Growing up under the guardianship of Grandmother Eva Nah, 16-year-old Shakie Kamara had wanted to be someone good when he grew up, since he had experienced the difficulties his grandmother was experiencing in making ends meet most of his young life.
“He had promised to be a mechanic,” Grandmother Nah said with a smile, “so that he would make enough to provide for me when I’m no more able to provide for the family.”
But a child’s dream of one day taking his grandmother and other relatives out of the slum community of West Point where daily life is a struggle, ended tragically when Shakie was killed by a soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during a riot in the township on August 20 last year.
Most often the painful cycle of lack of opportunities continues and dreams are dashed but Shakie Kamara would have wanted it his way.
He was 2 years old when his mother, Rebecca Nmah, 46, died, after his father. Morris Kamara, a former cab driver who fell on bad times and abused his body with alcohol, was found dead near Shoe Factory in Monrovia.
“He died before some people called us to tell us,” Eva Nah said.
At the time of her death, Rebecca, had borne three children, Fanta, 25; Samuel, 23, and Shakie Kamara, who was 16 when he died from bullet wounds during the chaos that followed the Liberian government’s attempt to quarantine West Point on August 20, 2014.
“I struggled to raise the children because there was no one to provide help,” said Eva Nah. She would go on to sell cold water and soft drinks. “They helped for sometime but sometimes there was no market.” It was during such a period that Shakie Kamara, a grandmother’s boy, was always supportive of her.
“I was the only one he had,” Eva Nah told the Daily Observer. “And because of the problems in raising all the children alone, I was forced to send Shakie to my brother Jerome Nmah, who was then working for OTC in Buchanan.” A few years later, Jerome died and Shakie returned to Grandmother Eva. “I did not know much about his father’s relatives,” Eva said, “and so I struggled with the children.”
Eva would send Shakie Kamara to another relative in Harper, Maryland County. “I wanted him to know the other family people,” Eva said, “but as usual, he wanted to come to me, and therefore I brought him back to live with me in West Point.”
“He was my everything,” Eva said. “Shakie would help me wash my clothes; sell in the market and clean the house.” Meanwhile, older sister Fanta and Samuel had moved on their own, Samuel finally completing his senior high school, while Fanta began to have a family of her own.
“I need help for him,” Eva said, “for Samuel Kamara now lives on the street and all my efforts to bring him home have not been successful.”
Like the recommendation resulting from the probe into the West Point shooting incident, the Liberian government was expected to provide psycho-social counseling for West Point youth to help them focus, and this is the time for it, Eva Nah emphasized.
In deep reflection, Eva Nah said, “If I knew the soldiers had come to our portion here, I would not have sent Shakie to go out.” But like any situation with a negative outcome that makes us wiser, Grandmother Eva Nah will have to live with her ‘if’.
“Many nights I cry for Shakie,” says Eva Nah, “for the memory of the boy is with me all the time.”
At the house owned by Eva’s deceased former husband, occupants have fond memories of Shakie Kamara. Even Eleven year-old Prince Myers still misses him.
“We ate together the day we heard he was shot,” Myers said, smiling. “I cried for Shakie.”
“Shakie was a child who would not refuse to be sent. He would play with my little daughter,” said Kaddieyatu Barry. “He was a good boy.”
In slum communities, it is unusual for several people to praise a child who died in such a crisis. It is rather the norm to hear a barrage of criticisms and blame on the youth for his fate due to hard headedness, but not Shakie. He was exceptional, according to Grandmother Eva and those who knew him.
The outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease and its attendant drama, have this little family torn apart with the memory of a child who was shot and allowed to die in the heat of anger, frustration and neglect. But will Eva ever forget about her grandson?
“I can’t forget him till the day I die,” was her reply. “I need help for Samuel and Fanta so that even though Shakie is gone, I know that my labor will not have been in vain.”
Fanta is presently with her third child (one passed away) without much means to make it better for herself. Samuel Kamara, Eva says, needs help to get off the streets.
Such a heart rending story is every parent’s nightmare and residents commented that “the Liberian government must intervene with recommendations made by the Independent National Human Rights Commission to change lives in West Point and other slum communities where economic and educational hardships make life even more difficult.