Part 6: The Secret Visit to Freetown

Print More

The Ghanaian slave story gave me an exit out of my teaching position. I was neither a teacher nor a full-time reporter for The Point newspaper. Life became very hard.


To catch up on the continuing series, follow these links:

Introducing the unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia
Part 1: The Decision That Saved My Life
Part 2: The Struggle for Survival in a Strange Land
Part 3: Good luck, bad luck, who knows?
Part 4: The Smoldering Bitterness of Enemies
Part 5: The Soccer Match That Saved My Life


Dr. Baimba Baryoh, the best and most specialized orthopedic physician, was a brother to an elderly Sierra Leonean with whom I shared an apartment. He met me in tears and diagnosed me.

The K-nail [Editor’s note: Kuntscher nailing is a common technique in developing countries to treat leg breaks.] that was placed in my fractured right femur was disturbing me. It did not fit me and my body reacted to it. The doctor suggested immediate removal.

Augustine Kanjia

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Augustine Kanjia, after a week in the hospital to fix his broken leg.

I had kept some money that would allow me to go to Freetown for a correctional operation. The doctor wanted only $200, which was all the money I had.

The war in Sierra Leone had just ended, but there was news of sporadic fighting here and there. Those were problematic “sobels” (soldiers-turned-rebels).

I thought hard about whether to go or stay on, till all was clear. I thought about buying a one-way ticket and saving the money for my return in case I was there longer than expected. And I had to pay $200 for the operation. I had raised only $200 for the ticket and the doctor. I needed to work a little more.

I embarked on journalism and forgot about teaching for that moment.

It was the year 2000 and my pain increased.

Emil Kujabi, the Gambian education secretary, had no sympathy for me. He told his head teachers to watch out for me around their schools because I was dangerous. He also fired most of my friends who were ready to give me information.

For my stories I collaborated with Commissioner Ensa Badjie, commonly called Jesus, who was then the inspector general of police. He helped me dig up information on some malicious activities by criminals in the city. I had to change my name several times, using such Gambian names as Modou Lamin Jarjou and Manlafie Badjie. I was lucky no one detected me with those names.

In preparation for my return home, I bought my ticket and then went to the hospital to get records about my operation. The hospital refused to give them to me because they said they performed the operation well. They also said it was only a month after the operation and it could be dangerous to travel. I made my decision and finished my final preparations.

As a refugee, I could not return to my home country; the United Nations High Commission for Refugees would not consider me a refugee any longer. Because of that I decided to take an Emergency Travel Certificate to another country, change my name and pray hard for success.

My wife was worried about me, but I needed to leave to stop my pain.

Augustine Kanjia

Mark A. Henderson / Worcester Sun

Augustine Kanjia (present day, at home in Worcester) with his wife, Theresa Johnson, and his 17-month-old daughter, Ann-Britt Anna.

Even though I feared Kujabi, my enemy, could learn about my plans and inform the police, I went to the Catholic Education Office to bid farewell to my informant secretly.

Everyone looked alert and some of them started talking with me, but Kujabi, their boss, signaled to his men to disclose nothing of importance to me. He came out and smiled to me and we spoke briefly before he returned to his office. He seemed a little sympathetic to my plight in the way he spoke to me.

I left the office and went home. At the airport, I pretended I was going to Abidjan, via Freetown, which was my actual destination. It took an hour to arrive in Freetown. It had been almost 10 years since I saw the land that I loved, Sierra Leone.

My old clothes were packed in a little briefcase. I had bought a few items for anybody I would find who could keep me in their home.

While in the air my heart and mind went to many of my friends. However, those who were in Freetown had been killed by rebels when they attacked on Jan. 6, 1999, commonly known as J6. I quickly prayed for good luck.

We landed safely, but in my heart I did not feel safe.

When we finally arrived I watched through the window to see if it was really my sister, whom I had not seen throughout the war and beyond. Yes, it was.

The airport workers in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, looked thin and pale and underfed. Every one of them demanded something from me. I thought, “These guys are not serious. If they knew how lucky they were they would have helped me instead.”

I suddenly saw someone I did not know. She was a police officer.

“Excuse me sir,” she said.

I was a bit hesitant since everybody was dancing for something in secret. I pulled away a bit, then I edged closer. At first I thought she was a conman. She came quite close and whispered, “Do you know Theresa Mustapha?”

“What?” I asked quickly. “Yes, I know that name quite well, but she was in Mile 91 with my dad and we have not seen her in a while.”

During the war she left for Liberia and the Ivory Coast. And she is my younger sister.

“What about her, my sister?” I said.

“I asked because you look very much alike, your shape, your face and complexion,” she said.

