Part 8: Escape to Freetown

Print More

It was 2004. The rains had just began closing in. The place was muddy and mostly unpleasant to look at, especially the market area of Serrekunda.

My editor-in-chief at The Point newspaper had urged me not to move around at night. My nephew and son were delivering my news items at night, but Deyda Hydara, my editor, had advised me to stop because they were kids and it was more dangerous for them than me.

Augustine Kanjia lies in pain after surgery in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Courtesy of Augustine Kanjia

Augustine Kanjia lies in pain after surgery in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

I had them deliver my stories because of the problem with my unbending knee. It was uncomfortable, and I could not run if I were attacked, which was always a possibility.

I had started taking an online course in journalism about a year before my decision to move on to Freetown in Sierra Leone to correct the mistake the Egyptian doctor had made in Gambia.

I reported news even from the hospital, where drugs would go to the wrong hands. Bribery was rife in big places, but dictatorial tendencies made journalists afraid to report on it.

An online paper called touched the most sensitive areas of the Gambian society. It made a difference. However, association with the paper meant death or disappearance.

My knee still remained stiff and could not bend. I tried my best, working assiduously to make ends meet and to reserve some for my next trip to Sierra Leone for another operation.

It was early October. Gambia makes a lot of news at the beginning of the dry season and the end of the rainy season. My sources called me from one corner to the other. Most of them trusted that I would save them by publishing news that was quite close to their heart.

A young night watchman from a village named Gunjur hanged himself in his studio. He had slept there without paying but cared for the house. He had been there for five days when my source called me and asked me to join their police team.

I was not allowed to write or talk much. I left both my recorder and notepad but took my pen, which I did not use. I wrote the story and it was accurate even without writing and recording. It was the biggest story the next day. I had made it again.

Was my work without its usual challenges? No!

Mrs. Ellis, a university professor who had seen me earlier on TV, called me by my real name while I was covering the story with her son. I said it was not me and cut her off quickly. She spoke English Creole (broken English) and I denied being a Sierra Leonean, but she refused to believe me.

I wrote about her in my story, about how it could not have been possible for her to not know there was a dead body close by because of the stench. Her son came to attack me at the Point office, but I solved the problem and later became their best friend. We all believed the story was factual; the truth had been told.

One day I was told I was wanted for questioning by the National Intelligence Agency [NIA] for reasons that weren’t apparent to me. I left for the airport the next morning before they came around.

The airport was not busy. My wife was with me, and I was taking my three-year-old daughter with me to Sierra Leone. My daughter Mary was a source of courage for me. I could not cry because I needed to show her toughness in life by not crying in front of her openly. She was very close and attached to me. I could not afford to leave her, even with her mother.

I arrived an hour later in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with mixed feelings. My operation was bigger than I wanted to believe. With an unbending knee I asked how it could ever bend and how I could start running, even at a jogging pace. My soccer life, my running and my marathon life were just memories. I thought the operation would revive all these.

I arrived in Freetown with no information about my brother and sister, who lived in the airport town of Lungi. I did not tell them I was coming again. A friend met me at the airport and hired a taxi to take me where he knew my brother and family lived.

My brother was a catechist/teacher, my sister a police officer. They got lost during the war only to surface in Ivory Coast and Liberia, and later back in Sierra Leone. They were lucky.

This was a good time for renewal and good health.

Augustine being discharged from Cupid Home

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Augustine being discharged from Cupid Home

I was taken around the police station to be introduced to my sister’s coworkers and bosses. She introduced me by saying, “He is a journalist in The Gambia.” That kept them from thinking I was there to get information from them or write about them. That was not my intention at the time.

Many of the police officers who listen to the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC] African Service under the Focus on Africa program would have heard my name over and again because I contributed to it several times even though I was not a stringer for them.

I met the doctor that my brother introduced me to. They were classmates.

The operation cost me a fortune. “There is no brother in the war,” he said. He examined my leg and opened his big medical book and said: “There is stiffness in the tissues. The soft tissues have all crumpled and become stiff. I will need to remove all the soft tissues if you allow me.”

