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Thursday, February 4, 2016

SUrvived the Journey...Memuna Barnes

 You all know me by now. I will do a review only after I have read the book. When the author of this book invited me to review her book, I blithely wrote back my usual style. I need to know what I am reviewing. Right? I got the book , then saw the number of pages and I desperately wondered I didn’t just allow myself to be guided by the first offer and stay close to what amazon.com had to say. But I knew one review can be different from the other and I had no choice. When I started reading however, I became very alarmed and uncomfortable. I was worried, angry at different times and unfortunately I took the story into my dreams as I became a captive of Memuna Barnes.

I was saddened at the waste of adolescent dreams, the eagerness of young souls trampled underneath by our base emotions. The innocence of Memuna and her fellow victims, hope killed by the bullet into the brains of Fuck-care. Those names , how-are-you, Pustine, C.O Base and a host of others. It was painful to read how Memuna overcame her first horror at brutality to her resigned acceptance of it. She never came to terms with it and she mirrored to us how the older generation had failed them.
Survived the Journey is the journey of an innocent, fresh- faced, pert and saucy teenage girl, forced to grow up fast and eventually traumatized by the sheer cussedness of humanity where dreams die first.. She could easily have used that as the title of her book except for this detail, Memuna Barnes is a first rate survivor, who had the grace to be stubborn, a determination to hang on to her virginity, that determined her dreams.
Memuna survived the darkened dawn so she could take her place in the sun. Read her story and be inspired. I read and then I had these questions.
Congratulations on your book but we will love you to answer a few questions
1.    Please tell us a bit about yourself     
      A) I am Memuna Barnes in my 30s, one of nine children. I was born in Liberia to a
           Sierra Leonean father and a Liberian mother. I came to New Zealand in 2000 as  
           part of the United Nations Refugee Resettlement Program with my father and
           younger sister Mamawa.

2.    You started your story straight away about the capture and your family remained most times in the shadows. Tell us a bit more about your parents.
       A) Growing up both of my parents were in the workforce. My mother was a
           secretary at a printing company and my father a manager at Telema Fishing   
          Company - Liberia's second largest fishing company. At the time my sister     
       We're the two kids who lived with them in Liberia. We were well provided for and if
       there ever were hard times before the war.....my mother made sure my sister and
       I didn't know about it. Mama was a mother who lived for her children. Very hands -
       On. She never missed our school programs although Mamawa and I didn't
        attend the same school. Mama would pick up the child who did not have a program
        first and rush off to the school of the other child and make sure that child knew she
        was in the crowd watching. I was always involved in plays or speeches at mine and
        She would run to get Mamawa after work and rush to my school. She was always
       there in time to give me that last minute cheer, kiss and hug to assure me she was
       watching and enjoying every second. Which for me, was all that mattered.
       I was a well catered for child as far as I know.
      Our father worked most of the time and we only really got to see him at weekends.
      My parents paid for everything we wanted.                                                             
3.    What led to the RUF over running your part of the country?
      A) The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) walked into Sierra Leone from Liberia via
         the border and started what they dubbed "First Battalion" in Pujehun District by
         capturing and recruiting young boys and girls into their rebel force. Soon after they   
         took Kailahun District which was dubbed "Second Battalion" giving them access to
         diamond mines which were used as currency for ammunition. So those two
          southern districts became rebels stronghold.
4.    At the end of your journey, did you meet up with Hassan ?
       A) I could have met up with Hassan as I mentioned towards the end of the book
       when I bumped into How-are-you in the market. However, I was afraid he would
        find me and take me again. So no I didn't.
5.    Did you discover any further news about Base and Pustine?
      A) I know nothing more about Base. I could find out about Pustine if I asked a few   
        people but I have not tried to.

6.    You had quite a violent eighteen months as a captive, has it anyway affected your perception of war, politics and your old country.

      A) My experience has indeed affected me a great deal. First, before this I had no
      reason to think about war and I would forget really quickly soon after watching a      
      war movie as a child. I remember owning a toy pistol myself once. However, after
      experiencing two civil wars in a space of a decade, I think it is a pointless waste of
      lives, resources, infrastructure and a heinous offence to humanity. Why not just sit  
      and talk about issue? Why not negotiate and bargain ( this is what would have to     
      happen in the end anyway) and think about the citizens and the generations to   
     I think our leaders should picture themselves as parents when they are voted into
     power. They are voted out of trust and respect should always consider the people   
     who give them power and use that power for the people rather than against them.
     Create opportunities in form of jobs, utilize national resources and subsidize the     
     healthcare and education system of their respective countries.
     Liberia and Sierra Leone need to stand up and value their people especially when
     there are so many emotionally destroyed individuals running around aimlessly. You
     cannot love your country if you have no respect for human rights.
     The aftermath of war, I think is almost as bad as the war itself. The country is left with traumatized individuals who are so confused and still scared: for those who
     participated in the massacre - they live with the guilt (if capable of remorse) over the
     lives they took, unable to fit in a functional society ( for people like Hassan, Base,
    CO. Gbembo) where instead of people answering to them they now have to learn
    how to have bosses and a job, some live in fear of retribution.
     For those of us who witnessed the horror we live with recurring nightmares and      
     sorrow over our loss and we want answers but no one can offer them. For me 
    carrying on is something that just happens because I am  alive but still sometimes
    feel stuck. These memories can be triggered by the simplest event. I think about the
    day we left Monrovia almost everyday as I go past the dock and see cruise ships.
    Watching contemporary war movies or the sound of a car backfire gives me
    nightmares of the war.
   Then all the dead bodies that are left in the forests where bombs have been thrown at
   people... get washed off into waterways and pollute the environment and lead to the
   spread of diseases.