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Thoughts of April 6, bleeds my heart but…

Richlue O. Burphy -E-mail: robfandash@gmail.com
A  Media and Public Relations Professional, Richlue O. Burphy
A Media and Public Relations Professional, Richlue O. Burphy

Listening to voices of wisdom about terrible things that happened here in my motherland on ‘April 61996’ as it was also extended later on by other pronounced dates; ‘April 12 and 14,’ keep my heart bleeding.  Today so much light have being shone on the day(s), who else could have done this, it must have been God.

In fact, I'm in Sinkor, Monrovia right around the exact spot where the incident is said to have occurred the night before April 6 and all I can say is that my motherland has been through some tough times.

I'm sitting and listening to stories of the dreadful sounds of automatic raffles, expulsions from tons of rocket propel grenades, and voices of militia groups, violently screaming at the top of their lungs. It was a fateful Saturday morning and some weekend students were on their way to school, market women had left their homes for the market on a regular business day and commercial drivers had already started their work day and were all out in the traffic.

Business owners were opening their businesses and some had just gotten started with business activities - in anticipation of a normal routine day when hell broke loose and I'm being told that nobody saw these coming.

At age 11years at the time and had become a refugee already in Ghana, on the Buduburam Refugee Camp, I had little or no understanding of what my people were going through back home. What could I have known at that age and how much understanding would I have had about the news I was hearing from home?

For sure, the famous voice from back home on the radio was that of veteran Liberian journalists Jonathan Paye Layleh. I must admit here that his voice, to me, was not one of a pleasant one to listen to. I always laughed when I was a boy but one line I never forgot from his reportage was his closing signature. Mr. Paye Layleh never forgot to sign out that ‘reporting for BBC Network Africa, this is Jonathan Paye Layleh; Monrovia, Liberia’. I always waited for that line and I would just recite it with him.

These are the moments when nearly every Liberian on the refugee camp would be glued by their radio in high earnest anticipation of what Paye Layleh had to say. The news was mostly not good. Many people would cry after listening to him.

Many hearts would get broken after hearing him speak of the situation in the motherland. Yet and still, nobody wanted to miss the opportunity of listening to him. You know, BBC would normally repeat one report several times; especially if it is what journalists call developing story. And April in 1996 in Liberia fitted just that definition. Still with the broken hearts of the refugees, they would still listen every time.

I know there were many who could imagine the reports from back home on this day and some too could visualize everything that was happening on April 6 that year. But frankly, I could not. One thing I know for sure is that I had that anxiety too to listen to the radio but it was just to hear the mention of my country on the radio and till the time when Paye layleh, would say my favorite line.

I can barely remember but as it was on a Saturday, I can imagine that probably I was joining my elder sisters and mother to perform some household chores like washing of my dirty socks, dirty dishes or some other normal Saturday work.

Little did I know that children of my age were getting killed here back home. Some of them were getting lost from their families whilst others were being recruited as child soldiers and forced to take arms to join a bloody, senseless and heartless fighting. It could have been me. It could have been any of us on the refugee camp.

It’s heart-breaking this April 6 morning, hearing that much of the gun battle that day in 1996 was carried out by armed adolescents, and homeless kids. Young people who had no understanding of what they were being asked to do.

Emotions were so high that logicality and rationality had no say in what they were doing. My mates were being forced to destroy their very future and that of the motherland without knowing it.

It's amazing how some individual or groups of individuals would think that they had the right of life and death in their hands and could decide who should die and who should live. And that they could decide to transfer that right to others by instructing them to just kill. Just kill. Kill anybody; kill women - whether they are sick, well, pregnant, not pregnant, beautiful and what have you. Kill men – whether they have guns, knives, nothing, something, anything. Kill children – just kill.\

Some of these deaths, I’m told were so graphic and dramatic! They were terrible and horrific. In some cases, it ended up in cannibalism. What came over us out of a sudden? Yes, I say out of a sudden because hearing that this whole saga was brief compared to other fighting in Liberia. So yes; it was a sudden happening.

Another ugly thing I’m hearing is that, Nigerian soldiers who were supposed to help bring peace were involved in extensive looting in the city. Then I’m asking myself, what?! Seriously?! Are you serious here?! What is the meaning of that?!

