Augustine Kanjia

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 25: Final Problem Lands Me in Dakar

People were waiting to hear from me as they wondered about our frequent travels. Our crossing through the airport was swift, but there was a checkpoint ahead. The drivers would stop and passengers crossing the border would pass close by the police. I was noticeable! My name had been mentioned in recent court cases in the news, particularly as a witness for the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in The Gambia.

The worrying was enough to make my wife, Theresa, shake. But we were only waiting two more weeks for the final touch in our resettlement quest.

The IGP was apprehended for stories I notified the police about before publishing, especially his involvement with armed robberies and drug issues.

One more trip across the border ...

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

One more trip across the border …

It was a surprise to know that the IGP was part of these horrible activities that were perpetrated on the masses over several years. He was, it turns out, one of the most notorious criminals whose story I dug up. He was called Ensa Badjie, commonly called “Jesus,” because Ensa in their language, they say, means “Jesus.” I thought he was a very reliable man with the name Jesus. He was not reluctant at all to send his men with me — the crooked ones — to show me where the crimes I’d been writing about [such as the taxi scam from a few chapters back] were happening — the crimes, it just so happened, he was orchestrating.


Augustine’s last chapter: Surprise News That Set Us Free Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale


The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 24: Surprise News That Set Us Free

We received yet another call to report for results of all our troubling interviews by the UNHCR (the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). It was the most troubling appointment above all in our quest for resettlement. Many teeth will grind in disappointment and discouragement.

There were about 20 families, more than 30 people. I had a case to be a witness to in court. Did this bother me? Not at all! My thoughts were all on my results to be released to me and the date I’d be given for our orientation.

How should we leave this time? How would people think about us? Would they conclude their stories about our frequent visits to Dakar? Well, a trick came to my mind before we would set off.

Mary, Glen and Theresa finally meet up with Augustine in Dakar.

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Mary, Glen and Theresa finally meet up with Augustine in Dakar.

Tell your boss at work that your son fainted overnight, I thought, and that there was an urgent need to go see his doctor in Dakar, so urgent you could not go by road.

Slok Air International, a Nigerian businessman-owned airline that was closed for a time due to corruption and mismanagement, was contacted by my boss, the managing editor of The Point newspaper. The Point had an agreement with Slok Air: They gave us their adverts, and they ferried Point workers and their families, wife and husband and one child, for free. I was called by a Slok manager, with the help of my wife’s Catholic friend, Aunty Bridget, who had shown compassion and pointed to this opportunity, which expedited our securing the ticket and leaving in the afternoon with our sick son.

Glen had, in fact, fainted earlier on in the past week. He had malaria, and was given chloroquine [a common treatment for malaria], which his heart would not accept. He then collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. He was treated and advised never to receive chloroquine for malaria.

All my colleagues at The Point knew my son had a problem that needed fixing. Many important details of our issues remained a complete family secret. Nobody said a word to anyone to avoid contradicting themselves and bringing our resettlement to a halt.


Read Augustine’s last installment, Joy, Despair and More Threats, or scroll down to start from earlier in his incredible journey


The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 22: Augustine is Apprehended

Returning to the hot seat was not expected.

I was ready to go for my reporting the next morning. There was a big trial concerning eight journalists who were accused of disseminating false reports and sedition. Trouble awaited me, but I did not know.

I had to be there in court to satisfy my boss and colleagues at The Point newspaper, who comprised the eight. The journey from Dakar, Senegal’s capital, had not ended. We were at Barra (Niumi, Gambia), where there were police on the ferry and at a checkpoint. It was evening, and the water was seemingly calm.

On his way to court ...

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

On his way to court …

I used the most dangerous way of going across: the dugout canoe. It was overloaded with bags of rice and a few men. The water became turbulent and we were in apparent trouble. A few bags of rice were thrown in the sea, which made our boat calm down. There was no life jacket … and no engine. Only paddles.

I survived and crossed over to meet my family. It was a breathtaking event. I wished I had never tried going by dugout canoe — though I was ready: I had no luggage and could swim well.

We got a taxi home and relaxed, ready to answer questions from liars.


Read Augustine’s last installment, The Toughest Interview Brings Success, or scroll down to begin from earlier in his incredible journey


The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 21: The Toughest Interview Brings Success

There was confusion surrounding my family’s eligibility for resettlement from other refugees, who became jealous for no reason. It was time to prove it.

My eldest daughter Alice, who I’d first met when she was 16, got pregnant when going to school. Her mom was apparently tired of her stubbornness and could not keep her in Sierra Leone anymore. I felt lucky to see and meet this girl. She was difficult but part of our family.  Her arrival prompted more questions, but God was behind us.

Alice

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Alice

Fatou Barry, the refugee protection officer, called me for questioning. My answers were salient and convincing. The end product was superb, but The Gambia remained dangerous for me.

