made to you. The reason was that the last fourteen years in Liberia had seen nothing but death and destruction. In that sorrowful period, hundreds of Liberians and others died, some in their sleep, when they were massacred.

 

    There were a number of designations that had become notorious, and every child of the period could recite them: the Harbel Massacre was one of them; the Lutheran Church Massacre was also one, the UN Compound was another and the Dupoh Road Massacre was still another.

 

   In those massacres, hundreds, including children and women were mowed down to death in their sleep.

 

    But in those periods of extreme hardship, as a result of hunger and disease, children of Angel Togba’s type did not commit suicide. In such times when death was too close to call, a child like Angel Togba did not snuff out her own life.

 

   I have had an occasion to supervise the burial of my son, somewhere behind a house in New Kru Town, and that day as I looked on and the little body was committed to the ground, I could only ask heaven how the world could be so cruel to me.

 

   I was not in any way making a case against heaven just that at that moment, when all help seemed to have fizzled out, and the only means available was to hope that the war-mongers could stop their killing contest; I could not have imagined that anyone would have loved or considered it necessary to take his or her own life.

 

   Perhaps, spilling of too much innocent bloodshed in Liberia has stunted the sensitive feelings of “certain” people that it is easy, as it happened, to accept, however, that a child of thirteen years could reasonably be expected to employ a heinous method to do away with her own life.

 

    As matured as I am, I cringe to even imagine that suicide is the surest way to get out of this world.

 

   Since Angel Togba was just thirteen years, there is no question that she was barely a year-old when the Liberian war broke out.

 

    We don’t know much about the kind of friends she had, but aware of the kind and type of children in Liberia of all places, there is every bit to accept that she was not the kind that would contemplate on killing herself, when life somehow became so tough and unbearable.

 

      And I don’t want to entertain the “dream” that the results of the civil-war has made life so unbearable that children as young as thirteen years are making huge decisions, like say, considering the easy way to die, if it came to it.

 

    It would be easy for anyone to accept if Angel Togba were old enough, and she was, say, involved in a relationship where she was jilted by a lover.

 

     Or it was not that she had lived long enough and for “whatever” her personal experience had come to the conclusion that dying was more important than living. Since none of such assumptions presented themselves to Angel Togba, how on earth could we now accept the “fact” supported by all those men of learning mentioned above that the manner she died was simply the way it happened.

 

    As far as I can tell, she died by, “asphyxiation, by hanging” as the doctors agreed, but through the doings of someone. It is the killer who is still out there, now free, and to commit that crime again.

 

   As I mourn for Angel Togba, I am with the hope that our society will be able to protect those fragile types of Angel Togbas so that we may not be described by future historians that we were those who lived in a period that we could hopelessly not protect those feeble ones the future of Liberia’s survival depended on.

 

    Sleep in peace, Angel.

The David Principle

 

By Omari Jackson

 

     David is a great example of lateral thinking. That idea got me excited and I was thinking about using his method for life’s otherwise challenges. The evening I read about David, the sun had lost its vigor, and the cold breeze from the west of the city was streaming across town.

 

    “What principle is that?” The question had surprised me, and when I turned around I saw the lanky frame of a young woman standing there. There was the constant hum of tears, it was like someone was crying, but I did not know why the tears.

 

    “David did lateral thinking,” I said, with a smile. “He was one person who faced so many difficulties in life.” My visitor, to my surprise was laughing. In front of her blouse was the inscription: Jesus Saves, and below the writing was a red line cascading across her middle.

 

    She might have observed me, for she said, “God was with him.”

    “That’s true,” I said, “but he had to meet his problems like anyone of us.”

 

      He had a problem that could not be solved in any traditional way. “David was a youth who believed in the God of his people,” she said, smiling. “I can place my trust in a powerful deity like that.”

 

     “But the deity who helped David is still alive like before,” I said, “only thing you do is to trust him, without doubting.”

 

      “You are right,” she said, “sometimes I lose it and feel that I’m abandoned by all.”

 

       “I share your problem,” I told her, “I find myself meeting life’s difficulties sometimes with disgust, but now I focus on God.”

 

      “Its good for you then,” she said, “David’s life is a classic case to help us in any of our troubles.”

 

      “You said it right,” I added.

 

     David was young with a boy’s strength. “And so initially he depended on his youthful vigor, right?” Her question did not come as a surprise, for it was apparent that David was very adventurous.

