It begins during Liberia’s blood-drenched civil war, and though it is far from over, it has moved through Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ottawa and a family’s passover table in Donald Trump’s America.
It involves a father slain and sons lost; a group of Ottawa women who wanted to share their sense of freedom with another woman from a world away; and an American Jew who refused stand idly by when he saw others suffering.
“We never even found the body,” Martharlen Gaye, 43, says of her father’s death. In the early 1990s, Liberia was wracked by civil war, one of the bloodiest in Africa’s long history of civil wars. Rebels led by Charles Taylor rampaged through the country. Martharlen’s father worked at the airport when the rebels moved in to slaughter.
Martharlen’s mother got a call saying her husband had been killed. The family — Martharlen and her mother — left the city to live in the countryside where they would be safer. At least for a while. As the war dragged on, in 1992 the family and others in their Gio tribe fled for their lives to the neighbouring country of Ivory Coast.
They walked for a month, among a million Liberians displaced by the seven-year civil war in which 200,000 of their countrymen would die. Martharlen was 17.
“We walked through the forest,” she said. “We couldn’t have fires. The helicopters would fly over and if they saw the smoke they would send soldiers in.”
They were desperately hungry, surviving on raw cassava and mangoes they found along the way. They lived in fear of the rebel soldiers who would patrol the forest, shooting those they found.
Source: Ottawa Citizen Online