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First Dive into Rebel Territory

The day was August 2nd in 1990 when we, 21 family members decided to venture in areas controlled by the NPFL. This included our over 60 year old father who had come to Monrovia from Doodwicken, Sinoe to seek medical attention. Our eldest sister who had lived in Yekepa for well over 20 years was leading us to "safety" since the war has entered Monrovia and it was eminent that the bloodiest battle was to take place there, right there at our door steps. We have heard that behind rebel lines, life was normal and that food was in excess supply. Our destination was anywhere in Doodwicken, Yekepa, or across the border in either Guinea or the Ivory Coast where life was going to be as we know it to be - eating regularly and staying without the constant sounds of mortars and machine guns. Our flight from Barnersville Oldfied, Monrovia's suburb came after a month when rebels of the two rival rebel groups the NPFL and its break away faction the INPFL entered Monrovia' suburban areas of Paynesville and Caldwell.


Certain things we needed to be aware of as we were making the travel. By then, it was known that the rebels were targeting certain tribes, former or present government workers, and recruits or members of the national army the AFL. The understanding was anyone who was not a part of those wanted by the rebels was free to pass through rebel lines. Though these stories were never confirmed because no one who ventured into rebel areas ever returned, the risk was worth taking as there were not many options available. A home town fellow named Solomon was among the hundreds of workers held when rebel militias entered Paynesville and seized the Cocoa Cola factory where he worked. He stayed in their capture for almost a week before they were allowed to go. On his way home, Solomon passed our way in Barnersville where he explained that the rebels were not only targeting members of president Doe's tribe (Krahn) and his purported supporters the Mandingoes but others who were somehow related to those tribes including the Kru and Greboes on the side of the Krahns or the Lormas and Gbandis on the side of the Mandingoes. Solomon also warned us that Greboes who hailed from Grand Gedeh and Sinoe Counties were not believed to be Grebo but Krahn. The rebels knew that everyone who hailed from Sinoe was a Kru so telling them that you were a Grebo from Sinoe County was an automatic death sentence. They also knew that all Grand Gedians were Krahn. Along rebel lines were the worst places to argue Geography so all we did was to resolve that we were Krus, simple as that.



Not too early in the morning of August 2, we closed the doors of our Barnersville home and took our first dive into rebel territory. There were some kids with us so there was much worry as to how they were going to make it on foot to safety. We packed a lot of things raging from clothing to cooking utensils. One person who was making the trip with us but not a member of our family was Saye, a fellow from Nimba who had come to seek refuge with us since the AFL were rounding off people from Nimba County suspected of being rebels or rebel supporters. Saye has known my eldest sister in Yekepa for many years. He had attended school with my nephews in Yekepa. For the time being, he had adopted our last name to feign being a Grebo, or this time a Kru. Since we were now threading into rebel controlled territory, one hope was that Saye would lead us through his kinsmen who formed the bulk of the fighters of the NPFL. With Saye leading the way, we trekked not knowing exactly where we were going.

After traveling about half a mile or so, we came to the first rebel checkpoint. There were others traveling the same direction. The actual checkpoint was like quarter of a mile ahead but the queue started way before the rebel guide post. Walking one behind the other as the rebels had ordered, we moved slowly. With brand new guns the rebels moved along the queue asking questions and picking out people whom they said they knew were Krahns or Mandingoes. The first one pulled my belt off my waist without saying a word. As we came closer to the actual checkpoint where a fellow held a cow tail in his right hand and a gun in the other, a man striped naked was tied to a tree like a bull. You could tell from a distance that his blood circulation had stopped. He might have given up crying and begging for mercy as streaks of tears were still visible. I recognized the fellow who had the cow tail and appeared to be their commander. I remembered him as a student of the University of Liberia who sat with me in Social Science class at the Fendell Campus. My brother and I exchange glances to confirm our knowledge of the rebel commander.
"How did he get here?" I asked my self.

This was just the beginning of what was ahead of us.

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