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My Life as a Refugee Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Prof. Alpha Thomas-Bangura, United States Jul 19, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions
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My Life as a Refugee Nobody like me would have ever dreamt of running from my dormitory room at the Williams V. S. Tubman College of Science and Technology in Harper, Maryland, county of Liberia on June 1, 1990. This day, the day of heavy gun fire, pools of blood, total confusion and panic! Where are we going to run, I asked my roommate and friend Eric-Lee Yu-war, in fear and torment! The nearest escape route and hideout was along a 175 kilometer-long path to the Cavalla River, the official boarder between Liberia, my home country, and the Ivory Coast, my current home of asylum.

I ran out of my room with many other students looking for a way to keep out of heavy machine gun fire and bloodthirsty National Patriotic Front rebels under the leadership of Charles Ghanky Taylor. It was around 3AM, a pitch dark and frosty cold morning. I was wearing a white T-shirt and a khaki short pants with a deep blue Adidas sneakers. I finally realized that a battle was on the way between the government troops and the bloodsuckers who called themselves Patriots.

It was very hard to believe that I had started my life as a refuge seeker, but ignorant as I was to war, so did I leave without even taking any of my belongings, hoping that I was just going to spend the day somewhere, to return the next day. Little did I know that I was going to return no more to my college.

The days to the Ivory Coast were long, full of hunger, thirst, and hardship. I walked for a month and half, trekking in the bush, hiding from both Government soldiers and rebels. I slept in make-shift huts and under trees and ate wild grapes, sugar cane, and palm cabbage. I finally arrived at the Cavalla River, where we met the government soldiers who were controlling that area. We were asked to present our identities and then we were screened by the security. They were checking for tribesmen belonging to the supporter of Charles Taylor. If you were either “Gio" or "Mano,” you were to be killed because you were a supporter of the rebels. Thank God I did not belong to either of the groups, so we were asked to sleep before boarding the canoe the next day for the Ivory Coast. It was not easy: the journey from Harper to the Cavalla cost the lives of many mothers who did not have food to feed their children, and the fatality rate was high among the children.

On August 27, 1990, I finally arrived in the Ivory Coast where I registered as a Liberian refugee. We were not welcomed by the Ivorians, the natives of Ivory Coast. We were given temporary shelter by UNHCR, the agency under the United Nations that caters to the needs of refugees. I started my new life in exile as a food gatherer; I worked on the farms of the Burkinabes Cocoa and Coffee growers to survive. It was hectic, being an electrical engineer and knowing nothing about farming, I became depressed and frustrated, and even thought that suicide would have been the best solution. I graduated from that stage, and my life continued as a refugee. We had no rights, not even one: we were not allowed to enter the forest to fetch fire wood, we were not allowed to use the hand pump for safe drinking water, and we were not even allowed to walk hand in hand with our own sisters that we came along with. Our wives were taken way from us forcefully by the military and paramilitary men of the Ivorians forces. It is really a disgrace to be a refugee.

Being an educated refugee, I think I had an edge over others who had no education. In 1992, I got employed by an NGO called ADRA (Adventist Development Relief Agency ), this NGO was an implementing partner of the UNHCR on the education of Liberian refugee children. I worked as a Physics and Biology instructor, and as an administrator. I worked for close to four years and then won a United Nations scholarship to study at the University of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.

My life as a refugee became redefined, as I got a degree in business management and then a diploma in translation from that University, I easily integrated into their system thus giving me the chance to acquire a better job. I started growing a family, and God has blessed me with three children, two girls aged 9 and 3 and a boy who turned 11 on June 21st this year. I spent all of my years as a refugee with my wife Olive, who stood the test of time and helped me to groom a family so sweet and wonderful.

It will be unfair if I didn’t thank the Almighty God for blessing my family for so long a time. I have been blessed to the point where my wife and children has been resettled to the USA, since April 21, 2004, and I will be joining them pretty soon. Despite all of the humiliations and discriminations by our host country, yet with determination and humbleness I made it and will be starting another phase of my life as a refugee in a nation where all want to go - USA.

I am Alpha Thomas-Bnagura, an electrical engineer, a business man, a professor, and a refugee, who thinks that it is no crime to be a refugee; my host country never had the slightest thought that they would have been in a refugee situation like they are today; so please know that the act of being in search of refuge could come when you least expect it.

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Prof. Alpha Thomas-Bangura

I hold a master's in Secondary Edcucation (M.ED) from the University of Missouri in St. Louis, USA, and I currently a doctoral Candidate of the University. I am a high school science teacher, and I love teaching.

Refugees are human beings
Olumide Olaniyan | Aug 5th, 2004
It continue to disturb me the way refugees are traeted, especially in African countries where they are seen as threat by their host community. these are people escaping from war, discrimination or other life threatening situation. The best we can do ta fellow in danger of suffering and/or imminent but avoidable death is to assist them to live again. All Africans are brothers irrespective of their country of domicile. The partition of today are mere outcome of colonialism. I commend the courage of our dear prof., it shows that a determined man or woman will always get to his/her destination. thanks olumide

You made it Prof.
Guss Bonner | Aug 5th, 2004
Well, I sufferd almost the smae condition too, so I feel that the world is not fair to us refugees, the prof would have been a mad man if he had not maintained courage and worked toards success, god will continue to bless us refugees Guss

Prof you did it
Antony Felix O. O. Simbowo | Jan 8th, 2005
You proved wrong the misadage that people from disadvantaged backgrounds can never sit at the echelons of superiority!

im a living witness
marvin yu-war | Mar 4th, 2011
uncle,indee u are my hero,i was just a kid by them but,i remember every bit of the story.glory be to God we've made it.

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