Ishmaila Jalloh

  • My Educational Goal:

I want to have my Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies.

  • Personal Experience of War:

My experience was in my village when the rebels attacked my village Kidada, in Kamakwie Chiefdom in the Bombali district in the northern part of Sierra Leone in 1997. When they attacked my village there were heavy gunshots between the rebels and the government troops in which they killed many soldiers including civilians who were at the scene and the others who retreated from the fight. After a few hours they captured the village and the next day they called a meeting at the barracks. At that time I was ten years of age. When I saw them I asked my mother if they were soldiers. My mother took me inside and told me that they were rebels though they wore the military attire. They were called "Sobels" that is half military and half rebels. They used military dress to convince the unknowing that they were government troops come to liberate us. They gathered the villagers in the Court "baray" and tried to convince them to give their support to their revolutionary movement and gave all kinds of good talks to us.

Later when they were attacked by the government troops they resisted them by killing some and others started to retreat. So from there they started to burn houses, loot properties, rape women and girls and also started to amputate people. They went from house to house killing people. But if you were unlucky they would recruit you into their groups. It was while doing these callous acts that they came to our compound. As soon as we noticed them we decided to hide in different places. I climbed up in the mango tree. Others went to hide in the store. As they entered our compound they searched various sides of the house and saw my mother and my only sister. They raped her in front of my mother and both of them were taken away. I was up in the tree. I wanted to shout but I controlled myself. So I climbed down and started to find them but I couldn't see them. I became displaced and I saw boys of my same age group who were also lost in the attack. I joined them to search for our parents, four of us, including me.

On our way to look for our parents in other villages we saw many people with bundles on their heads and they told us that the rebels were coming from the direction that they had just come from. So we decided to use another route to by-pass the rebels. We walked 3 hours in the bush to find another way to go and look for our parents. When we were in the bush we were hungry and thirsty without food and water to drink. Through our struggle in the bush we finally met with a small village and decided to go there and search for food. Everyone had left the village. We searched but there was no food to be found. I saw a mango tree with lots of mangos. One of us climbed it by the name of Saidu, who was the eldest of us all. After picking the mangos we sat under the tree in the shade, eating and talking all at the same time. We fetched water from the well. We started telling our own stories of how we became lost by our parents. I explained my own side of the story. Next to follow was Saidu who told us that he and his family were in the stream doing laundry when the rebels attacked. He ran into the bush while his father, mother and two sisters went in a different direction. After the rebels were gone he came out and he did not see his family. So this is the way he became lost from his parents. The second was Musa who told us how he became lost. He told us that while they were in the farm the rebels attacked them, amputated his uncle and raped one of his sisters. They were ordered to follow them but he escaped and hid in the bush. The third of us was Sheku who was the youngest. He told us that he was playing at the neighbor's compound when the rebels entered the compound and took away his family.

So we decided to trace our families from different villages. We walked day and night restlessly to another village. At noon we a met a small village and went to one of the compounds. Since there was no one there we saw meat in the kitchen and ate it. We decided to keep some for later and take a rest. When we woke up the meat was missing and I started to think one of us had eaten it. Later we discovered that a dog had taken it. One of us took a heavy stick but unfortunately the dog ran away. We decided to continue on our journey until night met us at a bridge where we heard people screaming heading toward us. We hid in the bush until they finally passed by. They carried bundles on their heads. The night was very dark and there was no moonlight.

After they had gone we started to call to each other lowering our voices and we started to come out of the bush one by one, three of us, but we didn't see Sheku. Later we found that he had fainted on the ground. Later he regained consciousness and we decided to continue until we reached a village. There one of the women saw me and asked if I was the son of Mariam Jalloh. I said "yes" and she told me that my mother, father and my sister were in the next village. It was about 11pm and we decided to spend the night there and sleep on a veranda. As we were sleeping the dogs were barking. One man came out and saw us on the veranda and we ran away quickly, excluding Sheku. The man noticed that Sheku had stayed behind and asked who was the eldest of us. Then Saidu came out and said he was. They had a private talk and the man told Saidu that Sheku was dead.

When we found that Sheku had left us we started crying bitterly and in the morning people came and helped us to have a burial ceremony. They washed Sheku's body and prayed for him and finally we went to the cemetery for the final ceremony. After the burial everybody went away and left us alone in the cemetery. We started crying and saying that Sheku is with us and had left us. We left and continued our journey to the next village. As we were arriving at the village we were attacked by child soldiers who pointed their guns at us and ordered us to follow them. They took us to their boss and he questioned us, asking us where we came from. We told him that we came from our village to look for our families. They told us that our parents were dead and told us to join them. We would be cared for and also we were going to have 3 square meals a day. They also told us, whether we wanted to join or not, they were going to conscript us. They made us wash and gave us clothes and food to eat. We were about 25 who were conscripted as new child soldiers. They told us if we planned to escape and were caught we were going to face death. They gave us all kind of reasons so we would not try to escape. But in my heart I always thought that one day there would be a possible way for me to escape and never come back.

Two days later, three boys were told to fetch water from the stream, they escaped and were caught and shot.

One day I was seated under a tree, one man who was part of the rebels called me and asked me if I was the son of a Mr. Jalloh and I said "yes". He told me that my father was a good man and he knew him very well. The man told me his own story of how he was forced to join the rebels. He asked me if I wanted to escape and I said "yes". His plan was that he would send me in the bush to fetch wood and I would never come back. It was about 11am and he told me to be careful and sent me to fetch wood. So I had the opportunity to go to the bush and escape to another village. I was also captured in the other village but I again escaped with a group of people, one of whom identified me and told me that my family was in Freetown.

I made it to Freetown where an ECOMOG soldier at a checkpoint captured me again and they accused me of being a child rebel. Before that two boys were shot while lying down on the ground. At that moment if you didn't have anybody to identify you, like a neighbor or family member, they would shoot you. As I was lying on the ground to be shot I saw my Aunty struggling saying that I was not a rebel. My aunty had escaped death narrowly by rebels who had captured her. She told the ECOMOG soldier that I was her son and they set me free. And finally I saw my family again and they were surprised thinking that I had died. Everybody was glad to see me. This is my experience during the war.

  • My Experience in Peace:

In my village now that peace had come there was a cultural show that took place. People came from different villages to participate and to celebrate the peace that had come. There was a competition among the various groups and there was a prize for the winner to carry home. Our village won the prize for the best cultural dancing troop and the football (soccer) competition. The society now is peaceful and people are living in harmony with each other.