Part 14: Family vs. Husband-to-be

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My partner’s family didn’t like me, but I had done nothing to them.

Theresa  A. Johnson, my partner, and I already had a beautiful baby, Mary Hannah. Theresa’s older brothers [and] sisters had no baby girl among their kids. They rejoiced at having a very beautiful niece. Mary was named after Theresa’s older sister, who had supported her christening.

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.

Theresa’s older sister often sent clothes and food, much to the annoyance of her older brother, a tailor, who had enough troubles. The tailor did not approve of Theresa’s relationship with me, but we already had a baby. Despite those problems, I remained.

The tailor had no sympathy for me. There was no way out of his insults, but I endured. I kept writing, giving it my all and continuing to make a name for myself, but my partner’s family still did not believe in me.

Read Augustine’s most recent chapter, Part 13: Dangerous Investigative Journalism Begins, or scroll down to follow his incredible quest from the beginning.

Tunde, the tailor, was educated, but he did not depend on his education. He had embarked on the craft that shaped his life. I knew it would either make him or doom him.

He had one major problem: drinking in the evenings with others who drank. Many mistakes came from it. He was a catechist in the Catholic church and commanded some respect, too, but the war had shaken him and his friends.

Tunde didn’t like me, and his actions betrayed his intentions. He talked about me behind my back and said he wished me dead because Theresa and I were on the way to recovery from abject poverty.

Theresa’s nephew had to undergo an eye operation in the United Kingdom. They both got visas at the interview. It was a happy day for Theresa and her family because she was going to reunite with them after a long time.

Augustine's then-girlfriend, now-wife Theresa A. Johnson

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Augustine’s then-girlfriend, now-wife Theresa A. Johnson

I had mixed feelings about them leaving, but I was ready to sacrifice in this case. While they were gone I was going to have to take care of my baby and Theresa’s brother’s son, Kevin.

We both rejoiced when they returned from the interview that evening, but Tunde was furious that I would be caring for the kids. He had already told people that I was spending the money Theresa’s family was sending her from England. “He is a parasite, but I will teach him a lesson,” Tunde said to a mutual friend.

I had one good leg, but I did not fear his threat. I had contacts who could have him detained and treated so badly that he would beg to leave the city.

It was very difficult for me to endure his insults, but it must have been difficult for Tunde to realize his sisters would prefer to leave the children in my care.

God was right in making me a tentative member of their family. No one could understand why I endured all the insults from the tailor. I wanted to show a better example to my child.

Theresa’s sisters in England sent her an allowance, but I had no idea how she used it. Of course, she spent most of it on me and paid for food, but I had a lot going on in my life with my writing, the operations and more. I was paying bills myself, caring for my parents. Theresa had her allowance but she had little to spare; she could not save nor could she be of any significant help to me.

Augustine and Mary

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Augustine, ready to return to Gambia, with his daughter Mary.

When Theresa left for the U.K. we saw her off. Our baby was not big enough to walk; she hung onto my side at church, at work and pretty much everywhere. She was so attached to me that we could not separate.

Theresa spent nearly a year in England, sending money for our upkeep but monitoring how I spent it. She warned me to use the money only on rent and food, and I did as she asked.

Theresa sometimes got homesick, but she also got mad. Her sisters had arranged a marriage for her so she could stay in England. All she had to do was come home to collect the children. But she rejected their offer.

Meanwhile, my problems with Tunde continued. He stormed into my house one day and took the refrigerator, carting it off to his friend’s house. He took it because he said his sisters had given it to Theresa, which was true, and it didn’t belong to me. I said nothing as he took the fridge. I had nothing inside it, anyway, so it was OK to be taken away.

I found out later it never worked after he took it. That was a shame. It was a new one.

Tunde made the place very unbearable for me. My life was hard and he was making it harder, so I ran away to look for a better place to live a peaceful life.

The time away from Theresa and dealing with Tunde were big tests for me. I love living simple even when things are not going right. It is just a simple way my grandmother had taught me. But life was never easy for me.

Tunde wasn’t the only member of Theresa’s family that did not like me. One of her sisters in England called me a very poor man who made the equivalent of $20 a month. That was not true. Her parents saw me as a parasite, not meaningfully engaged but encroaching on their rich daughter.

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

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

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

I found out that one of the reasons Tunde was always angry with me was because the money Theresa’s family sent her, barely enough to cover food and rent, had deprived others in her family. With everything that was said, I could not believe my ears. A poor man, a failure, loving their sister only for her money …

Theresa’s sister Mary, who had never met me, was the bitterest person in my life. She never stopped trying to separate us.

Meanwhile, troubles began mounting at work. Some reporters became jealous because of the name I was making for myself with my investigative journalism.

Many people reported me in secret to discredit my reputation. They claimed I was involved in sending news to a foreign news agency. It was all because they thought I was writing for the Freedom Newspaper online. They saw news from our paper, and all eyes were focused on me for the wrong reason.

Through my sources I discovered, the police heard these rumors and planted a plainclothes policeman on me. (Imagine dealing with that while still trying to convince Theresa, who was in England, to marry me over the objections of her family.)

Many people came to my house asking for Augustine. There was mostly no reason, but I was afraid because many a journalist disappeared from their offices or were killed in their cars.

I prayed and prayed and prayed for my safety since I could not run.

I thought of fleeing to Senegal, but the disadvantages were overwhelming. My family could not speak English, and Theresa could hardly learn another language. Mary, my daughter, was different because she could speak French. I attended the French school with her in Gambia and the classes paid off.

Mary Hannah

Courtesy of Augustine Kanjia

Augustine Kanjia’s daughter Mary Hannah, in present day Worcester

Despite that, I was having trouble deciding whether to move to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. I eventually concluded I should move to Dakar because I would have had an advantage: Media houses reporting in English needed a bilingual person to gather news for them.

Going to Dakar was quite a challenge for me. I was scrutinized and made to declare all I had before I was let through at the border.

Despite all these man-made problems, I never let go of my writing aspirations. I had made the most of my scholarship to the Alliance Franco Gambienne before my boss, The Point newspaper editor Pap Saine, stopped it. I found another one, a better one, to continue my French lessons. That was to come in handy.

Going to Dakar was now part of me.

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 Changed My Life

Part 6: The Secret Visit to Freetown

Part 7: More Attention, More Friends … More Enemies

Part 8: The Escape to Freetown

Part 9: More Suffering, More Tears

Part 10: Family Rejection vs. Manhood

Part 11: New Hope, More Troubles, and a Gift

Part 12: Deceived in Hard Times

Part 13: Dangerous Investigative Journalism Begins

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