Her principal priority

By Agbor Rex Otang. Agbor lives in Douala, Cameroon. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

What we wish the most in life, it’s to fill the hearts of our companions with love and trust to our next generation, but things don’t always move the way we wish. Sad, feeling pain and sorrow for not being strong enough to protect her family, dressed in complete black as if she was going for a funeral and crying in regrets every day. Her children decide to comfort her to get reasons why she was crying every day. They insisted and vowed they won’t take anything (food or water) till they get a reason behind her crying every day. She grabbed them close to her and said “what so ever happens never you get separated (in tears)”. It was painful for her to admit the truth. She couldn’t bear it anymore. So, she decided to tell them the reason why.

Long-time ago while I was 8 years old, my mom (your grandmother), a year before I was born, the land (war zone) they were sent to do their job as journalists was once regarded as a land which nature blessed with beautiful plants and animals, at the ocean front and a magical view of the sun rising, announcing a new day but turned to be the graves of my loved ones. My dad died in a confrontation with the enemy and my mom was held captive. My mom gave birth to me in the cell. A cell which she found it difficult to breathe, talk or eat because of dead bodies lying in front of her and the other ladies imprisoned with her.

My mom and I managed to escape these group of soldiers who turned her into a slave, maltreated her and of which she was abused at several occasions. We went through difficulties in the woods, but it finally landed us into an unknown village. We were warmly welcomed by these villagers, they provided us a home to live in, but most of these villagers were civilians, who in their own moments escaped the ill-treatment of these soldiers. We felt secured for a while, but we were warned to stay alert because the area wasn’t secured.

Unfortunately, one week later, we were attacked by human traffickers and that was where my nightmare began. It was horrible to sit and watch how my mom was abused once more, but this time around she couldn’t escape. She was sent to the journey of no return (brutally slaughtered like an animal). I was told not to move, nor utter a word in no occasion and if I found it safe, I should escape and I shouldn’t look behind. She cried for a while then stopped. I waited for a while until an opportunity showed up. I used the back door to escape. While escaping through the backdoor, shooting began as these villagers tried defending themselves with traditional tools. Bullets flying in every direction, I had to run into the woods. It pulled the attention of the enemies’ soldiers and they began heading towards the village. In the woods, I could feel the cool air and frightful silence once more, but this time around due to fear I could hear the footsteps of these soldiers moving towards the village and the villagers into the woods from a distance.

At the moment these soldiers began seeing the villagers, they shot them dead instantly. Lost in fear and screaming for help I couldn’t advance nor return either, a woman from nowhere grabbed my hand and asked me to follow her immediately. She took me to a small cave and asked me to get in and hide with the other kids, but couldn’t stay with us. She did what a mother would to assure the survival of her children. She used herself as bait to create a diversion and pull all the attention of these dogs and their masters. That was another death added to my conscience. We had to wait till night fall before moving out to avoid being caught by anyone. Some of us where deeply wounded and needed immediate health care. A while later after night fall, some of us returned to the village to search for any useful material which could help us.

In the village, we found out that all of the buildings where burned down to ash and dead bodies lying everywhere. After a long research, the only thing we could find were lamps. We left with no choice. Hungry, severely wounded and all alone we had to move. Before this unknown lady could come to my rescue, she had explained to the other kids what to do. Although I was ignorant of our destination, we arrived safe and sound but not all of us. Those who needed immediate care died due to serious bleeding, few at night due to the harsh cold, some were killed by traps (land mines setup by these soldiers) and others died of hunger. We spent days before arriving our destination. When we arrived, we were warmly welcomed and received proper treatment, then later we explained what happened, each at the time.

As years passed on, we were trained on how to defend ourselves in any case of violence and at the age of 19-20, that’s where I met your dad. Despite the hard time, joy smiled into my life once more. And he gave me my first child (your elder brother) and later you.

“So, where’s your husband, our father, did he abandon you as my friend’s father did?”, asked her kids.

“No!” She answered. “He did what a man would to protect his family and carry on his legacy”.

In tears, she continued. We had to make difficult decisions but we came to a conclusion to leave that war zone and move to an area where our kids could grow in good conditions. And the task was to cross the borders to the other side of the ocean.

Everyone was getting prepared to move. By then I was six weeks pregnant. Pregnant of your little sister, your father didn’t want to take the risk of losing any of us because we were the reason why he was fighting every day. We made every preparation. Also, we were being told on how we would move out and they arranged plans and safety plans in case of surprises. As soon as those men who were sent out returned that night, without wasting any more time, we were told; we are moving out as soon as night falls, so we could proceed slowly without raising any alarms. Earlier that day there was rain. Your dad decided to put us in the first row to ensure our security. Everything was moving as planned, but a few moments later we were asked to start running. At a far distance, I heard gun shots. It started getting hot. Due to this precipitation, many began leaving the group because of fear and most of them stepped on land mines, blood splitting in every direction. I couldn’t count the number of times I fell. And while falling I had to prevent myself from falling either on my back or my stomach because I was carrying your brother on my back and I was pregnant too.

We arrived at the ocean front, the sun was already out, but couldn’t find the canoes. So, we had to wait till you father’s arrival, but there was a problem, I started bleeding due to the countless numbers falls. As your dad’s friends arrived, immediately they pulled the canoes out. Few minutes after, he arrived but the shooting continued and when he realised I was bleeding, together your brother and I, he put us in the first canoe ready to leave. Then he said, “our children are the fruits of our union (love). I know it would be difficult to accept. Our children would be your top priority from henceforth. The love I have for my family is beyond death and I have to make sure it lives on”. He hugged and kissed us. Those where the last words and hugs we received from your dad. He and the rest of his crew resisted to their last strength to give more time for us to escape.

That’s my mom’s story. She said to her friends. As Veronica Roth said, “If there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling”. Not all stories have a happy ending but it doesn’t mean what my parents dreamed of didn’t work out. The dream of living in a peaceful life in an area where we could watch the sun rise, announcing a new day, were the dreams of my parents. And my dad made sure that dream was realised. I know it wasn’t an easy task for them, but now it’s my turn to ensure my family’s security. I don’t only have that in mind. Our area is full of murder, suicide and it’s our duty to fight alongside the government against these criminal acts.

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