Esther Peter, a victim of the Liberian civil war, has been living with an amputated leg for years and seen people going to her and other victims to collect their stories. For 17 years now the collection of stories has continued but with nothing much done to get justice or some assistance that will relieve them of the psychosocial depression, they have lived with for those years.
Esther believes that activists and advocates often collect data from these people, and the data are used along with photos of individuals from whom the stories are collected to get grants and support from partners and international.
This, according to her, has left them with no option but to sometimes conceal their information not to be used to get funds that will benefit advocates and activitists while they, the victims, are left without any support or help.
Esther, a handicapped war victim and a mother of seven children, says on many occasions people have taken statements from her with the impression that at the end of the day a helping hand will be extended to her, but those people never returned to her. “When [they] people come, they can lie to me. They register me, take my picture and carry it and make their money out of it and nothing they can give to me”.
Narrating her experience during the brutal civil war, Esther said while in search of a hiding place in 1991, she was hit by a car belonging to a rebel fighter. “I was eight months pregnant when the driver rolled the tire of the car on my two legs.”
She named the driver of the car as James Bartua, a fighter of convicted and jailed former Liberian President Charles Taylor who headed the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). With what Esther cannot remember as remorse, she said, “He told my people that I went under his car, and he damaged me that time that I am living with the scars till now. Since then I haven’t seen him.”
In her distress and anger, Esther said she was taken to Phebe hospital, but this rebel fighter never returned to see what became of her. “He dashed me in Phebe Hospital and I spent five months. I cried, cried, and cried, and I even wanted to die because I don’t see myself useful again.”
She narrated that during her five months of stay at the hospital, it was her mother who underwrote the cost because she was still alive, but since the death of the mother, she has been struggling with life along with her seven children.
“I have seven children hanging on me that need to be fed and taken care of, especially their education, and looking at my condition I cannot do anything because of my legs”. Esther lamented.
She, however, said despite the disability, she was able to learn tailoring and it is by this coupled with garden work that she uses to earn money for feeding and support her children’s education.
She said without these activities she would not have gotten any support as people coming around to collect data from them are of no help to address their plights.