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The Liberian Civil War (1989-1996 and 1999-2003) was one of the bloodiest in Africa’s history, claiming over 200,000 lives and displacing a million more. During the fourteen years of turmoil, this Northwest coastal African nation was shattered by unspeakable violence and brutality, crimes against humanity, and corruption. Today, Liberia is recovering from its harrowing past, trying to heal the wounds of a scarred country. As part of the healing process, the Liberian government is encouraging those involved in the war—both victims and perpetrators—to come forward and tell their stories, acknowledge the past, and vow to move forward. Agnes Kamara-Umunna, a native Liberian now living in Staten Island, New York, is a foot soldier for this cause, coaxing former child soldiers to share their tragic histories in order to free themselves and help their country move on. AND STILL PEACE DID NOT COME: A Memoir of Reconciliation (March 22, 2011; Hardcover; Hyperion) is Agnes’s emotional story of war, and finding peace among the ruins.
AND STILL PEACE DID NOT COME is Agnes’s personal history interweaved with her retelling of and personal testimonies from child soldiers and other victims of the war. The stories here are diverse—often traumatic, but also hopeful and deeply moving. Agnes was born in Liberia, a child of relative privilege who at first refused to believe that her beautiful country would be torn apart by war. When her father’s house was riddled with bullets during Charles Taylor’s violent coup, she realized the violence had indeed come to her. From the day her father
took them both across the border to relative safety in Sierra Leone, Agnes experienced the feeling of being hunted. She writes, “Your eyes change, your ears change. Your skin crawls with the unremitting, tactile knowledge someone may be behind you, ready to leap.” This feeling would haunt her for the next fourteen years, as one of the most brutal, bloody civil wars in history unfolded in her native Liberia.
After the war, Agnes returned to Liberia to host the radio program Straight from the Heart at a UN-sponsored radio station in Monrovia. Boldly, she sat down in the studio with victims, warlords, and government officials. And then, she did what no one else was yet doing—she went to find one of the war’s cruelest consequences: child soldiers. She walked the ghettos and slums of the war-torn capital, finding former child soldiers and convincing them to share their stories on the radio. Today, she continues to serve as a statement taker for the Liberia Truth & Reconciliation Commission, focusing mostly on Staten Island, home to the largest Liberian community outside of Africa.
The stories Agnes weaves in her memoir are borderless, timeless, and appeal to our shared humanity. AND STILL PEACE DID NOT COME is a testimony to a nation’s descent into the horrors of civil war and its subsequent rise out of the ashes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Agnes Fallah Kamara-Umunna was born in Liberia. After the war, she hosted the radio program Straight from the Heart in the capital city of Monrovia and was a statement-taker for the Liberia Truth & Reconciliation Commission. She lives in New York City, where she continues to volunteer for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, taking oral statements from Liberians now living in the United States.