For heaven’s sake, you are on an assignment to protect properties and save lives! How can you be the very ones doing what you were sent to stop and in some cases, prevent?! Am I hearing the truth at all? It is disturbing actually.

I'm being told of the many check points and the hassle of passing through them. Yes, I say hassle because frankly, I believe it was irritating and a serious inconvenience to go through all that just to go home to your very house. Innocent Liberians and foreigners alike were subjected to unspeakable forms of violence.

I don’t even want to speak of the rapes, and other forms of abuse that people were going through like ‘Papa, sit down on the ground!’, ‘Uncle, slap yourself! Serious?! What happened to our morals and values? Where did they all go during that fleeting period that one would look at somebody old enough to be their parent and subject them to abuse and torture?

Hearing about how those pawns were murdering and decapitating people in the streets and themselves in the streets of Monrovia whilst their masters were out other places winning and dinning reminds me of the famous saying that 'when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers'.

I believe that what I’m hearing today are the very things I was hearing on the radio during my refugee days. But little did I understand that this is how devastating it was back here. If I get the opportunity to listen to Mr. Paye Layleh reports again today, I would have a better insight of what went on April 6, 1996 in Liberia.

It is a day that has gone deep, deeper down in our history as part of our ugly past. It is a day that Liberians will never forget. We will tell it to our children and their children. We will continue to remind them of those dark days and prevail on their conscience never to attempt going back into those days.

We should vehemently resist every temptation to go back to where we came from. Let it sink the deepest into our consciousness never again shall we portray ourselves and our beloved country to the world as what we did in the 90s and early 2000.

We must all in our own little way protect the sovereignty of the motherland. We must all endeavor to ensure that peace reign in Liberia. We must all make sure nobody; Liberian or non-Liberian tamper with the peace we are currently enjoying. We must all make sure that despite all our differences as a nation and a people, peace must be over everything. We must continue to cherish the peace that we have now as one of the most valuable things the motherland can boast of.

Come think of it, what was their motivation? What was inspiring them to do what they were doing? Were they killing just so they too stay alive and nobody kills them? Or were they promised the world? Were these people into this earnestly with honest minds for the salvation of the motherland? Or they were into this for their selfish gains? Was this in revenge of some wrongdoings by others? Or anarchy was just loose in Liberia? Whatever the reasons, heaven knows.

And you see, faithfulness is a characteristic of my King. Today; 22 years after, here in Sinkor, there is beautiful sunshine with complete quietude in Monrovia from the sounds of guns and other weapons. 22 years down the line, the streets are busy with normal activities people are moving about happily.

22 years down the line, Liberia has joined other west African countries to administer the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and it is ongoing under a very peaceful atmosphere whilst other students are in school having normal classes. 

22 years down the line, the traffic is freely flowing with commercial, private, government and even diplomatic vehicles all moving about freely. Yet 22 years down the line, businesses are opened and usual transactions are ongoing – both Liberian and foreign businesses.

22 years down the line, there is a democratic elected government and its officials are going about doing the government's work normally and 22 years down the line, myself I’m here in my office working to improve the lives of the Liberian people from ‘my one corner’.

It must have been God. Nobody else could have done this much for us. It must have been God. Nobody else could have brought us thus far. It must have been God. Nobody else could have lifted our face in the comity of nations.

It must have been God. Nobody else could have revived our shattered economy. It must have been God. Nobody else could have restored our basic social systems. It must have been God. Nobody else could have ignited our dreams and hopes. It must have been God. Nobody else could have shone so much light on our days. It must have been God.

Truly, it must have been God. All glory and praises to Him; the great God of mercy who sits in the highest seat of justice. He who reigns on high must be honored on this day and beyond. For He has done us so well. He has been so good to us as a nation and as a people. We must continue to remain grateful to Him for all He has done and continue to do for us. Father, I thank you for everything.

About the Author:

Richlue O. BURPHY is a Media and Public Relations Professional with vast knowledge and experiences in development communications, working experience with international organizations in outreach programs.  He’s also a humanitarian with a heart and passion for children. Runs charity programs into villages; lifting lives to inspire hopes and brighten smiles. He is an advocate and activist for societal development and progress. E-mail: robfandash@gmail.com


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