   

  I said, “We’re all endowed with strength in our time.” She laughed in her usual audible style, and I could not help but followed suit.

    

The young Jewish boy’s story was filled with intensity and hope. He faced an enemy who was mightily strong, an experienced fighting man, and one who held all the cards, so to speak, in psychological warfare.

 

     “That was Goliath, the Philistine,” she said. “He had been fighting and terrorizing the Israelites from day one.” True, the young Jewish nation had copied the nations about them, requesting God to let them have a human king.

 

     “Until then God was their only King,” I told Bertha, for that was my friend’s name. “They saw events around them and therefore went for what they did not have to.”

 

     “Samuel, the prophet of God was unhappy for their request,” she said, “but God was ready to let his people experiment with their choice.”

 

      “And therefore,” I said, “the Israelites were faced with such an enemy. Many would have wondered if their God would fight for them.”

 

      “Exactly,” she said, “though they chose a human king, God in his mercy did not abandon them in their time of distress.”

 

       “Hmmmmm!!!” I sighed.

 

       The man whom David faced had a long history of violence and intimidation.

 

      “I’m wondering about the fear that gripped the Israelites,” she said, “the recent war in Liberia gives me a sense of what they went through.”

 

       “Unlike the Jewish people,” I said, “our war was war against our own selves.”

 

      “But did God abandon us?” she said, “didn’t he send his mercy, through the wings of angels for our rescue?”

 

      “There were situations,” I said, “that suggested that God did not abandon us.”

 

      But considering the example of David he sensibly realized he could not beat this ogre by fighting him in the traditional manner. 

      

“He was a smart boy,” she said, “he realized he must use some ingenuity, and wait for God’s saving grace.”

 

        “I’m thinking,” I said, “to look any trouble or problem I face in life like that.”

 

   So David looked at the problem, faced his own limitations. Bertha chuckled when she said, “What a way to solve a personal problem!”

     

“This is what I call the David Principle,” I said, laughing. I was laughing because sometimes when personal problems overwhelmed me, I lost sight of what to do.

 

      Now I was learning!

    

David asked for God’s help, then wondered how he could use the skills he did have.

 

     “Now this principle,” she said, “has all the trappings of common sense.” It was now clear that any problem must be faced head-on. Since we are endowed with individual skills, why had I forgotten to always fall on my skills, like David?

 

    The question is: Why?

    

What were these skills of David? “He must have realized that taking things easy could well be the means to an end,” she said.

 

    Well, a cool head was one thing, and an inventive brain. Another advantage he had was that he could use a slingshot with deadly accuracy. 

 

     “So the David Principle,” I said, “simply says be inventive, use that brain and you can make it.”

 

       “I’m getting the idea,” she said. “And of course David could use the slingshot.”

 

       “Which means,” I said, “you must be able to take some initiative to make the principle work for you.”

 

        “Ok,” she said. The weather was now getting colder, and I moved towards the side of the wall to turn on the heater. We were really not freezing, but the cold had always been my problem.

 

      True, before leaving Liberia several years ago I told friends that I was going in the cold. So why was I complaining now?

 

      “Now,” she interrupted my thoughts, “David had a choice to make, right?”

David could at least choose his own weapon. And this piece of lateral thinking is how he came to kill Goliath. 

       “Yes, he was convinced that he was set for great things,” I said, “it was apparent that he had been experimenting with the slingshot when he was taking care of his father’s sheep.”

 

         “Which suggests what, as far as the David Principle is concerned?” she said, with a grin.

 

          “Using the principle,” I said, “the user must know some practical steps to solving his or her problem.” I hesitated after that remark, and watched Bertha for a while. She was digesting my comment. She was like that, always cool and level headed like David.


    The lesson? I Knew she was putting one and two together to come up with the message in the David Principle. I did not want to tell her what I concluded to be the meaning of the David Principle. I very often let her make up her mind, and from the discussion so far, Bertha had shown how effective her mind was, and I was glad for her.

     

 Since David, despite the odds, did not give up, it went without saying that whenever we are faced with a situation, we should never allow it to overwhelm us.

 

   Don’t give up on yourself because you are outclassed elsewhere. I told her to think about her personal skills and adapt any situation to them, remembering always the essence of The David Principle.

                                                 

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