THE EARLY MORNING sun felt warm on Gosoe’s face just before he was pushed into the make-shift prison, where he met several women and men. The captives were held by the rebels and on several mornings, one or two would be selected and carried behind some shooting range and they were disposed off.
“They took my wife yesterday,” Samson Jardea, who said he was being held because of being a Krahn, told Gosoe. “I’ve been here for three weeks and the soldiers have not hidden their plan to murder as many Krahn people they can get their hands on.”
Alfred Gosoe’s head hung below his chest, his eyes filled with tears of defiance. His heart beat faster and in all his life he realized he had never come to experience such a horrible situation. True, the government’s soldiers were doing the same thing, but for most of them he had simply heard them, and those who had reportedly carried out such heinous acts had sworn they never happened. Here he was among people who would not hide their misdeeds, where they boasted openly how men and women were picked up and carried to meet their maker.
“What’s become of us, my brother?”
Samson’s question did not come as a surprise to Gosoe. He knew that some madness had descended on Liberia and his nation had become a slaughter house. And what was more, there seemed to be no empathy for any Liberian. It was a painful equation really. Young men and women had been drafted against their will by the government and its rebel counterparts, and Gosoe saw in the distance the end of Liberia, if nothing was done to halt the carnage.
But who was willing to stop the horror? As far as he was aware, the government in Monrovia was not ready to agree that it had outlived its usefulness, and the rebels, particularly their leader, Charles Taylor, and the defense spokesman, Jucontee Thomas Woewiyou, had not hidden their determination to continue till their objective of running the Liberian president, Samuel Doe from the country, was achieved. He knew that was a long short, for the president was someone not to be intimidated and their unwillingness to compromise in the interest of the future survival of the country would ruin the country that had become a price in their deluded contest.
It, therefore, meant more trouble for Liberia.
Then he thought about declarations of victory by the rebels when he was back in Monrovia. Their charismatic leader, Charles Taylor, never hid his determination to fight to the end, if it meant Liberia would burn. So, with the president’s unwillingness to agree to abdicate the throne and Charles Taylor’s desire to see to the end of the war, it would then take, Gosoe admitted, the intervention of outside forces to save Liberia.
“Maybe the United Nations,” he told Samson, as both men, sat close to each other in the structure serving as a prison. It held nearly fifty persons, which included several women and their children. The structure sat a kilometer away from the center of the small town. Though it might have been a house of a resident, it had been reinforced, and a window on the extreme left corner in the back had been sealed with planks.
There were smaller holes deliberately dug on each side of the four-square room, and a door that hung across the entrance that provided the means to get air into the room. Visibility was not really difficult since without ceiling, daylight spilled through the top of the structure, though the door was always locked from the outside. Behind the make-up structure, several rebel soldiers were assigned, as they made their rounds, with occasional but aimless shooting and the explosions of weapons to instill fear in their captives and o reinforce their control and in what they described as the sound of music. It was meant to deter any of the captives who would develop creative ideas for freedom. The rebels’ love for occasional but unnecessary shooting was no news to residents in the areas they held. And that was why it was difficult to imagine if anyone they captured would gamble the chance to escape.
Alfred Gosoe sat in there as a prisoner, and counted his days. It had been four days now since he was brought here, and he had not heard from his wife. Though initially he had considered his arrest as a temporary measure since he knew his wife would do all she could to get him out, but four days were enough for him to entertain some doubt of his deliverance. As a Krahn he had willed himself to God, and had expected whatever would happen to him to come at its own time, as he would always say, “If it is the will of God.”
With stories he had heard from some his buddies in the Armed Forces about the barbarity of the rebel soldiers; he felt sometimes that death itself could be a relief. He loved life and wanted to live through the carnage that had engulfed Liberia, but just in case he did not make it, well it would mean he tried. How many Liberians had tried and failed? How many of his tribal people had been wasted in the course of the war? What about the other side? The Gios and Manos who had been affected since the infamous year of 1985, when the former general failed to succeed? And Mandingos, too? Wasted, wasted and wasted! Sadly, he knew they too had been wasted and doomed. Perhaps conditions could take a dramatic turn for the better.
Gosoe knew it was a tragedy of extreme proportion as one nation set itself up towards self destruction.
Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by a loud whooping sound, which he realized was the sound of AK-47 weapon. It was being discharged several feet away behind the prison walls, and he wondered who was being wasted, this time.
