It was an unorthodox move, made in a country where nothing had made sense for years.
Following the second Liberian civil war, Agnes Fallah Kamara-Umunna used her radio show Straight from the Heart to expose the backstories of rebels who had perpetuated atrocities throughout a 24-year period. Those accounts provided a powerful platform to advocate for peace during a tumultuous period of reconciliation. The non-governmental, non-profit broadcasts from the capital city, Monrovia, often channeled the horrific stories of child soldiers who committed unspeakable crimes.
Kamara-Umunna’s radio program led to her work for Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and provided a basis for her book, And Still Peace Did Not Come: A Memoir of Reconciliation, which she will discuss at Mary Baldwin University in a series of public events November 1 and 2.
In a recent conversation with African Immigrant Journal, Kamara-Umunna explains why she does not hate those she interviewed for the crimes they committed during the war. “Everybody needed help after the war. I helped people when they could not help themselves. To hate them would be wrong. Many were so young — as young as 3 and 4 when they were forced to fight.”
Her visit is sponsored by several campus groups, including CGIU: Changemakers for Women, which helps raise money to sponsor women survivors of war, many from African nations. The student-led organization was created after a visit to Clinton Global Initiative University in 2007. In 2009, the group focused its efforts to support Women for Women International, whose former Rwandan director is now a student at Mary Baldwin.
Like Kamara-Umunna, that student from Rwanda, Berra Kabarungi, experienced life as a refugee from her home country, ravaged by civil war and unimaginable human atrocities. And both returned to help restore peace.
Professor of Philosophy Roderic L. Owen notes that Kamara-Umunna “has experienced civil war and extreme violence first hand, while also working to heal the ragged wounds of a nation torn apart by powerful warlords, child soldiers, and a level of violence that most of us never wish to hear about, let alone experience.”
And Still Peace Did Not Come: A Memoir of Reconciliation is for sale in downtown Staunton at The Sacred Circle . Fifteen percent of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Women for Women International. Co-sponsors of the event are the Department of Philosophy and Religion, the peacekeeping minor, the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, and Grafton Library.
Tuesday, November 1
Book discussion and reading: “And Still Peace Did Not Come: A Memoir of Reconciliation”
Martha S. Grafton Library
109 E. Frederick Street
Wednesday, November 2
International Café dialogue: “Is There a Future for Child Soldiers?”
Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement
110 N. Market Street
Public lecture: “Peace, Truth, and Reconciliation: Lessons from Liberia”
James D. Francis Auditorium in the Pearce Science Center
227 East Frederick Street