He looked determined. I was happy. I didn’t know how I was going to pay him, but I kept my faith in God.

The doctor told me the operation would cost $2 million Leones, which is about $300. Saffea, my brother, paid a third. I had saved a third. I was left with only $100 to complete for my operation. I tried to contact some priests, and I got Father Piero Lazarini, a Xaverian missionary, to promise to help.

One evening I got a call from an unknown number. A woman asked if I knew her. Yes, I said. It was a girl from my village who I had sex with in January 1989. It was in 2004, and she called to say she had a gift for me. “What is it?” I asked curiously. “I can’t tell you,” she said. “Then send it by DHL,” I said in my gentle voice. At the time I thought it was a very good gift to help me since I was going to be operated on and lacked money for food.

“OK,” she said, “I know you are growing old but [you] cannot stop your jokes. I will send the gift tomorrow to my sister, and they will call you to pick it up.” This was close to my operation. My brother Peter A. Mustapha and I went to pick her up. The rest remains a story to tell.

The operation was done the next morning with tiny rain drizzling outside. I could hear the rain hit the zinc.

The doctor administered a local anesthetic. I felt the first cut on my leg, and it was painful. It felt as if someone was killing you and you are incapacitated and can’t fight back. I cried and told them I could feel it.

Dr. Bundu asked, “Where do you feel the most?” I said, all the area you have cut from top to down and right in. They had to pause to continue later. It was the most excruciating operation I ever had.

There was no ambulance to take me to Cupid Home, where private doctors would take their patients. I had no money or food as I had given the $50 to my newfound child that her mother sent me as my gift.

I was taken out of the hospital and placed outside where I was soaked in pain of its highest kind. I was then taken to the doctor’s car. They forced me in with some parts of the leg outside because of my height. We managed to go.

I paid 34,000 Leones per night at Cupid Home, money I didn’t have.

I prayed in pain. I asked God to bring back my grandmother, who had been killed in the rebel war. I could not sleep. My leg was folded and raised up against the wall. I cried day in and day out The doctor was nowhere to be found.

The pain eased when my leg was removed from the plaster. The hospital was like a prison for me. I had to pay a lot of money and I had nothing. Well, that was already my life.

My little daughter Mary could visit me for the first time in weeks. I missed her so much. Our reunion was superb.

I was discharged after my friend, Father Lazzarini, sent me some money that paid barely for the bill I had incurred. The rest was done at home. My troubles began again after my discharge.

169 thoughts on “Part 8: Escape to Freetown

  1. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. thank you

  2. I found your weblog site on google and verify just a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Looking for forward to reading extra from you later on!…

  3. I like the helpful info you provide to your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and take a look at again right here frequently. I’m slightly sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  4. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Can I simply say what a aid to search out someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You positively know find out how to bring a difficulty to light and make it important. Extra people need to learn this and perceive this facet of the story. I cant consider youre no more common since you definitely have the gift.

  6. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is wonderful blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

  7. What i don’t realize is if truth be told how you are not actually a lot more smartly-favored than you may be right now. You are very intelligent. You realize therefore significantly relating to this topic, produced me personally consider it from so many numerous angles. Its like men and women are not fascinated unless it¦s something to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs nice. Always handle it up!

  8. What i don’t understood is in reality how you’re not really a lot more neatly-favored than you might be right now. You are so intelligent. You already know thus significantly relating to this topic, produced me in my view believe it from numerous various angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be fascinated except it?¦s one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs outstanding. All the time handle it up!

  9. Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I’m hoping to provide something again and aid others such as you aided me.

  10. Hey there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics? Many thanks!

  11. We are a gaggle of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with useful info to work on. You have performed an impressive task and our whole neighborhood might be thankful to you.

  12. Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!

  13. You could definitely see your skills in the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart. “In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.” by Peter Ustinov.