The captives shrieked with disappointment and the weak among them, particularly the women began to weep.
THE BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION enjoys a reputation among Africans as one of reliability. And in the course of Africa’s unreliable provision of information to its people, the position of the BBC can better be appreciated. It therefore does not confuse the imagination when in a situation of war, it becomes a major source of information, even if it means one side of the conflict will take advantage over the BBC and provide prepackaged information to feed and confuse the already volatile situation. Hence, as Alfred Gosoe considered it, the BBC was instrumental in providing propaganda materials to feed the minds of the Liberian people as the war raged on.
“Now that I am on this side,” he told Samson in their eighth day together in this prison, “I see many things are wrong, and they were made true when you heard them on the BBC.”
“That sounds like true since many of us thought the rebels are in complete control as they said over the BBC,” Samson commented in undertone, as they hid behind several men and women. There was a feeling of despondency in the room and with the rebels’ penchant to murder those they did not like, or considered from the other tribe, there was the spirit of pessimism in there.
“I have no desire for food,” Gosoe told his friend, “my wife and children are on the other side of the village…” His voice broke, and he stared at his friend with open eyes.
The other grunted, and Gosoe could see him wiping his face. He felt his friend had a secret about his family he was not prepared to tell. But having been there for eight days, and considering that there was no chance of getting out of there alive, he began to give hints about his family.
“I never told you,” Samson said, his eyes downcast, “they killed my wife the day you were brought here.”
“Except God intervenes,” Gosoe assured him, “I will not only lose my life but those of my family, too.” His buddy could understand his worry.
“I am a Gio and my wife is a Sapoh,” Samson continued, perspiration forming on his forehead, “I loved that woman and we have been together through many difficult times…”
“I understand,” Gosoe added, as a way of consolation, “If any group wants to kill me, I will prefer my family must be set free.”
Samson remained silent for a brief moment, and giving a deep breath, said, “Sometimes I asked God why should this happen?” The other heard it very clear, but he had had the occasion to ask the very question. But Gosoe knew that in this treacherous world full of unhappiness, it is man’s duty to make his existence comfortable. God is the creator of all mankind yes, but what mankind does is his own doing. To blame God for mankind’s horrible actions against its kind is to say the least, unfair, from Gosoe’s standpoint.
The evening breeze came with cold, and the captives huddled behind each other. Some of them had been accompanied to the restroom, directly behind the house or prison where they were held. On a number of occasions, several females had been taken outside by the soldiers, and after nearly twenty to thirty minutes, had been brought back with tears in their eyes.
That night, after a couple of the women were brought back to the prison, Gosoe noticed one of them.
Josephine Johnson was now twenty two. Her lanky but gracious figure marked her out as one of the beautiful girls at the Barclay Training Center. Her father, a member of the Armed Forces of Liberia, was a legend in Liberian military circles.
When the war began in late 1989, though a Krahn by tribe, he had resisted several attempts by the government to turn the crisis into a tribal war, as it was going on now.
As a result, his home at the Barclay Training Center was stormed by soldiers, and he was shot point blank. With his five children, only Josephine and the last of her sibling managed to escape that night. In fact, they had spent the night with a cousin of theirs in another location when the soldiers struck.
Seeking a safer place for herself and her surviving brother, they managed to leave Monrovia but were arrested at the notorious 15 Gate Check Point, and her brother, just eleven, was taken away. For a time, she became the “wife” or “sex slave” to several of the rebel soldiers and sometime later managed to escape from them. That was her story, as she told it, sometimes in tears, at other times with shame.
Alfred Gosoe had known the Johnsons, since they all resided at the BTC together. Now seeing her here and in detention gave Gosoe the creeps. For anything at all Gen. Johnson was a good man who was murdered because of the injustice against the Gios and the Manos that he resisted. How could such a man’s family suffer torment at the hands of the very people he had died for?
Gosoe wanted to speak with her but on second thought he felt that would bring the attention of the soldiers who would frequent the prison on them. After all his only or major crime was simply because he was a Krahn, and since the president of Liberia was also a Krahn and Krahn soldiers had been used to cause havoc against the Gios and Manos, they also were paying every Krahn in the same coin.
But Gosoe also knew that there was a God of justice somewhere. And that even if either he or Josephine was executed for their tribal affiliation, there was someone who would render justice in the end.