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Image    A loud bang jolted him out of his sleep. Impulsively, he jumped out of bed and listened. He co...


A loud bang jolted him out of his sleep. Impulsively, he jumped out of bed and listened. He could hear aggressive voices snarling at someone downstairs. Who could this be? He thought. Their small neighborhood in the suburbs of   Freetown, Sierra Leone had been very peaceful and unaffected by the raging civil war.  There had been little or no sign to indicate that any of the rebel factions was on the verge of running over their quaint, little enclave that had so far been shielded from the gory and macabre killings of the civil war. 

He wiped his eyes in an attempt to rid himself of vestiges of sleep that were still latching on to his eyes with relentless tenacity. “Lie down!”  A scary, hoarse, marijuana-tainted voice shouted at someone downstairs. Within moments, Johnson knew the war had finally reached them.  His worst fears had come true. He heard the sounds of merciless beating and pounding. Then, he heard his parents begging for their lives. He rushed downstairs even though he had no idea how he could possibly save them. Towards the end of the stairs, a muscular hand grabbed him roughly. Before he could turn to look at his assailant, he felt a thud in the back of his head, which sent him sprawling on the ground. As he fell, he saw his parents lying prostrate on the floor.

He lost consciousness for a while. When he came around, he had no idea how long he had been out. His sight for blurry for a moment. A sharp pain pierced his head with a whistling noise that rang intermittently in his skull. “Look! So you are awake now? Look!” A voice yelled at him. An ugly, scary looking man with massive arms and broad shoulders dragged him to his saggy feet. “So you people have been supporting the government right?” The man asked in broken English. There was a frightening scar across his face; the prints of war on a seasoned fighter. Johnson looked on helplessly. His sister Georgieta had joined his parents on the floor. 

He could see blood on his father’s face and stifling fear in his sister’s and mother’s eyes. “Stand up! The leader of the group shouted at his mother. Shaking, she rose to her feet. Johnson thought of lunging towards the rebel, but the barrel of an AK-47 was pointing menacingly at him. “You have been supporting the government right? Your husband used to work for the government? Where do you hide all the money you stole from the government?” The leader asked tauntingly. “We are not rich sir. We have little money in the safe in the bedroom,” Johnson’s mother managed to answer. “Here is the safe General. We have already retrieved it sir,” one of the rebels chimed in. “What is the code woman?” The leader asked. “33…” She stammered. She was choking with fear. “33 what?” “33..12..75,” she managed to say. One of the rebels tried the code and the door to the safe snapped open. Briskly, they took all the money and jewelry in the safe.

“Come here!” The leader yelled at Johnson’s mother, gesturing that she should come closer to him. He was seated on the couch, with his legs crossed like a king. “Please don’t touch her. Take all the money,” Johnson’s father who had been badly beaten pleaded. A rebel standing next to him raised his foot and dropped it ferociously at the back of his head. His face slammed against the ground. More blood oozed out of bruises on his face, blocking most of his vision. “Raise him up. He must watch!” The leader ordered. They raised Johnson’s father to his feet, wiped blood off his face so he could clearly watch the ensuing scene. Johnson looked away, but a brutal blow to his cheek sent him looking in the direction of his mother. His mother cried for help, but there was none. Georgieta cried uncontrollably. The leader yanked Johnson’s mother’s clothes off her body with brutal urgency. Within a minute, she was standing naked, with an ocean of tears descending down her face. Like a rabid beast, the rebel leader slammed her onto the couch and hopped on her with a malicious grin on his face. “How does it feel? He asked spitefully as he molested her. His men watched and heckled her with depraved satisfaction. “It will be my turn next,” said Janga, the rebels’ second in command. He was brimming with ruthless anticipation.
Johnson’s mother had stopped crying. It was as if her emotional switch was gruffly turned off. She watched numbly as the rebel leader appeased his dirty, unbridled appetite. “God will judge you,” she said coldly. “Shut up woman! I own you now, and soon we will own this whole country too,” the leader snapped at her. “But God owns us all including the country. Is this what you promise our people? Is the change you are fighting for? To rape and kill innocent civilians? Go ahead, kill me. I know where I am going when I am dead. Do you know where you are going?”  The leader slapped her across the face, and continued to molest her. “Please kill me and leave her alone,” Johnson’s father begged. Another smack to the head with the butt of a gun shut him up. Johnson knew not to utter a word. He shut his eyes despite numerous slaps across the face to get him to watch the inhuman treatment his mother was being served. When he was done, the rebel leader sat back on the couch after tossing Johnson’s mother at Janga who brought the same ordeal upon her.

The rest of the daredevils salivated as they waited their turns to abuse an innocent, defenseless woman. An hour later, the rebel leader pounced on Georgieta who was only sixteen. “No!” Johnson and his father said almost in unison. Johnson’s father staggered towards the rebel leader with the last ounce of strength left in him. Before he could reach him, another rebel tackled him down. They took him to the porch and made Georgieta and Johnson watch helplessly as they chopped off his arms and legs. It all happened in a flash. The sharp blade of a broad machete rose in the air and landed on each limb with sheer, ruthless force, sending each lib wriggling on the floor. His limbless body was left lying in a poll of his own blood. He shouted and groaned in indescribable pain. Johnson wanted to die, he could watch no more. Georgieta was the only one still crying. Their mother looked own numbly…there were no known words to express the depth of pain that ravaged her assaulted body. It was a nightmare. She watched her husband bleed helplessly on the floor while a rebel devoured her body with sadistic pleasure.

“If you don’t do what I want, you will die like your father,” the rebel leader warned Georgieta. “You have to kill me first,” she answered. The concept of death suddenly did not scare her anymore after watching them chop her father to shreds. “Hold her for me!” The leader ordered his men. They ripped her clothes off and pinned her down and he raped her multiple times before tossing her to his men to continue the same trend. When they had all satisfied their violent desires, they chopped off Johnson’s mother’s limbs and left her lying beside her husband who was barely breathing. They took Georgieta with them. Janga was given the order to kill Johnson. Just before he shot him, a massive explosion went off outside the building. Government forces had arrived with a bang in a bid to recapture the town of Sawkta. Janga and his fellow rebels went flying in the air following the explosion. Johnson found himself on the floor. He had been slammed against the couch, which spared him any serious injuries. He scurried to his feet, opened the back window and jumped off. He scaled the fence and ran as fast as he could. It was pitch black. He could hardly see anything, but he was not about to stop. He heard gunshots ringing out behind him, but he kept going. He dived into the bush and kept running. He was going deep into the forest. Streaks of sweat swerved sharply all over him. He thought it might be blood, but he could not stop. There was no time to assess his situation. Survival was all he could think off.

Any moment, I will drop and die, he thought thinking he may have been hit. Rebels running away from government forces were headed in the same direction. Blast upon blasts went off with an earth-shaking and ear-numbing sound. He ran for nearly two hours before he finally stopped. He sat under a giant tree. His eyes had adapted to the darkness. He could make out the moving clouds against the trees. He sat down, breathing quietly. After another hour, he began to cry. God why us, he wondered. The next morning, he walked the whole day looking for something to eat. He roamed the forest until he reached the town of Mape, where he was captured by another rebel faction. By now, he was willing to do anything to survive. They forced him into fighting, which he gladly accepted. A ‘raging anger’ was running riot in him. He adapted to the training as fast as he could. At fourteen, one would have thought he was twenty eight. Driven by anger and the desire to avenge his parents’ death and to find his sister, he ploughed himself into the crude and rigorous militia training.

The first day he was allowed to handle a gun, he was itching to kill soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). He vowed to cut off their heads and drink their blood. In his first combat, he killed sixteen RUF men. There was fire in his eyes. They had ambushed RUF rebels on their march to the town of Wula. Like ghosts, they emerged unexpectedly from the bush and gunned down almost an entire battalion. “These are the ruthless RUF men,” said the leader of Johnson’s militia at the end of the combat. His name was Kembe. Before the war, he was a happy husband, a wealthy business man, a loving father and a loyal friend. In one fell swoop, the RUF killed his whole family. They raped his wife to death and buried his children alive. He managed to escape, after which he harnessed his wealth and connections to acquire arms and ammunition. He formed a ruthless militia with the sole aim of destroying the RUF. “They killed your families as they killed mine. We outgunned them today,” Kembe continued. “These are the few captured survivors,” he added pointing at the captured RUF men. “Who wants to show them what it feels like to have your arms chopped off?” Without hesitation, Johnson said, “I will.” He had grown cold-blooded following the events of that night when RUF men raided his family home and killed his parents. Every now and again, he would wonder how Georgieta was doing. He blocked the idea of her being raped repeatedly from his mind, or the possibility that she may be riddled with HIV by now.

He took a machete, raised it with venomous anger and took off the arm of one of the rebels. He proceeded to take off his other arm and both legs. “If I find your family, I will kill them all and drink their blood,” he told the man who was wriggling in untold pain, rolling painfully in a pool of his own blood. He did the same to four other RUF men before inviting someone else to continue the butchering. Week in week out, Johnson became more hardened. His militia group recaptured territories that government forces had previously failed to recapture. The RUF feared them more than they feared government forces. Their organization was growing in numbers too as more young people joined; driven by the same desire, to avenge the killings of their folks and siblings. As they grew in strength, they undertook bigger and bolder missions. One evening, they sat outside their camp in Wula. The villagers felt safe with them around. Kembe had summoned an important meeting. The government had just brought in a massive shipment of ammunition. The spirit on camp was extremely high. “Brothers! We are matching east,” he declared. “The RUF is afraid. They are running and there is only one hiding place for them in the country now – that is Kenema. We are matching to Kenema. We must take our country back from them and avenge the deaths of our loved ones. We must dance on the graves of RUF men. Let us end this war my brothers. Let us match to Kenema and deliver the last fatal blow on Foday Sankoh and his men. Who will match with me?” “I will!!!” Shouted his large group of young fighters.     STORY CONTINUES…

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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