Paul Yeenie Harry ~ (May 10 2006)
"...since I had realized that the ancestors had the power to take people across that River of Death, willy-nilly, I wanted to stress the point that I would never attempt lying to them, so, to stress my faithfulness and seriousness, I spoke like the hypocritical presidents of almost every country, when taking their oath of office. This is how I went …”
"Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I say: Hearken to me; I also will show my opinion." Job 32:9,10
Part I || Part II
We went further and saw another group of Africans. Two guys among them were reading newspapers, but they were also smiling at the same time. The rest were explaining something that had happened to them in the past. It seemed they were hurt about what had happened to them, but at the same time, they seemed to be very happy, as their faces changed from time to time, beaming and glooming. I asked my hosts to help me understand. They were glad to help, as usual.
“All those Africans are Nigerians. The ones standing are the Nigerian soldiers who were brutally killed by Taylor’s rebels, while serving in ECOMOG. The group behind them are the Nigerian civilians who were rounded up, some taken from the Nigeria House in Monrovia, and killed by Taylor’s men. The two guys reading the newspapers are Krees Amodibe and Tayo Awotusin, the two Nigerian journalists who were arrested and killed by Taylor’s rebels, while covering the Liberian Civil War in 1990.” I could only nod, also.
We went further and saw still another large crowd. They didn’t seem to be Liberians, as their accent was different; however, I saw the same Liberian excitement in them. They were as crazily happy as the Liberian groups, if not happier than the Liberians. So, I went to an elderly man and asked, “Who are these people?”
“These are all Sierra Leoneans. They, too, experienced a brutal civil war like Liberians. Their ten-year civil war was masterminded, financed and directed by Taylor. One of the visible results of that war is the thousands of amputees living in Sierra Leone today. They and Liberians shared common sufferings under the same Taylor.” I could only shake my head in bemusement.
As I was listening to all these stories, I was also thinking about coming back on earth. While I was thinking about how to tell my hosts that I had seen enough and wanted to come back, I saw another group of very energetic men runner up and down, celebrating as if their African football team had just won a major championship league. I turned to my hosts for explanation, “Who are those guys?” A grey-haired man was there to help.
“Those guys were some of the strong fighters of Taylor’s rebel group, but they were arrested and summarily executed by Taylor. The first guy is Oliver Varney; the second guy is Jeffery Mulbah; the third is Kpelleh Boy; the fourth is Cooper Teah; the fifth is Sam Tweh and the sixth is Timothy. They, plus others, were all executed by Taylor in 1994. They are also happy that Taylor has been arrested.” The man looked at me and, then, looked on the ground. I didn’t know for what. There was some silence for a few seconds. Then, he continued…
“The seventh guy is Carcious Jacobs; the eighth is Otis Klee; the ninth is Ojukwu Larry; the tenth is Michael Seibu and the eleventh is Junior Goll. They, too, were arrested and summarily executed by Charles Taylor in January 1995. They all have been dancing since they heard the news about Taylor’s arrest.”
At the end of his statement, I saw another group. They were dancing “Gbayoko,” a kind of dance performed by the Bassa ethnic group, especially by the Bassa women. The grey-haired man was about to say more about this group, but I wanted to come back on earth. So, I pleaded mercifully, “I beg you people – please take me back on earth. I have seen enough, and I have heard enough. I am tired now.”
“It’s not time for you to leave, Paul. You will go after dinner.” An old man said.
“Hmm! Eat dinner with the dead?” I wondered to myself. I remembered that in African philosophy and religion, people pour libation for the dead, but this one was too much for me. I felt that they had a special kind of food, suitable only for the dead, and if I had made any mistake and eaten some, I would have changed to a dead person instantly, thereby, circumventing me from returning to earth. In fact, the old man’s offer stressed me so much that I asked to use the toilet.
They sent a man to go with in order to show me the toilet. I followed him and, after a few minutes, he pointed at a little structure somewhere, not too far from where we were, and said, “This is the toilet.” As soon as he had shown me the latrine, he left and went back. I think they knew that there was no way that I could have escaped the town.
Anyway, I eased myself, as if I had taken some laxatives a day before. I also sweated profusely, as if I was helping my maternal Grandfather to burn an African jungle for the farming season.
“It is better to toilet and sweat in the land of the dead than to eat some unknown food in their land.” I remarked to myself after putting on my trousers and tightening my belt like a martial art teacher who was getting ready to display his talents before his students. After reducing the tension by using the toilet, I went back to meet my hosts.
“You must be hungry, Paul.” Remarked a lady.
“No, thanks, Mama. I ate enough before they brought me here.” I responded, though I was as hungry as a boa constrictor, which had just discharged, from its guts, all the decayed remains of a huge animal it had swallowed a few weeks earlier.
“I would like to … “ My statement was interrupted by the appearance of the late President Samuel K. Doe from the left side of where I was standing. It was obvious he had something to say.
“You are Paul, not so?” He asked.
“Yes, I am.” I responded.
“You come from Liberia, not so?” He continued.
“Yes, I do.” I answered.
“You are a writer, not so?”
“Not really.” I replied.
“Don’t lie!” He warned me.
“Well, I sometimes try to write articles, stories, poems, plays, etc.” I clarified.
“So, you are a writer, aren’t you?” He stressed.
“Well, in some sense, yes.” I complied.
“You know what? You will do an interview with me before you leave.” He said.
“Please, Mr. President, I am not prepared for the task.” I admitted.
“I know that you are prepared for it. You are Paul, not so?” He continued.
“I am Paul, but…” I tried to make my point, but he did not allow me.
“No BUT here. You will do the interview before you leave.” He emphasized, as if he was my commander in the military. But then I remembered that he had a military career. I recalled how he used to be so smartly dressed in his camouflage in the 1980’s.
“But I don’t have the time; I will soon be leaving.” I explained.
“Who told you that, Paul?” He questioned after preceding it by a kind of mocking laugh. After this, there was some silence.
I did not know what to say, or do. I was spellbound. The late President looked at me, and I looked at him. He then sat in a chair that was nearby. After about five minutes, an old man came to me and whispered in my ear to go with President Doe for the interview. So, I agreed. The President got up, two other men got up, and they signalled to me to go with them. I went and did the interview with Doe.
[Note: The interview with President Doe will be written about in a completely different article.]
After the special interview, I came back to my hosts. The man that had earlier brought me in the canoe looked at me and said, “Before we can agree to take you back, swear by the River of Death that you will write about what you have seen and heard here and make other people know about it. If you fail, you will be brought back here, and never allowed to return.”
This one was scary, wasn’t it? And since I had realized that the ancestors had the power to take people across that River of Death, willy-nilly, I wanted to stress the point that I would never attempt lying to them, so, to stress my faithfulness and seriousness, I spoke like the hypocritical presidents of almost every country, when taking their oath of office. This is how I went …
“I, Paul Yeenie Harry, in the presence of the citizens of the World of the Dead, do hereby solemnly swear by the River of Death that I will not forget to write about all that I have seen and heard in the World of the Dead and, if I consciously or unconsciously choose not to write about it and make others know about it, let me be returned here against my will and never allowed to go back on earth. So help me God!” At the end of my statement, they all laughed and bid me farewell.
I was warned not to look back once I had turned towards the direction of the River of Death. The warning reminded me of the story of Lot’s wife who looked back and turned to a pillar of salt, as recorded in Genesis Chapter 19. I remarked to myself, “Hmm! I stupid to look back.”
Allow me to rest my pen for Part Four.
About the author:
Paul Yeenie Harry is a Liberian; he lives in Poland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org