She asked me to hire a taxi to go see my sister. When we finally arrived I watched through the window to see if it was really my sister, whom I had not seen throughout the war and beyond.

Yes, it was.

I shouted loudly as she came to hug me. I nearly fell because of my leg, but how was she to know? I explained quickly. She was in tears as she led me home.

She asked my younger brother to take me to the Chinese hospital, where they claimed they would make the stiffness go away just by taking tablets. I was made to pay quite a lot of money for the tablets that would free my stiffness. I had tampered with the $200 for the doctor, and the tablets did not work despite the fact I took quite a lot. I was disappointed.

I went to see my younger brother, who also lived in Freetown. They lived in poverty, but he did his best to feed his family every day. And I was an addition. He did not mind it.

I asked them not to tell people that I was around and in the hospital. It was supposed to be a secret, but that was not the case. Every one of my friends who lived in Freetown came to see me at the hospital.

The doctor arranged for my operation and gave me a bed in the government hospital.

My operation was excruciating. The K-nail was embedded into the right femur. It was forced in from my right butt. There was a small mark made to insert the iron. Dr. Baryoh took over three hours to get the K-nail out. I was tired and nearly collapsing because of the amount of blood I was losing. I could smell the blood. That was the first time I was able to recognize the smell of blood. It stinks!

It was my second week back and I had already fed on the $200 for the operation, starting with the Chinese medication to bend my knee and remove the K-nail. Dr. Baryoh had no sympathy.

My brother and I had only $100 for him. My brother’s friend admired me and gave my brother $100. This helped solve my problem. Dr. Baryoh took $100 and sent his assistant, Dr. Senessie, for the other $100. My first cousin, Abbie, had promised to send $200 for the operation, but it was hard so Abbie sent only $100, which was very helpful. The money played the magic and I was allowed to leave that afternoon. I had been under hospital arrest, in a sense.

Augustine Kanjia

Courtesy of Augustine Kanjia

Augustine Kanjia at his home in Bwiam

The next part of the struggle came when I went to return to Gambia.

It was very difficult to get anyone to help me with my ticket. I stayed for a while with a high school classmate of mine in Freetown. His house was lonesome, and no one prepared any food there. He and his wife worked in a bank and they were well-to-do. After a week he gave me some money and bade me goodbye.

I thanked them and left for my brother’s house. Hunger started. I did not feel it much because I was accustomed to feeling hungry with my many ups and downs.

While at my brother’s house I discovered some of my friends nearby. They too were finding life difficult, and they went without food some days.

I was set to return home to Gambia. My wife had sent some money and some friends gave me some money, so I bought my ticket. I returned with nothing I had come with.

I was all set, as all’s well that ends well. Returning to Gambia was a new challenge in itself. My story was difficult and it was very hard to start over.

When we landed I said to myself, “The struggle continues!”

159 thoughts on “Part 6: The Secret Visit to Freetown

  1. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  2. The heart of your writing whilst sounding reasonable originally, did not work perfectly with me after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately just for a very short while. I however have got a problem with your leaps in assumptions and one might do well to fill in those breaks. When you can accomplish that, I could certainly be fascinated.

  3. Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  4. I’ve been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts on this kind of area . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this website. Reading this info So i’m satisfied to exhibit that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed. I so much certainly will make certain to do not forget this website and provides it a look on a continuing basis.

  5. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  6. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  7. I am really loving the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems? A few of my blog readers have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any ideas to help fix this problem?

  8. I carry on listening to the news bulletin talk about receiving boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the most excellent site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i get some?

  9. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  10. Hi! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading through your posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects? Thank you so much!

  11. That is the fitting weblog for anyone who needs to search out out about this topic. You notice a lot its virtually onerous to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, simply nice!

  12. Awsome post and straight to the point. I don’t know if this is truly the best place to ask but do you people have any ideea where to hire some professional writers? Thanks in advance 🙂

  13. I simply desired to appreciate you yet again. I am not sure the things that I could possibly have achieved without the actual creative concepts revealed by you regarding such topic. It was actually a real alarming case for me personally, however , considering a specialized technique you treated it took me to weep for joy. Extremely happier for this help as well as wish you recognize what a great job that you are undertaking teaching many others thru a web site. I know that you have never got to know all of us.

  14. Howdy very nice web site!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your website and take the feeds additionally…I’m glad to search out so many helpful info right here within the submit, we want develop extra techniques on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  15. I like what you guys are up also. Such clever work and reporting! Carry on the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website 🙂

  16. Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your web-site is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this site. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for extra articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found just the information I already searched all over the place and simply couldn’t come across. What a great web site.

  17. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your weblog? My blog is in the very same area of interest as yours and my users would definitely benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thank you!

