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Lions Roar : September 2007
didn’t want to give it up. “Hit-and-run kalo kalo tac- tics,” the lieutenant ordered. We made two groups and launched the attack. The first group opened fire and pretended to retreat. The attackers chased after them, running past the ambush formed by the sec- ond group. We quietly got up and ran after the reb- els, shooting them from behind. We repeated those tactics throughout the night and severely weakened the rebels. In the morning we entered the village and killed the remaining fighters, who didn’t want to leave. We captured eight of their men, tied their hands and legs, and left them in the rain. There were fireplaces in the village and lots of wood and food. The rebels had stocked up for the rainy sea- son, but now we were the beneficiaries of the looted food and provisions. We changed into the dry clothes we could find and sat around the fire, warming our- selves and drying our shoes. I clutched my gun and smiled for a second, happy that we had found shelter. I extended my toes toward the fire to warm them and saw that they were pale and had begun to rot. We had been in the village for only a few minutes when the rebels attacked again. They didn’t want to give up the village easily. We looked at each other sit- ting around the fire and angrily changed our mag- azines and went out to get rid of the attackers for good. We fought them throughout the night and the following day. None of us wanted to give up the vil- lage to the other, but in the end we killed most of the rebels and captured a few more. The others ran away into the cold and rainy forest. We were so angry with the prisoners that we didn’t shoot them but, rather, decided to punish them severely. “It will be a waste of bullets to shoot them,” the lieutenant said. So we gave them shovels and demanded, at gunpoint, that they dig their own graves. We sat under the huts smoking marijuana and watching them dig in the rain. Each time they slowed down, we would shoot around them and they would resume digging faster. When they were done digging, we tied them and stabbed their legs with bayonets. Some of them screamed, and we laughed and kicked them to shut up. We then rolled each man into his hole and covered him with the wet mud. All of them were frightened, and they tried to get up out of the hole as we pushed the dirt back on them, but when they saw the tips of our guns pointed into the hole, they lay back and watched us with their pale sad eyes. They fought under the soil with all their might. I heard them groan underneath as they fought for air. Gradually, they gave up, and we walked away. “At least they are buried,” one of the soldiers said, and we laughed. I smiled a bit again as we walked back to the fire to warm ourselves. By the fire, I realized that I had bruises on my arms, back, and foot. Alhaji helped me attend to them with some bandages and medical supplies that the rebels had left behind. It turned out that the bruises were from bullets that had merely torn my flesh as they missed killing me. I was too drugged and trauma- tized to realize the danger of what had just happened. I laughed as Alhaji pointed out the number of bruises on my body. ♦ From A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah. © 2007 Ishmael Beah. Reprinted with permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Beah, center, at the UNICEF rehabilitation program for child soldiers in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. PHOTOCOURTESYOFLAURASIMMS SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 43 SEPT 36-43.indd 43 SEPT 36-43.indd 43 6/25/07 4:53:57 PM 6/25/07 4:53:57 PM