Abdul Kolibbonda Lebbie
- My Educational Goal:
BSC in Peace and Conflict Studies
- My Career Goal:
Network for Disadvantaged Children - Sierra Leone www.ndc-sl.org
The world needs peace more that ever before especially in local communities where human misery continues to increase on a daily basis due to poverty, bad governance, illiteracy, corruption, and hypocrisy.
- Personal Experience of War:
My personal experience of war (Sierra Leone civil war 1991-2002) was horrific.
On the 18th of January 1995 I was captured by the rebels of the RUF while on holiday in Sierra Rutile mines in Moyamba District. On that fateful day the rebels marched on Rutile without resistance from the then Sierra Leone Army (SLA) as they vanished into thin air.
I was captured along side hundreds of other civilians and taken to a rebel camp in Matru Jong where I spent 35 days. During my short lived stay with the rebels I went through hell. I slept on an empty stomach almost every day and was beaten and tied for speaking to a lady who used to be my junior in school and who was also taken hostage by a rebel commander. I almost lost my life that day as the commander wanted to kill me had it not been for the intervention of a senior rebel commander. He fired a shot at me but luckily the bullet only grazed my left side. I was later untied and placed under strict surveillance with hard labor for the rest of the day.
On the 16th of February 1995 we were divided into groups, each group consisting of ten civilians under the supervision of two rebel fighters who were to be held responsible if we escaped. I spoke to a native of Matru who happened to be in our group to make a plan to escape as the rebels were raping young girls and killing people on a daily basis for whatever causalities befell them on battlefields. The situation was becoming very hostile to us. Munda, who was from Matru, told me he knew the terrain very well and knew routes to escape. We hatched a plan to escape as we heard rumors that we would be going to find food in the nearly cassava fields.
On the 17th at about 10:30 we were assembled, about 120 youths in 12 different groups each under the supervision of two rebel fighters. "If anyone of them escape just kill yourself or else..." the commander said. We set out on our cassava harvest mission. We walked about six miles and arrived at a very large cassava farm. We were scattered about but Munda and I stayed close to each other and kept moving in the same direction farther in the farm. Suddenly we heard a gunshot and a voice from one of the commanders at the other side of the cassava farm. "Stop running or I will kill you." Our group commanders focused all their attention on what was happening on the other side. I turned to Munda, he looked at me in the eyes and said "Let's go". We sprang into the nearby bush as fast as we could. We heard gunshots behind us but we kept running. We ran for about three miles. I was just trailing behind my friend who knew the bush track. We later arrived at a farm where we hid in the bush until nightfall before we continued our journey.
We spent two days walking through abandoned villages and finally arrived in Bumpe Town, 16 miles from Bo. At Bumpe we were detained by SLA troops and interrogated to ascertain if we were rebels or not but we were finally released along with other civilians. Munda and I separated at Bumpe as he was heading to Tinkoko while I was heading to Bo. The last 16 miles to Bo was hell as I had developed swollen feet and boils all around my feet. I arrived in Bo at about 5pm and I was hospitalized for three weeks before I could recover. I had pains all over my body and could not sleep for days. It also militated against my "A" Level exams.
In 1997 I was employed by an American company Pacific Architect and Engineers (PAE) I worked as a security guard at the operational head quarters in Kenema. Because of the nature of the job we fell into ambushes many times. I survived several attacks in Bo, Kenena, Kono, etc. Our house was looted by rebels and I paid a ransom of Le200, 000 to stop the rebels from burning our house. At one point I was stopped and tied up by Civil Defense Forces (CDF) who claimed I was a soldier. My uncle was hacked to death in front of me that very day by CDF forces because he was a policeman. I saw several teenage girls and women raped, mutilated, etc. I saw collaborators, rebel suspects, CDF forces as well as soldiers being killed during the 2 years I worked for PAE.
- My Experience in Peace:
At the end of the war I find it difficult to stop thinking about the atrocities and direct impact of the war on me. I wasted 10 years without furthering education. I had no one to pay my college fees, as my mother was my only sponsor. I am happy the war is over and people can move freely from one place to another without intimidation.
I personally have been working to ameliorate the situation of less privileged children and youth as they still continue to suffer from the impact of the war. I have realized that the root causes of the Civil War in our country have not been addressed: poverty, unemployment,injustice, bad governance, etc.