Mariama Juliana Dugba

  • My Educational Goal:

Degree in Peace and Conflict Management from the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Fourah Bay College.

  • My Career Goal:

I would like to be a human rights activist in order to reduce human rights violations.

  • Personal Experience of War:

On March 3, 1991 the first bullet was fired at the village of Bomaru in the eastern part of Sierra Leone. That marked the genesis of the civil war that raged for ten years.

During this period lots of people were brutally killed, which included many important personalities. Lots of homes and other properties were destroyed. Some prominent structures like historic buildings and the Bank of Sierra Leone were completely burned down. Also sacred places like churches were also burned down and many human beings were burned alive as well.

I was six years old when the war started and it ended when I was 15. As a young girl I saw lots of thing the human mind cannot comprehend. In the first instance, the war met me (and my parents) in Panguma, a village near Tongo in Kenema District in 1995. It was around 6am when the rebels attacked our village and gunshots were heard throughout the village for six hours. When the fighting subsided there were a lot of corpses littered around. That was my first time I saw dead bodies. Although I was a young girl the awful scene made me not to eat for the rest of the day and I became terrified and nervous.

That same day we (my family) had to escape to Kenema, the provincial headquarters. On our way to Kenema at Mano Junction, three miles from Kenema, we were stopped at a roadblock by the Kamajors (local civil defense force). At the checkpoint two human heads were hanging, a male and female. At first sight I thought the end of my life had come. However after being interrogated by the Kamajors, they advised us to use the bypass road to Kenema and we arrived safely.

In 1998, the rebels advanced on Kenema at around 2am, killing and raping women and young girls. In my presence my aunt was raped and killed. Our house was burned down in the process. My grandmother also died. We were standing in a line waiting to be killed by the rebels one after the other. The following day the Kamajors accused my sister of being a rebel. We ran away that same morning and hid in a graveyard where we spent four days barely surviving on fruits.

On our way back to Kenema after these four days when the fighting had calmed down I saw a lady who had been set on fire by putting tires around her neck. The Kamajors accused her of being a rebel's wife. After seeing this I lost all hope and confidence, thinking that my own turn would come very soon. I was highly traumatized. But to God be the glory we were saved. After a week the ECOMOG forces entered the township of Kenema and restored some security in the town.

  • My Experience in Peace:

During the war there was a lot of destruction of lives and properties. Women and children became vulnerable in the society. People, including young children, had their limbs amputated. Children were used as child soldiers. After the war many of them ended up in the street and became armed robbers giving us a very high rate of armed robbery in the country. In the rural areas poverty was very severe. Many children died of hunger and malnutrition. There was a high maternal mortality rate as many women died during pregnancy or childbearing because of lack of hospitals and adequate medical attention.

Women who were raped during the war sometimes became pregnant and many children were born without fathers, creating social problems. The fighting forces that came to assist Sierra Leone to end the war also gave birth to many children. When they left to return to their various countries they left behind all these children adding to existing social problems.

In the central government a lot of reforms took place. There were Civil Service reforms and an Anti-Corruption Commission was established. The Disarmament, Demobilization Resettlement (DDR) was set up to train ex-combatants so they could return to a normal life in their various communities.

"Although the beating of the drums has been silenced, the echo of the drums still lingers." The loss of our dear loved ones and family members left an indelible mark in our hearts. This made it difficult to further our education to a higher level until now.

Furthermore, indiscipline became rampant in the society just after the war because a lot of people believe in jungle justice, which means taking the law into their own hands without reference to the due process of law. This was due to the breakdown of law and order in the society for ten years.