It certainly appears stimulating that many Liberians are progressively ascending the ladder of writers to fill in the vacuum left by departed authors aimed at keeping Liberia’s flag glimmering proudly in the world of writers.
A 250-page memoir, which was launched recently, is being authored by a practicing Liberian journalist, F. Shelton Gonkerwon. The book basically indicates the literary dimension being carved by Liberian writers in the post war period. It is comparatively autobiographical, also represents the author’s pungent experiences during the brutal Liberian civil crisis. Very insightful and worthy as far as research work is concerned, Gonkerwon underlines several factors, which have and continue to snare the social, political and economic growth of the Liberia Nation since independence.
The book principally contains literary creams including poems and songs in addition to the stage by stage accounts of the 15-long year dreadful events, which tore the fragrance of the land apart and brought untold sufferings to the people; the result of which poverty and other social vices stand at the core…Like the vast majority of Liberians, Gonkerwon faced the war and felt all of its associated pains and agonies in his bones, sometimes slimly escaping death. His Lutheran Church experience in May, 1990, his encounter with rebel groups in the bush and many others vividly explain the reality and truth in the book, “Dark Freedom.”
An excerpt from the book reveals who Shelton and others made their way to the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. The church had been selected by the International Red Cross as a refuge centre. About 2000 dissipated people had overwhelmed this house of God proclaimed as safety zone. Being over crowded the jamming was tense; the heat was ceaseless; the perspiration was profuse; the cries of hunger-stricken babies winged from all angles like a battalion of frogs yearning for a drop of rain. Those were the day’s shows. Then came the night ones. The noise was uncontrollable. Rowdy conducts were common. Women quarrelled among themselves here and there over sleeping places. Indeed, the night was grim as signs of danger were glaring. Armed men, for instance, patrolled within the vicinity of the church compound rather suspiciously.
There were several wired faces among those that were there that could be possible spies for the blood thirsty regime. At one point the idps drove out three fellows having suspected them for being on a possible reconnaissance mission for the roving death squad. Gonkerwon then became deeply concerned and regretted ever allowing himself to form part of the idps. The registered feeling in his heart was that something heinous could occur in the church even though there were soul touching preaching, backed by melodious gospel songs supposedly aimed at bringing relaxation to the mind. Every little preaching would certainly swab away fear since the Lord and His redeeming hand could be visualized. No doubt the faithless became faithful; the fearful became brave; the discouraged became encouraged and so forth.
The mid night service having ended; Shelton stuffed himself among five other fellows in a mini-tent freshly bearing in mind that they were safely in the custody of the Lord since according to the last preacher, they were under the Lord’s protection and that all wicked plans would be quashed by the Most High. Shelton would imagine any possible mayhem by the roving tyrannical scoundrels like was the case in the UN compound just a few days ago. Considering the possible reoccurrence of such evil act on the part of the wicked men, he found it difficult to remain faithful as was advised by the preachers. He felt that being faithful in a glaring hopeless situation was equally detrimental.
Thus Shelton was guided by my grandfather’s assertion once upon the time that along the path of life evils in their organized forms and manners potentially prevail especially so those which occur under a war situation. His grandfather, Barpaye Zeagbay was a man of wisdom and was always sceptical about what people said and did. He often told his son that man’s “yes” was naturally tied to his “no” and vice versa. He told him that man’s heart was the potential host of spears and other deadly weapons aimed at digging premature graves for others based on malice and envy.
Against this background, he would advise Shelton to always be cautious in life and prevent falling prey to the evils of men. Accordingly he would embrace men’s foolishness, but would equally ensure their instant crash- landing. He would embrace lies but would equally search for the truth therein. With those pieces in mind, Shelton therefore remained cautious being guided by the advice of his grandfather while wishing for the dawn of a new day so that he can take his exit from the church.
The truth in his grandfather’s assertion could be realized given the frosty developing security situation. By dawn, a jeep load of heavily armed troops passed in front of the church. Some pointed fingers at the idps, while others uttered bullying remarks. Gonkerwon quickly remembered the common saying: “Action Proves Louder than Words.” Indeed, the finger pointing was self-explanatory action that the application of atrocity in the church was the next thing on the agenda of the death squad.
As he stood by the fence, while gazing at the death squad heading for the Executive Mansion the following lines passed through his mind:
I wonder the day will ever dawn
To bring us the long awaited freedom
That at last we may overcome the prevailing evils
Which have for decade long made us just pawn
I wonder there will ever come a miracle
To dismantle the shackle of suppression
And safe the innocent children of the land
Whose lives now appear like breaking bowls
I wonder the time will emerge
When the heartless savages of our time
Would be brought down in disgrace
So that at long last sanity can prevail
I wonder peace will ever return
At the fall of these thugs
To let freedom reign
All over the place once again
With this excerpt from “Dark Freedom,”
Shelton thinks the time is ripe for the government to embrace the work of inspiring people like his type by lifting their dreams so that the vacuum left by departed writers can be filled.