Alusine Kamara is a Sierra Leonean residing in Freetown, a local Researcher, an Explorer of Sierra Leonean Culture and a Project Manager, actively involved with several organizations helping children and young people in making a change. Alusine has won several Awards both locally and internationally on Environmental Sustainability with Peace and Development.
Alusine started his Primary Education at the Rural Education Community(R.E.C) and his Junior School at the Sengbe Pieh Memorial Secondary School (S.P.M.S.S.) in his village Hamilton. He later moved to Freetown to complete his Senior Education at theGovernment Secondary Technical School (G.S.T.S.) and finally completedhis Tertiary Education at the Milton Magai College of Education and Technology (M.M.C.E.T.) where he studied Business Administration.
He started many programs in Sierra Leone for children and women too. He is the director of Lynns Kids. Gift To A Nation is another program he instituted to help his students achieve sustainability.
Project Manager of Keys of Change
Give A Book Save A Life is a program that inspires children to read. The books are sent by an organization in Chicago.
Mr. Kamara also run a volunteer and Intern business called Kamaralus explore
As a leader in his country he wrote more than one book with Lynn Rosen, his mentor. “Beyond A Vision,” by Lynn Rosen and Alusine Kamara is about the struggles he faced and the struggles the children in Sierra Leone face today. “A Vision for Tomorrow,” by Lynn Rosen and Alusine Kamara is about how both visionaries look forward to creating a better world for children.
I remember vaguely in 1998 when I was 16years old, the timewhen the rebels were forced out of Freetown the capital city of my country Sierra Leone. I was living with my family in the village called Lakka near Freetown. During this time there was a shortage of food. We had to go to the bush to look for bush yam in those exhausted farms searching for anything we could find to eat.
One day, I saw a group of people emerge from nowhere talking excitedly about a boat which was supplying food free to people. From their discussion, I came to understand that the boat was about 24 miles away. I immediately joined them in the long walk to get some food. One afternoon on a journey home carrying a little food supply on my head I heard a voice behind me shouting, “Halt! Halt! If you move I shoot”. I stood stunned as my heart beat uncontrollably in great terror, afraid to turn around. I was overwhelmed by a number of armed men coming from different directions. Like a bolt from the blueI received a heavy slap on my chest with the back of their gun. I fell down unconscious as they kicked me rapidly and mercilessly on all parts of my body.
I woke up to the sound of their guns, trying to open my eyes but all I got was a vague impression of people, mostly women and children carrying heavy loads on their heads. I was raised up to my feet and given two bags of rice to carry on my bare head and we started the longest journey of my life. This was in the evening hours. We walked all night tillday break through thick forest, barely resting and without food or water.
We finally reached their camp. It was the most awful place I had ever been to. We were welcomed by six human remains tied to trees having been eaten by vultures. By all signs they must have been executed. Ignoring a dreadful sight of human bodies piled up like garbage on my left, I almost threw up. I couldn’t shut my ears nor my eyes to the cries of pain by women and children being beaten and treated like slaves. Then I saw the faces that haunt me up to this day, of people who were in a queue waiting to be killed or luckily(?) have their limbs chopped off instead.
Then I was pushed forward by a heavy hand from the back and a deep voice asked if I wanted to join them. I walked drowsily forward as my heart burned with sorrow and my eyes bled with tears.
I saw armed men in all shapes and form all around the camp; some had guns pointing at us and some had machetes. I was terrified. As we walked deeper in to the camp we came to a stop. We dropped our load and we were separated into four groups – the young ladies, the old men and women and the young men and children like us. Somehow among these three groups a fourth group was formed. They were to be executed or God knows what. The young ladies were shared among themselves as their wives and sex slaves.
The old people were taken away along with the fourth group. And the rest of us were set for their recruits. Then a huge man walked towards me. He hung a human finger around his neck as a necklace. He then asked me, “Little Boy do you know me? “ I answered in panic shaking my head,“No! No!” As I was so nervous he nodded his head telling me his name was Doctor Blood. He then asked me to sit on the ground. He tied my hands behind my back. My feet too. Then asked me to bow my head and he then tied a blindfold over my eyes.
Suddenly I heard voices saying, “Let us welcome him”. I felt heavy kicks and slaps. They gave me a serious beating with their military belts. I was rolling on the ground crying bitterly. I almost lost my voice. I felt someone hold my arm and put me somewhere where I was able to relax a little. He then told me not to make any move. Suddenly I felt a sharp object on my arm. I fell unconscious immediately and fell asleep.
I woke up with heavy kicks and punches and someone telling me that here was not a place to sleep. The man then untied the blindfold and proceeded to pour a gallon of salt water all over my body. I started begging him for help as I felt the sting of my wounds when the salt entered them. He then brought a jug full with marijuana tea. He gave me some tabs, asked me to chew them up and gave me the marijuana tea to drink.“This is to charge up yourself,” he said. After this process I felt totally different. I lost sense of who I was. I couldn’t recall my past. I felt like I was in a different world. I saw the ground moving from one place to another. The dosage I got was too much. I was feeling weak till the next day.
The next day the man came with a bowl full of food to the corner where I laid. I rushed at the food as I saw a lot of meat in it and I was hungry. I used both my hands to eat the food gulping it down. As a result I started feeling my stomach ache and I started vomiting painfully. I called for help but no one made any move. I heard a voice saying, “Only the strong will survive”. I became very weak and I lay down for a while before I started to feel better and managed to get up. Yet as I felt all the wounds all over my body, flies were hovering around me trying to settle on these wounds. I tried to go where the others were but they told me to get back as I had bad smells. I got back with these heavy pains. I was totally discouraged asking myself what world I was in. I was in that corner for some days before I was called upon by Corporal Karim.