  14. This web site is really a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll definitely discover it.

  15. I must show my passion for your kindness giving support to people that have the need for help with this important subject. Your special dedication to getting the message all around became exceptionally helpful and has always helped associates like me to realize their ambitions. The useful suggestions entails so much to me and further more to my peers. Warm regards; from all of us.

  16. I discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!…

  17. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog. A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

  18. Attractive section of content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to say that I acquire actually enjoyed account your weblog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing on your augment or even I fulfillment you get right of entry to consistently quickly.

  19. Very interesting details you have observed, thanks for posting. “What is harder than rock, or softer than water Yet soft water hollows out hard rock. Persevere.” by Ovid.

  20. There are some fascinating deadlines in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There may be some validity but I will take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

  21. I do trust all the concepts you’ve presented for your post. They’re really convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for newbies. Could you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  22. Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any points or suggestions? Many thanks

  23. Good site! I really love how it is simple on my eyes and the data are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified when a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a great day!

  24. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  25. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  26. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch! “High living and high thinking are poles apart.” by B. J. Gupta.

  27. This design is spectacular! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  28. I wish to show my gratitude for your kindness supporting visitors who need assistance with this one situation. Your personal dedication to getting the message all around appeared to be certainly functional and has surely allowed guys and women like me to arrive at their goals. Your personal important hints and tips means a whole lot a person like me and much more to my mates. Regards; from all of us.

  29. Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve be mindful your stuff previous to and you are just extremely great. I actually like what you’ve got here, really like what you are stating and the way in which through which you say it. You make it entertaining and you continue to care for to stay it smart. I cant wait to read much more from you. That is really a great site.

  30. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

  31. Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your article seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Cheers

  32. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  33. I believe this is among the such a lot significant info for me. And i am glad studying your article. But should remark on few common things, The site style is ideal, the articles is truly great : D. Just right activity, cheers

  34. Somebody necessarily assist to make severely posts I’d state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and up to now? I surprised with the analysis you made to create this particular post incredible. Magnificent process!

  35. The next time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, however I truly thought youd have one thing interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you would repair in the event you werent too busy searching for attention.

  36. Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to offer something back and help others like you aided me.

  37. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back at some point. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great work, have a nice afternoon!

  38. Hey very nice website!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…I’m happy to find so many useful information here in the post, we need work out more techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  39. Thanx for the effort, keep up the good work Great work, I am going to start a small Blog Engine course work using your site I hope you enjoy blogging with the popular you express are really awesome. Hope you will right some more posts.

  40. The subsequent time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I do know it was my option to learn, but I truly thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you might repair when you werent too busy looking for attention.

  41. Thank you for every other informative website. The place else may I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal method? I have a undertaking that I’m simply now operating on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such information.

  42. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

  43. I’m impressed, I need to say. Actually hardly ever do I encounter a weblog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me inform you, you’ve gotten hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the problem is one thing that not sufficient people are speaking intelligently about. I am very glad that I stumbled throughout this in my search for something referring to this.

  44. I have recently started a web site, the info you provide on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work. “There can be no real freedom without the freedom to fail.” by Erich Fromm.

  45. Hello there, I found your site via Google at the same time as looking for a comparable subject, your web site got here up, it looks good. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  46. Hiya, I’m really glad I’ve found this information. Today bloggers publish just about gossips and internet and this is really annoying. A good site with exciting content, that’s what I need. Thank you for keeping this website, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can not find it.

  47. Thanx for the effort, keep up the good work Great work, I am going to start a small Blog Engine course work using your site I hope you enjoy blogging with the popular you express are really awesome. Hope you will right some more posts.

  48. Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  49. Hi there very nice site!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your website and take the feeds additionally…I am satisfied to search out a lot of useful information here in the post, we want work out more strategies on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  50. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clarity in your post is simply cool and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

  51. Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any solutions to protect against hackers?

  52. Greetings! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  53. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  54. Good – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs as well as related info ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, website theme . a tones way for your customer to communicate. Nice task.

  55. I got what you mean , regards for putting up.Woh I am lucky to find this website through google. “I would rather be a coward than brave because people hurt you when you are brave.” by E. M. Forster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *