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Image Source:   In a ferocious battle for Kenema both sides suffered huge fatalities, but in the end, Kemebe’s milit...

Image Source: 

In a ferocious battle for Kenema both sides suffered huge fatalities, but in the end, Kemebe’s militia conquered Kenema. Sadly, Sankoh was not anywhere near Kenema. Blood flowed like a river and heads rolled in the battered streets of Kenema. Johnson stood with his foot on the bloodied head of a dead RUF rebel. He was enraged that Sankoh was not there. He had promised himself never to rest until Sanko was dead and Georgieta was free. “I hear he is hiding near Freetown,” Kembe told Johnson. “As far as I live, he will never stop running. We must go to Freetown,” Johnson said. “There is no doubt, we must do that my brother. We have to send in some men to fish him out and finish him off. The whole militia need not match to Freetown. The government will panic and maybe withdraw their support,” Kembe pointed out. “I am coming my leader. I am willing to give my life to end Sankoh’s.” “And to Freetown you shall go Johnson Doroma!” Kembe shouted.  A few days before the planned attack on Sankoh’s haven, Johnson was drinking in Freetown with friends from the militia. He looked way more mature than his age, and said very little. He puffed out smoke from his mouth with each lungful of marijuana he sipped. His eyes were red with anticipation. Finally, I am closer to ending Sankoh’s life, he thought amid the riotous noise at the militia-controlled bar.

He needed some space to think, so he stepped outside for some fresh air. He watched curly waves of marijuana smoke rise to the air with each puff he let out. He wondered what Georgieta looked like. It had been two years since that terrible night that changed their lives forever. He imagined himself gorging out Sankoh’s eyes with a machete before hewing his body to shreds. He was one of the five child soldiers selected for the operation, and he was extremely proud. His ruthlessness was well known on camp. “Hello,” a foreign female voice said to him. Startled out of his thoughts, he turned quickly. His hand was on his hip ready to draw his pistol. “What are you doing outside at this time woman?” He asked. A white woman, perhaps in her late thirties stood before him. She did not seem worried despite the high rate of violent crime and killings in Freetown. She was clad in a casual red T-shirt and rough blue jeans. “What is your name?” She asked confidently. Her accent was British. “That is none of your business woman. What are you doing here?” “I am here for people like you; child soldiers.” “I am not a child woman. I take offence to being referred to as one.” “I don’t mean to insult you, but I know you are no more than seventeen, so to me you are still underage. You should not be fighting. I don’t know what led you to this…I have heard a lot of heart-wrenching stories; however, I still think you should not be fighting. You have been robbed of your childhood, and that is not fair.” “Life is not fair woman.”

“That does not mean you should be fighting. No matter what they did to your family, you don’t deserve this. I probably would do exactly what you have done to avenge your family thus far, but in the end, becoming a child soldier is not the best solution to the problem.” “You are from a different world woman. I don’t pray that you go through what I have been through. Go back to your country. Where were your people when they were killing us like chickens?” Johnson began to walk away from her. “My name is Emma. I am English. If you want to talk, you can find me at the Hilton. Just ask for Emma the English social worker.” Johnson heard her but he did not reply. Emma had been rescuing child soldiers from war zones in Africa and sending them to England. In Sierra Leone, she had been less successful. The emotional wounds of war she had seen in this country were worse than anything else she had encountered elsewhere on the continent. Child soldiers were willing to die in the quest to avenge their family members rather than run off to safe net in England.

It was like the striking of lightening.  Before Sankoh and his men knew it, they were over-run by the militia. Sankoh’s men were slaughtered like rabbits. His pool turned red with human blood, as they dumped dead bodies in the once pristine pool. They found Sankoh hiding in a small bunker underneath his mansion. They used grenades and several dynamites to blow open the metal doors. Sankoh had a few men with him alongside his wife and two children. “Do you remember me?” Johnson asked him. “No. Please don’t kill me. I have money, a lot of money and diamonds. I will offer you the whole of it.” “We will take them Sankoh, but you must die,” Kembe answered him. “They carted away valuables from Sanko’s hideout. When they were done, they brought Sankoh and his family out to the living room. “Where is my sister?” Johnson asked him. “Who is she?” Sankoh asked back. He was shaking in fear. His wife and two children cried and begged for mercy. “The young sixteen-year-old you took from Sawkta two years ago after raping and killing her mother alongside her father.” He looked at Johnson intently. “You remember now? We had done nothing to you and your men. Out of the blues, you came and ruined out lives; my life. Where is she?” With palpable fury, he landed the blade of a blunt machete on Sankoh’s right arm. He cried in deep pain. His arm was still intact, but he wished it was not. He was bleeding. The blunt blade had crushed his bones. “She is dead,” he said to Johnson.

The wheels came off for Johnson. His last chance at having any family ties was gone. For the first time in two years, tears came to his eyes. He walked away from Sankoh and faced his wife. He pulled his pistol and shot her in the leg. Then he shot her other leg, and briskly picked up a machete and gorged one of her eyes out. “No!” Sankoh pleaded. “Please! Please I knew nothing about what my husband did,” Sankoh’s wife pleaded to deaf ears. Kembe shot his daughter who was twenty five. “Please, kill me and leave them alone,” he implored them. “That was what my father asked of you that night, but you did not listen,” Johnson shouted at him. He stuck him with the machete in the left eye and gorged it out. Without any feelings, he chopped off his right ear and forced it into his mouth. “You refused to listen to poor, innocent masses Sankoh,” he said to him. Slowly, they killed Sankoh’s wife and son. They chopped off both of his arms and legs and buried him alive. They watched his grave all night to make sure no one came to rescue him. When they were certain he was dead, they left.

Johnson could not sleep for four consecutive nights. A wave of fury and emptiness swept through him. Without planning to, he found himself at the Hilton. He had roamed the derelict streets of Free Town all day before winding up at the Hilton. He had no idea why he went there. The first time he had a session with Emma, he said nothing. Patiently, Emma did all the talking, encouraging him to come back. At nights, he was haunted by endless nightmares of blood and death. After a few sessions, he slowly began to open up to her. “I have suffered Emma. I lost my entire family to the senseless war. I miss them so much. I thought killing that evil Sankoh would make me happy, but I am overwhelmed by emptiness. My country is still in ruins. I wonder if all that killings is worth it. At night, the faces of the many people I killed come back to me. I am thinking of taking my life. There is nothing to live for anymore.” “I have no doubt that you have suffered untold pain Johnson, but we have a high priest that knows our pains. He cries for us. He went through worse pain on the cross for our sake. It may not make sense right now, but He still knows your pain Johnson. Let go of the anger. Let Christ come in and fix your battered, bruised and broken life Johnson. 

"Do not take your life. You still have a lot to live for. What would you say to your creator when you face Him after taking your life?”  “I have killed too many people. I deserve to die too. Life is meaningless to me now.” “Your parents may be dead but God still loves you. I may not know you but I love you on the basis of our shared humanity. My heart goes out to you Johnson. You cannot do this. You have to live for your dead parents and sister. You must live to immortalize the names and story of your parents and sister. If you take your life, then Sanko is still controlling you from the grave. Live! Live my friend that you may tell the story of your loving family that was ruined by one man’s greed. If not for yourself, then do it for your family.” Johnson broke into an endless streak of tears. That day, a slow and arduous journey to healing began.

Johnson lazily crawled out of bed. He went on his knees and said his morning prayer. Then, he took his seat opposite the window and peer into the open Atlantic Sea. He had another nightmare last night, as he relived the horrors of the war once again. The frequency of the nightmares had reduced over the years, but they had not gone away altogether. He now lives in Southampton in England. Emma had helped him relocate to the UK. He watched as seagulls hovered over fishing boats heading out to sea for another days work. Fishermen sipped their coffee as boats honked loudly in the busy waterways of Southampton. Boats that had been out fishing all night slowly returned to dock. The aggressive seagulls harassed the incoming boats in search of handouts. Johnson placed his hands on the piano keyboard and began to play his favorite song;

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,

Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;

Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long

The door to his room burst open and in came Emma. “I love it when you play that song Johnson. There is someone I have brought with me this morning. I have a feeling she would love to listen to you play too.” Johnson stared at her wondering who it might be. In came an elegant girl. She was trying to hold back tears but the dams had broken. “Georgieta!” Johnson shouted. He recognized her right away. “Johnson!” She shouted in reply. They were wrapped up in each other’s arms crying like little children. “I was led to believe you were dead.” “The man they asked to kill me had a change of heart. Or shall I say, God touched him and he spared my life.” “I wanted to save you…find you, protect and keep you safe. I love you so much Georgieta. I thought I had no one left, but God was still watching over me…over you.” “I never thought I’d ever see you again. When I met Emma and told her my story, she said she might know where you were.” “The more I got to know about her, the more convinced I was that she was your sister, from everything you have told me,” Emma added. She too was in tears of joy. “Play for me. I was standing outside listening to you. You play so well. Please play that song for me again,” Georgieta pleaded with him. With tear-covered eyes, he placed his shaky fingers on the key board. Everything outside was a blur by now. His heart was racing with ‘joyous excitement’. His fingers moved expertly as he began to play another emotional rendition of Blessed Assurance.


This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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