Corporal Karim asked me to join the others. He took me where they were. To my surprise I saw over 800 rebel children about my age being the largest number in the camp. Corporal Karim then handed me over to a man called Dura. Dura then welcomed me by nicknaming me Peggy, then knocked my chest saying to me,“Strong boy, good you got through the process of being with us’. He then asked me to join the others.
They assembled us in pairs. Doctor Blood and his team sounded bloody as they started to address us in the camp calling us the newly captured. “You are no longer a civilians, you are now rebels don’t be fear to do anything here we are your leaders we have lot of girls and boys we are well protected as we have guns and the gun is our savior, feel free but you can’t escape if anyone attempt we will wash that person away from us (meaning kill)”.
Corporal Karim took us to the back where the hot iron was on the fire. We stood in rows. He then told us,”You people will be marked with this hot iron as this is the symbol for this camp. Without this symbol you are not part of us and you will be killed when we get to a battle. There are Rules in this Process. When marking with this hot Irion you should not shout. You are now jungle boys. You need to be strong and active in movement”.
I was the third person to be marked; the man who was marking us took thered hot iron from the fire and asked me to stretch my hands. He placed the hot iron on my arm. I felt the pain penetrate deep in my heart. I couldn’t shout but tears stood in my eyes. I pretended as if I was stronger because the possibility to live was very slim than the one to die. I wondered how the others felt.
The next day they called us to gather at a place called B12 in the camp. Some men distributed AK47 guns to us and trained us how to fix and pull off the magazine from the gun ready to cock and fire. “You should always be ready cock and your finger should always be at the firing pin, because if you failed to shoot at your enemy your enemy will shoot at you, don’t be fear of the jet always be the first to pull at your enemy then you will always survived. In the battle listen to any instruction that is given to you don’t allowed your magazine to be empty in the war zone because you have to clear your way while returning, always listen to any instruction that is given to you, you will always have the chance to survive”. The men were training us at B12 in the camp.
The population of the rebels increased everyday. As we attacked we captured more recruits. Children were the most needed. The children became the first and wicked victim to complete any mission because when drugs are in excess, their brains would ‘fly’ and they would act on any instruction given. They would simply die when they failed to listen.
When I asked my Commando,“Sir what are we fighting for?” I was beaten mercilessly with the back of their gun, tied to a chair and told to look at the sun. They asked my fellow companions to urinate in my mouth and asked me to swallow it. They argued to kill me. Some said I should be beaten and let free while others said I should be killed. They finally agreed to gamble my life with a knife as the dice.
Their agreement was that they would spin the knife up and allow it to fall on the ground. If the knife stood upright on the ground I would be free but if not I would be killed. I was tied, with little hope to survive watching them while they argued. I straight away knew that my time to die had come.
I watched with apprehension as the first group spun the knife up and it stood upright on the ground. The second group spun the knife again and it happened the same way – that is what saved me from death. The commando walked towards me and swiped the knife on my face saying,“You are lucky anytime you asked me any question you are going to be kill without judging”.
I managed to escape from the rebels with two of my friends in a long march through the thick forest for completely three weeks, before we could find a door. When I reached home late in the evening my family ran away from me saying that I was a ghost. Then I shouted,“Mother! I am not a ghost. I am your son. I was captured by the rebels”. She eventually came closer and touched my rough hands and body. We then hugged each other while tears ran down our eyes. I was taken to a hospital and recovered from the ordeal, while doctors spent two months clearing out the drugs from my system.
After all this I regained my self and realized all my positive thinking. One day I said to my mother,“I want to continue my education”. She was so happy. She used to say to me,“My son you made me so happy but the problem is I have no money now to pay for your schooling, not only to pay your fees but also to buy your uniform, books and others. You have to wait until I have money then I will send you to school”.
A month has past. I saw my colleagues are going to school doing a term known as the remedial term. I had no choice. I had to go to the bush looking for firewood to sell. After two weeks I managed to raisea little sum. Then I went to the head of the school begging him to admit me to his school. He first agreed as he helped me with the uniform. I started attending school for two weeks. One day he called me to his office and told me he came to realize that I was a child soldier and his school was not for such students. He asked me to take my bag from my class and get out of his school. I was shocked, and some of my friends started shunning me. I couldn’t even play with them. If I persisted they would tell me that their parents said not to play with me as I was a rebel. I felt totally discouraged.
There was a hotel in Lakka where I would normally go at 12 when they finished cooking food for their staff. I would hang around at the outside kitchen; the cook would always dish for me and asked me to wash the pots. I always did this and most of the workers got used to me. They would send me to buy little items for them. With this little assistance they tipped me. Sometimes I washed cars for the hotel guests.Sometimes they paid me, sometimes they didsn’t. I also assisted in the cleaning of the compound, restaurant and painting of bungalows. One day I asked the cook in the hotel if he would take me to wash dishes and clean the floor. He then allowed me. Immediately I started working as a steward in the kitchen department. From there I saved money for my schooling. When I started schooling, I came to work after school. There I would train as a cook and I became a casual staff till I finished my high school and college where I studied Business Administration.