Morris Dorman visits his sister’s home and spends the afternoon relaxing on her veranda. He shares his experiences before, during, and after the Sierra Leone rebel war.
I started primary school in my home village of Mogoviwo around the year 1971. I didn’t have shoes to wear but I still walked a few miles to school each day. I ate after school since my family didn’t have extra money for lunch. My parents sold firewood to pay my school fees and that took so much effort from them. Some days we’d get lucky and find bush yams to eat. I remember living like this for a while. When my mother died in 1985, I left my younger brother in Mogoviwo to live with my uncle, a fisherman in Momboma village. I attended school there for only one year before he drowned while working.
I left education behind and returned to my village since nobody could help with my school fees. There I reunited with my brother and we decided to try our luck in Kono. We joined a diamond digging operation but only found small ones. Since we lived with our boss, he deducted lodging and meals before paying us. We lived this way for about one month before the rebels entered Kono.
I couldn’t find my brother so I escaped with my friends from the mining operation, the brothers James and Kandeh Koroma. We planned to meet their sister in Makeni after walking the entire distance from Kono. The rainy season slowed our progress and soaked our clothes constantly. We survived on guava and banana since mangos were out of season. Rivers and streams became our sources of drinking water. Thank God we never got sick, not even a single fever. The only pain I remember came from the constant walking—my feet became swollen because I left my shoes behind in Kono. The entire trek took a few weeks. We were overjoyed to finally arrive in Makeni.
The Koroma brothers introduced me to their sister, Jatu, and we all lived with her for some time. The war didn’t reach Makeni yet so I started working small jobs like collecting firewood and sweeping shops. One day I had a great business idea—I’d use the money from my small jobs to buy blue (a dye for clothes) and sell it for a profit. People bought blue very often since shops sold fake denim clothing that would fade quickly. The color would return after washing the clothing in the dye. My small business did very well thanks to God; He gave me good business sense. I felt that the war was behind me, but one day the rebels attacked Makeni.
They stole all of my inventory and took all the rice I had saved. I never saw my things again. In the confusion, I was able to escape alone to a nearby village. With time I built a simple house there and began to farm. Before long, the rebels invaded places around Makeni on food-finding missions. They entered my village, burned my house, and took my rice bags once more. They offered to return my items if I came with them, but I knew they were lying and would kill me so I refused and ran away.
My body and clothes were in bad shape at this point. I came across a Civil Defense Force (CDF) unit made up of different secret societies like the Bitti and Kamajors. They captured me and claimed that I joined the rebels. They tied ropes around body very tightly and I still bear the deep scars on my arms. Many people came to my defense and said that I wasn’t a bad person. Witnesses even told the CDF that they saw me selling in Makeni before the rebels invaded. The CDF wasn’t convinced so they left me tied up and returned with the area chief. He defended my character and asked them to untie me. They agreed and the CDF commander punished his men and told them never to harass civilians again. I felt so happy and relieved to have so many people come to my defense. Good people exist in Sierra Leone.
One day I decided to leave Makeni on my own and return to Mogoviwo. I took shortcuts and bush roads to avoid trouble. On the way back I remember sleeping at Mile 91 and Moyamba Junction. People gave me food when I begged, but I made a point to never ask for money. By the time I reached home I heard that disarmament came and the war was over. I reunited with my family and they felt very relieved to see me. They heard that the rebels killed me in Kono. I was so glad to see them again.
These days I work on various farms around town and help other people cultivate their crops. I live in a house with my family but I feel like they don’t care about me. If I had money they would love me. Farming work is strenuous and bad for my health. I’m constantly in pain from the way they tied me up during the war. Sometimes my family bullies me and says that I’m useless because of my constant pain. They call me names like “borbor pain” (boy pain). I don’t curse or fight them because I believe only God can judge.
I want to work as a driver since it would be less painful than farming. I would go through the proper training and go to driving school. Maybe the government can give me a scholarship; that would help me very much. Hopefully I can also get help from friends. Driving school would give me an advantage because they teach the rules of the road and how to read signs. Most good drivers graduated from driving school.
I want to tell Sierra Leoneans that we should never fight again. War is not good. People need to work because idleness creates problems and it led to the war. I want to thank the government and President Bio. During the war, he asked both the rebels and soldiers to stop fighting and become brothers again. He wants peace for Sierra Leone and I appreciate that.