There was an urgent call for my family to return to Dakar by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We always enjoyed the trips, so we looked forward to going. And returning. We did not know why there was so much urgency added to our going to Dakar. I lied at my workplace, telling my editor how my son, Glen, had collapsed overnight and that had left us not sleeping but staying the whole night in hospital; we were referred to Dakar so we were leaving.

My boss, Pap Saine, was quite gullible for a journalist, easily manipulated. He asked us to leave in time before it was late! We left with the collection of our travel documents from Gambia Immigration. My going through immigration was somewhat more controversial than one may think. I was always given a hard time. I was there and I went to see Sergeant Ceesay, who was the focus person for refugees. He had already known me so I thought it was going to be easy.

He checked his file and said he did not find my name for traveling.


Read Augustine’s latest installment, Suspicion and Senegal Visits, or scroll down to follow his incredible journey from the start.


Augustine Kanjia

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 19: Challenging Resettlement Process Begins

It was only after several tries for a resettlement interview that I was finally in line for one. And fortunate at that.

The war was almost over and there was no mass resettlement as there used to be. In fact, it was coming to an end for all Sierra Leonean refugees living in The Gambia. We wept as our hopes were nearly dashed. The challenges were too many, which made many refugees give up. People resorted to any means. Some Nigerians acquired Sierra Leonean passports to see them out of Africa. It was concerning, so I decided to dig into the story, which I’d first thought would call the authorities to action. But who cared? It fell on deaf ears because some authorities gained a lot from it.

Back to reporting, Augustine must work to keep himself out of danger.

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Back to reporting, Augustine must also work to keep himself on the path to resettlement.

The confusion in The Gambia among refugees was overwhelming. Some felt left behind. Many had loved ones already resettled to the United States. Refugees were asked to live in the camp in Basse town [Basse Santa Su] if they wanted resettlement. Many stayed there in the hardest of life. The sun was excruciating, and the poverty level appalling and difficult for those who lived on handouts, handouts that were offered in town and reduced to scraps before refugees would get a share. I could not stay in this camp.

Many thought of returning home, but there was no money for their return and they had nowhere to return to, especially those whose houses were destroyed. The Gambia became unbearable and life was never as it used to be. I knelt and prayed for the will of God to be done in my life and for my family.

Wedding photo

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 18 — Another New Beginning

The wedding was over and joy was overwhelming. I was not familiar with living with someone full-time, sharing money, always being transparent with one another. Father Pius had instructed us well, though.

We remember those who thought we should not marry and that I would leave Theresa before long.

July 1, 2016, marked our 10th wedding anniversary.

Wedding photo

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Augustine and Theresa at their wedding

I have a strong will and a forgiving heart for those who love me. It is the same I have exercised to see our love grow. There was no support any longer from her sisters in the U.K. All we gained was by our own hard work. Life became better, and we often played loud music from one of our wedding gifts.

There was a long waiting list, though, for assistance from God. Resettlement prospects for Sierra Leonean refugees had dwindled. Hopes for many a Sierra Leonean had been dashed, but for some they still burned brightly like a new moon or an early morning sun. I was caught in another dilemma from the word go: How would I develop my family life while trying to escape The Gambia for another country?

Thinking and feeling like a newly married man, I thought maybe I was finally free from police harassment related to my journalism work. Yet the secret service and police were still hunting me.


Read Augustine’s last installment, A Wedding Without Parents, or scroll down to follow his incredible journey from the beginning.


The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 16: Glen’s Long Road to Health

Mrs. Therese Abraham did not relent. She said we were lucky to have found her, someone who could help with Glen’s heart condition. “I wanted people to know that I could help, at the same time not to advertise out as to what I can do. Kindly keep it safe,” she said.

In the interim, my son was deteriorating. His time to live according to some doctors was getting shorter. We were worried, but we continued to pray and tried to give him courage. His results at school were continuously regressing. He could not join his classmates in doing anything physical. His was only to laugh when necessary. The situation was worrisome indeed.

Glen's heart problems had Augustine and family spanning the globe for answers.

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Glen’s heart problems had Augustine and family spanning the globe for answers.

We were asked to make a film of his heart on a CD for review in England. We took him to his first Gambian doctor, Dr. Sallah, a well-known pediatrician. We had hoped for some successes with him. Our hopes were dashed because he did not have any modern equipment. That was scary. He made it fearful and said Glen’s heart situation was terrible, its rate was beyond recognition. Glen dwindled. His ears were longer, with eyes sunken in. The [echocardiogram] Dr. Sallah did was not visible. We begged him to put it in a CD. He gave us a few days to return for it.

After the sixth day, I was in his office to collect it. I spent over six hours waiting for him to see me. I could not go for my newspaper investigation that day. It was getting late. I asked his secretary if he would not come out. I had just realized that his office had several doors. He had sneaked [out] the other door without me seeing him. That was the end of the day for him.

The secretary was going about closing the doors and windows when I asked her if the doctor was not seeing me that day. “Oh I’m sorry, doctor was not in. I did not realize it till now.”


Read Augustine’s most recent installment, Part 15: The Article That Saved My Son’s Life, or scroll down to catch up from the beginning.