On December 24, 1989, Africa’s oldest independent nation was attacked by rebel soldiers led by Charles Taylor. The insurgents, who called themselves “The National Patriotic Front of Liberia or Freedom Fighters”, launched their revolution against the government of the late Samuel K. Doe, who himself came to power through a popular coup in 1980. 

Charles Taylor, who was once a member of Doe's government, assembled a group of rebels most of who were from the Gio or Mino tribe and invaded Nimba County, a county in the northern part of Liberia. Later the Liberian Army retaliated against the entire population of that region killing unarmed civilians and burning villages causing many to seek refuge in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.

This brutality by the Liberian army led to more opposition to the Doe’s regime and resentment by many in the country. By the mid 1990s, the rebels were soon in control of the almost the entire country. They were able to recruit a substantial amount of young men and women to fight along with them. Some of them were as young as eight years old. 

Although many were happy to see the repressive regime of Doe removed, what we did not realized was the aftermath of the revolution. It would claim about two hundred and fifty thousand, innocent lives. I was barely in my teens when this all unfolded. I remember having mixed feelings about the revolution. Even though I was a kid, I could sense this air of happiness among the grown up. Most of them were kind of implicit about it. There were murmurs in almost every house hold about the rebel. This was just the beginning.

Prior to the civil war, Liberia was one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. Being Africa’s oldest independent nation, and a country founded by freed slaves from the United States, Liberia and Liberians were widely respected around Africa. There was this myth in neighboring countries that Liberia had border with the United States. As naïve as this may sound, some native from neighboring country believed it because the Liberia’s historic link to America. 

Most of the infrastructures in Liberia are replica from the US. Our architecture, constitution, flag, style of dressing and form of government are all American oriented. The capital city Monrovia is named after the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe. The city of Buchanan was named after Thomas Buchanan the cousin of US president James Buchanan, and a renowned institute called the Booker T. Washington Institute or (BWI), named after Booker T. Washington.  There is a city called White Planes, named after the birth place of New York, and Virginia, Maryland, and world’s largest rubber plantation owned by Harvey Firestone.

What I really admire then, was the emphasis parents placed on morals and value for the elderly. As a child growing up in Liberia, kids had special way to greet an older person, sit, stand, and dress. Being the youngest in my home, I had to add a prefix before everyone older than me name. My oldest brother was called Bob-Vic instead of Victor, Eleanor was Sis-Eleanor, Mom was Sister, and all other grown up had to have either aunty or uncle before their names. 

I had so many aunts and uncles that, I believed that I was related to everyone in the country. Parents had high prospect for their children’s future, but the civil war would change everything. Six months after the conflict began, rebel commanders started to recruit children to fight along with them. Many of my friends were forced to join the rebel, while other joined willingly. This was just the beginning…

This is an excerpt from my memoir (Memories from West Africa) unedited,... Watch out for it this fall. It covers my experiences during the civil war in Liberia and life as a refugee in Ivory Coast and Guinea. 
By: Al. Hussein Fadiga


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