  18. I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website :).

  19. You could definitely see your expertise in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

  20. A lot of what you state happens to be supprisingly appropriate and it makes me ponder the reason why I had not looked at this in this light previously. This particular piece really did turn the light on for me personally as far as this specific topic goes. Nevertheless there is actually one issue I am not too comfy with and while I try to reconcile that with the central theme of your position, let me see exactly what the rest of your subscribers have to point out.Well done.

  21. Good website! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I might be notified when a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

  22. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

  23. Nice post. I study something tougher on totally different blogs everyday. It’ll at all times be stimulating to learn content material from different writers and apply a bit one thing from their store. I’d desire to use some with the content material on my blog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a hyperlink on your net blog. Thanks for sharing.

  24. hello there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical issues using this web site, as I experienced to reload the site lots of times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Well I’m adding this RSS to my e-mail and can look out for a lot more of your respective interesting content. Ensure that you update this again very soon..

  25. Great goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely fantastic. I actually like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you’re saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart. I can not wait to read much more from you. This is really a tremendous web site.

  26. I was very pleased to find this web-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  27. It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or advice. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read even more things about it!

  28. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  29. Definitely imagine that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the net the easiest thing to have in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get irked whilst other people consider concerns that they just do not recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , other folks can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  30. There are some interesting cut-off dates on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity however I’ll take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as well

  31. I have been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or blog posts in this sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this website. Studying this info So i am satisfied to exhibit that I’ve a very just right uncanny feeling I found out exactly what I needed. I most for sure will make certain to don’t forget this web site and give it a glance regularly.

  32. What i don’t understood is actually how you’re not actually much more well-liked than you might be now. You’re very intelligent. You realize thus significantly relating to this subject, produced me personally consider it from a lot of varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t fascinated unless it’s one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs excellent. Always maintain it up!

  33. Hi there very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Wonderful .. I’ll bookmark your web site and take the feeds also…I am satisfied to find numerous useful info here in the post, we’d like develop more techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing.

  34. Pretty section of content. I simply stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feeds and even I fulfillment you get admission to constantly rapidly.

  35. Hello would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a difficult time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  36. This is really fascinating, You’re an excessively professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking extra of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!

  37. Simply want to say your article is as amazing. The clearness on your publish is just nice and that i can assume you are a professional on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to stay up to date with impending post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please continue the enjoyable work.

  38. fantastic publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You should proceed your writing. I am confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

  39. We stumbled over here by a different website and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to checking out your web page repeatedly.

  40. Thanks for another informative website. Where else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I am just now working on, and I have been on the look out for such info.

  41. Hey there, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog 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, superb blog!

  42. Today, I went to the beach 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 totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

  43. A formidable share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing just a little analysis on this. And he the truth is purchased me breakfast as a result of I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the deal with! However yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying extra on this topic. If attainable, as you turn out to be experience, would you thoughts updating your weblog with extra particulars? It is highly helpful for me. Massive thumb up for this blog put up!

  44. We are a group of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with helpful info to paintings on. You have performed a formidable job and our whole community will be thankful to you.

  45. I precisely had to say thanks yet again. I’m not certain the things I would’ve implemented without the solutions shared by you about this situation. It absolutely was an absolute frightening issue for me, but finding out this specialised form you resolved it took me to leap with fulfillment. Extremely happier for this support and thus expect you really know what a powerful job your are doing training some other people using a blog. I’m certain you haven’t got to know any of us.

  46. Nice post. I learn something more difficult on completely different blogs everyday. It is going to at all times be stimulating to read content material from other writers and observe a bit one thing from their store. I’d choose to use some with the content material on my blog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide you with a hyperlink in your internet blog. Thanks for sharing.

  47. I’m not sure exactly why but this weblog is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  48. I really like your writing style, excellent information, regards for posting :D. “Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility.” by Johathan Edwards.

  49. Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!

  50. Hi, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Safari, 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, fantastic blog!

  51. 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 little bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  52. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the longer term and it is time to be happy. I’ve learn this publish and if I could I want to counsel you some interesting things or advice. Maybe you can write next articles relating to this article. I wish to learn even more issues approximately it!

  53. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my web site thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  54. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

  55. I precisely wanted to thank you very much once more. I do not know the things I could possibly have done without the actual techniques documented by you relating to my industry. It absolutely was an absolute frightful setting in my position, however , being able to view a professional approach you managed it forced me to jump for joy. I am grateful for the advice as well as believe you recognize what an amazing job that you’re getting into training others thru a web site. Most likely you have never encountered all of us.

  56. You can certainly see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart. “In order to preserve your self-respect, it is sometimes necessary to lie and cheat.” by Robert Byrne.

  57. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

Leave a Reply

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