‘Everyone Is Capable of Change’: A Former Child Soldier Believes There Is Hope For A Generation of War-Affected Liberian Youth
By Moco McCaulay
It was sometime in 2008, in New York City, at Lava Gina, a divvy international bar I used to frequent in Manhattan’s Lower East Side when I met Ishmael Beah, the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier. Beah’s book about his years as a child soldier during Sierra Leone’s atrocious civil war had just been published and he was touring to promote it.
As I sat listening to Beah talk about his experiences as a child solider and how he had been given the chance and support to overcome the trauma of those turbulent years and turn his life around, I found it inspiring to see how far removed from his brutal past Beah had obviously come.
And, having almost being forcefully conscripted into a rebel army as a child soldier during Liberia’s civil war, but was only spared the fiendish deflowering of my childhood innocence by the unwavering intervention of my Aunt, I was extremely interested in Beah’s story. So I asked him a few questions and talked to him briefly after the event.
Beah came across as quite an intelligent young man and there was nothing about him that stood out as someone with the heinous past which he writes about in his riveting book.
But, if ever I harbored any lingering doubts about the possibility for complete transformation in the life of someone like Beah who’s childhood had been so grotesquely desecrated by the coarse brutalities of war, that all evaporated when I met Morlee Gugu Zawoo, Sr.
Abducted, Forcefully Conscripted, Trained to Kill, Mortally Wounded and Narrow Escape to Forge a New Life: A former Child Soldier’s Harrowing Account of Survival and Ultimate Redemption
By Moco McCaulay
The sound of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenade ferociously sliced through the air, shattering the calm of the humdrum morning. It was August 1990 and the town of Tubmanburg, in Bomi County, one of Liberia’s provincial districts, was under attack from the invading rebel forces of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), the defunct rebel army headed by Charles Taylor, who was recently convicted and sentenced to a 50-year jail term for “aiding and abetting” the commission of war crimes during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
Morlee Gugu Zawoo, Sr., who was just 15 years old at the time, along with his twin brother, Alex, and the rest of his family were hunkered down in their house as bullets and rocket-propelled grenades flew helter-skelter over their heads. Fearful and gasping from the suffocating uncertainty about the fate that awaited them, they stayed indoors all day and night, waiting for the fighting to subside.