It was two days before Christmas. My family and I were held as prisoners in the Army Barracks in the middle of the desert, where the temperatures climbed to 55 degrees celsius, and with this dry season brought thunderstorms. The gales shuttered the window panels. The barrack was full of sand seeping everywhere, covering our faces and bodies. It brought with it huge, hairy, highly venomous spiders.......We tried to avoid the thousands of scorpions that slipped everywhere, under the beds, on the walls, and between the sheets. But those things did not bother me; all I could think of was the coup that was going on, and my father, who was shot dead.
A few months later we were moved to another prison. We were put to starvation rations and our clothes were reduced to rags. Our dark cells were infested by mosquitos, mice, frogs, cockroaches and worst of all huge rats which we had to beat off.
Our only means of washing ourselves was with the sand on the ground.
Living in these conditions, we all succumbed to fevers, infections and diarrhoea. Kambia, who was 10, was so sick with epilepsy she barely left the bed for eight years, Joro developed painful abscesses in his mouth, which later caused his teeth to fall out and Makeni at the age of eight committed suicide.
Eight years had past and they allowed us out of our cells. Barely able to walk, having not seen daylight for nearly a decade, we approached each other with wild transcendent joy. Seeing the faces of Mother, Kambia and Joro, I noticed how much we all had changed. Though, the hardship and grief took a terrible toll.....we were thin and pale, with black rings around out eyes and bloodless lips, sparse hair...