And Still Peace Did Not Come: A Memoir of Reconciliation

And Still Peace Did Not Come: A Memoir of Reconciliation

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by Agnes Kamara-Umunna, Emily Holland
     
 

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When bullets hit Agnes Kamara-Umunna's home in Monrovia, Liberia, she and her father hastily piled whatever they could carry into their car and drove toward the border, along with thousands of others. An army of children was approaching, under the leadership of Charles Taylor. It seemed like the end of the world.

Slowly, they made their way to the safety of

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Overview

When bullets hit Agnes Kamara-Umunna's home in Monrovia, Liberia, she and her father hastily piled whatever they could carry into their car and drove toward the border, along with thousands of others. An army of children was approaching, under the leadership of Charles Taylor. It seemed like the end of the world.

Slowly, they made their way to the safety of Sierra Leone. They were the lucky ones.

After years of exile, with the fighting seemingly over, Agnes returned to Liberia—a country now devastated by years of civil war. Families have been torn apart, villages destroyed, and it seems as though no one has been spared. Reeling, and unsure of what to do in this place so different from the home of her memories, Agnes accepted a job at the local UN-run radio station. Their mission is peace and their method is reconciliation through understanding and communication. Soon, she came up with a daring plan: Find the former child soldiers, and record their stories. And so Agnes, then a 43-year-old single mother of four, headed out to the ghettos of Monrovia and befriended them, drinking Club Beer and smoking Dunhill cigarettes with them, earning their trust. One by one, they spoke on her program, Straight from the Heart, and slowly, it seemed like reconciliation and forgiveness might be possible.

From Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first female president, to Butt Naked, a warlord whose horrific story is as unforgettable as his nickname—everyone has a story to tell. Victims and perpetrators. Boys and girls, mothers and fathers. Agnes comforts rape survivors, elicits testimonials from warlords, and is targeted with death threats—all live on the air.

Set in a place where monkeys, not raccoons, are the scourge of homeowners; the trees have roots like elephant legs; and peacebuilding is happening from the ground-up. Harrowing, bleak, hopeful, humorous, and deeply moving—And Still Peace Did Not Come is not only Agnes's memoir: It is also her testimony to a nation's descent into the horrors of civil war, and its subsequent rise out of the ashes.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Between 2004 and 2007, Kamara-Umunna hosted Straight from the Heart, a phone-in radio program that broadcast the "true-life stories" of survivors of Liberia's civil wars (1989�1996, 1999�2003). At the show's inception, the focus was on the victims. In this part memoir and part history, Kamara-Umunna intersperses these "true-life stories" with accounts of her own childhood and experiences in war-torn Liberia. She tells the story of the Straight from the Heart Center, a refuge for child soldiers. There, former child soldiers rebuild their lives from the ashes of atrocity and forge deep bonds of friendship among themselves. "Sometimes," she reports, "I get overwhelmed," and so too will the reader. This memoir, like the recollection of "ales so unspeakable it was hard to believe they had actually occurred," is an act of hope and catharsis, an answer to the unspeakable, images of boys turned automaton killers, dressed in costume "torn from women and children that they had killed," that to this day haunt the survivors of Liberia's brutal past. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews

A Liberian journalist sifts through agonizing stories of the victims and perpetrators of 14 years of civil war in her country.

Kamara-Umunna was the host of a call-in radio program,Straight from the Heart, broadcast from the United Nations Mission in Liberia beginning in 2004,a year after civil war devastated Liberia. In fact, there were two wars, from 1989 to 1996, and 1999 to 2003, in which the rebel warlord Charles Taylor wrenched control of the country from the previous illegal military dictator, President Samuel Kanyon Doe, then unleashed his murderous child recruits to wreak genocide to the magnitude of 250,000 dead. The author's job involved soliciting stories from victims as well as from the young perpetrators of violence and the warlords, to some controversy, "paving the way for a countrywide conversation" about the mayhem that would lead to the creation of a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2005. Each chapter begins with a brief eyewitness account by one of the traumatized voices, involving children being captured, brutalized, drugged, forced to perform savage acts and random murder in order to terrorize villages and please their commanders. Notes one soldier: "This was a method our commanders used to make us brave...Human lives became valueless to us." The bulk of the narrative involves Kamara-Umunna's own story. Growing up in neighboring Sierra Leone, the daughter of a Liberian nurse and a Sierra Leonean doctor (although she was not apprised that he was her father until grade school), she got pregnant at a young age, curtailing her education; later she worked as a secretary at a Freetown radio station, mostlyescaping the violence by remaining in Sierra Leone. Her eventual work collecting stories was remarkable and brave, especially convincing her editors and listeners that the stories of the young perpetrators should be heard, and forgiven.

A well-composed work that brings the Liberian conflict up uncomfortably close and personal.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781401323578
Publisher:
Hyperion
Publication date:
03/22/2011
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,348,045
Product dimensions:
8.34(w) x 5.74(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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