The True life Story of Mr. Morris Y. Matadi
I am Morris Y. Matadi a Liberian born unto the union of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot Matadi on December 1, 1981. Prior to the war I, along with a younger sister, and two older brothers live with our parents in a happy family. My father served in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as an engineer. My mother was a business woman; she was so loving and kind to her children and people living in our community. We all attended schools like any regular kids those days and were fed normally. It was such a good and happy life that we couldn’t have wish for more.
I remembered one day at dinner, my father asked each of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. My two older brothers wanted to take after our father as engineers. My little sister wanted to be a medical doctor. My father looked please when I told him that I would be a pilot. He immediately encouraged me to be an air force pilot, which to him would give me a vast experience before settling into the commercial aspect. I had such a high hope of attaining my dream that nothing was going to deter me. However, this dream was soon shattered.
On December 24, 1989 my nightmare suddenly began; the civil war was launched by the notorious warlord, Charles G. Taylor. I was 11 years old. I had not the slightest idea of what was happening then. Military officials were under constant danger and my father being one made him no exception. On June 3, 1990 he reluctantly decided to take us to his farm in Grand Bassa County for safety. By this time the war has entered the entire country and there were rebel check points in every corner of the country.
On our way, we came to a check point called “God bless you gate” (which means if you make it through that check point alive then God is with you). There was a long line of people waiting to cross the fearsome check-point. Constantly a gun shot went off and someone was killed for not standing straight on the line. The rebels at the main gate were picking men, women and children they have identified as government supporters. Those unlucky to be picked out were killed instantly with knives and guns. We spent about 8 hours at this check-point, as we couldn’t turn around for fear of being shot for breaking the line. And it was here that my life changed forever, and my future was destroyed. My father was identified along with the rest of the family except me (through some disturbances that broke out after the shooting of a man close to me, I had shifted to a different position on the line) and they were immediately taken and killed.
After the death of my family that fateful day, I lose hope. I had no security; nobody to care for me and my dream for a better future was shattered. I was alone for more than a month, moving from one deserted house to another. Some of the houses I slept in were shared with dead bodies and I have to endure the awful smell of the rotting corpses. For many days I went with out food and water.
On the 27 of July 1991, I awoke very early that morning in a deserted house I have slept to the sounds of cars. When I peeped out I was surprised to see that the cars contained several armed men who had come to loot the house. I tried to hide from them but was unsuccessful in doing so and got caught in the process. Some wanted to kill me, but their commander, known as General Butterfly, told them he wanted to use me as his R.T.O (Radio Transmission Operator), which is basically an errand boy. From that day I became a child soldier. I was used to carry ammunition, trained to kill people I was ordered to kill, and introduced to all kinds of dangerous drugs. For 7 years I missed my sense of direction in life. I grew into one of most feared child-soldiers amongst my peers and gained the respect of the commanders.
Later, in 1997 after the election which the NPFL’s rebel leader, Charles G. Taylor won, I was selected among many to be trained for the Executive Mansion Special Security Unit (EMSSU). Later I was again selected for V.I.P. training at the Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU) base in Gbatala where I obtained the position as operations man (third-in-command) on President Taylor’s motorcade. I served in this position for 3 years.
Things in Monrovia begin to change gradually as people started to pick up their broken pieces, and education became a priority. I wanted to go to school again but was threaten by my chief that if I left the force I would be charge and executed for desertion of post. And the difficulty of living in my community as a private person again was something that greatly disturbed me. I was feared by former friends and neighbors because of the things I did as a child soldier.
Finally, In 2000 I decided to escape to Ghana. I gathered some money and managed to travel to Ghana on the Buduburam refugee camp to rebuild my life. But life in the camp was very hard for me. Most of the people that my commander had forced me to kill had family members who also lived in the camp.
There were many other challenges like finding a place to sleep, food and water. But the main challenge was living with those that I treated badly and whose families I had killed. They wanted to take revenge on me. Due to this I was totally ostracize from society, as all former child soldiers were. And this went on for 3 years.
In 2003 we faced our biggest challenge; the re-recruitment of former child soldiers in the refugee camp to go and fight in other war-ravished country in the sub region. Almost 3,600 former child soldiers were recruited to go fight in other countries like Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sudan, and in the new conflict arising in Liberia. Inspired by my desire to change my life for the better, I decided to rally those former child soldiers who have refused to go, and we vehemently protested against the re-recruitment. Soon, UN and other human rights groups recognized our plight and came to our aid. Advised by these international groups, we decided to form an organization to seek the welfare of all former child soldiers. The new organization was called Veteran Child Soldier Association of Liberia (VECSAOL) which was later change to the Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDEFOCS). We received training and support from several UNDP staffs, and post-traumatic stress counseling from trained doctors and psychologists from several international universities.
This gave us the strength to work along with several former child soldiers who were neglected after the war and ostracized. We set up several community projects for former child soldiers. Several agriculture projects were implemented to show Liberians that we could still contribute to society, and become useful once more. Through these projects we were able to rehabilitate and reintegrate 450 former child soldiers back into society to live alongside their fellow Liberians again. I was unanimously selected to serve as Executive Director, a position which I held from 2003 until now.
In 2008, after the Child Soldier Reintegration Fund (CSRF) was raised by a group of international friends, I, along with my team was transported to Liberia to establish IDEFOCS. When we got to Liberia we experienced almost the same challenges we had experienced in Ghana, but because of the election of President Ellen Johnson Serlief, and with things rapidly proceeding to normalcy we were able to launch several more projects in Monrovia. And I am now in Liberia with my team using the SDRR and changing the lives of former child soldiers
Morris Y. Matadi
IDEFOCS The True life Story of Mr. Morris Y. Matadi
I am Morris Y. Matadi a Liberian born unto the union of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot Matadi on December 1, 1981. Prior to the war I, along with a younger sister, and two older brothers live with our parents... (more)
This is a space for Morris to share inspiration, information, and opportunities for involvement with global impact.