The Son of the Leader of Rwanda Spoke About the Beginning of the Civil War

At the age of 12 years old Ishmael Beah finds himself in the middle of a civil war with rebels called RUF ( Revolutionary United Front) and innocent civilians. Starting to how this all can about. Ishmael was born in Sierra Leone, who declared independence in 1961. In 1974 Milton Margai became first prime minister and ruled the country under Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP) until his death in 1964.

His half-brother Sir Albert Margai took control until 1961, when Siaka Stevens the All People’s Congress ( APC) leader won the election, which followed with the military coup.

Siaka Stevens returned to power in 1968 and several years later declared the country a one-state leaving the ACP the sole legal party. Which was the beginning of the “ rotten politics” according to Ishmael’s father. Which because of the government is so corrupted these events shown in the book are an act of liberation of the people from the corrupted government. As stated in the book by Ishmael “ but what kind of liberation movement shoots innocent civilians, children…” The situation or problem is seen in the book is similar to the events that happened in Rwanda.

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According to (History, 2009)) an article done on the Rwandan Genocide said, “During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. Started by Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the country with shocking speed and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incited by local officials and the Hutu Power government to take up arms against their neighbors.

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” “By the time the Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front gained control of the country through a military offensive….hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were dead and 2 million refugees (mainly Hutus) fled Rwanda.”

Rwanda we see the government losing control of the citizens. Which is very similar in the case of Sierra Leone. During his time Ishmael Beah experienced and sees many changes throughout his homeland. For instance, death, loss in trust, taken away from civilization, loss of family members and friends, the effect of music, and how that music connects to the war. These all feed into the topics of Ishmael’s personal history of his homeland and how the effects of the war changed the way his homeland trust each other, from Ishmael losing his family and friends and how seeing all these tragic events happened taught me the consequences or after-effects of violence. , how music was used to motivate him and connected to the problem at hand and how ishmael arrived at his so called “ calling in life”. In this essay all of those topics will be expressed and explained.

“Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their family, and communities…This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy. Even people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you.” All throughout Isheamls journey to safety. He sees a change in his homeland. This change is seen very heavily throughout the book, which is the breaking of the trust system in his homeland. It becomes very clear to Ishmael and his friends were on their own. For instance,” One day, as soon as we had left the forest area of the village we had bypassed, a group of huge, muscular men sprang from the bushes onto the path in front of us. Raising their machetes and hunting rifles, they ordered us to stop.

The men … had been asked by their chief to bring us back. … The huge men pushed us to the ground in front of them an tied our feet with strong rope. Then our hands were pulled behind our backs until our elbows touched, making our chest tight from the pressure. … “Are you rebels or spies?” The chief stamped his staff on the ground. “No.” Our voices trembled. The chief became very angry. If you don’t tell me the truth, I am going to have these men tie stones to your bodies and throw you in the river.” He roared we told him we were students and this was a big misunderstanding. The crowd shouted, “ Drown the rebels.” This gives a clear insight into the minds of the people during the time of the war. Also since the rebels recruit young boys they find. I can see why there guards were yo so high. At the same time is very sad to see boys at very young age going through this.

There were some people an things that help Ishmael and his friends along the way of his journey. “When I was very little, my father used to say, ‘ “If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die.’ I thought about these words during my journey, and they kept me moving even when I didn’t know where I was going. Those words became the vehicle that drove my spirit forward and made it stay alive.” (8.15) This communicated how no matter how rough his journey was to freedom, he could always remember the good times he had in his homeland to keep him going. This also shows how much his father impacted him before the split between his parents and the poor choice of women his father chose to be his wife.

In addition, this shows how much his father impacted him before the events occurred. Ishmael from this quote shows how close he was to his father. By Ishmael’s fathers actions changed how he sees his father now. For instance, in chapter 1 “ I had not seen him for a while, as another stepmother had destroyed our relationship again. But that morning my father smiled at me as he came up the steps. He examined my face, an his lips were about to utter something, when my stepmother came out. He looked away, then at my stepmother, who pretended not to see me. They quietly went into the parlor. I held back my tears and left the verandah…” this shows how Ishmael and his father relationship has been ruined. This communicates to me how his personal history of his father contradicts the bad realistic of their relationship now, which is what continually pushes him to find freedom so one day he can find his family to make those memories that were once true come true again with his family. Also to rediscover the happiness and joy that stayed alive inside him through the hard times even when “being alive itself became a burden.”

Which shows the world he lived in at the moment of his so-called calling in life. He finds himself living in “three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past.” Although, Ishmael was positive impacted by his father to keep him going he was also influenced by music, which saved his live a few times along his journey. For example, Ishmael music saved him an his friends when they ran into the tribe. “ Tell me,” he said, turning to me, “ how did you get this foreign music?” I told him that we rapped. He didn’t know what rap music was, so I did my best to explain to him. “It is similar to telling parables, but in the white man’s language,” After Ishmael explain rap music to the chief he then at them where they are from in which in return they told them they were from Mattru Jong where they attended school and dance, which at the end saved them from being drowned.

Another way music has contributed to isheamls journey, was how Ishmael would try and memorize the words to the songs to try and think of ways to not think about the situation at hand. Some of the music that was replaying in Ishmael’s head was Naughty by Nature, LL Cool J, Run- D.M.C., and Heavy D and The Boys. There were also many connections from what the rebels name stand for and music. “The rebels (RUF) revolutionary united front, on his body with a hot bayonet and chopped off all his fingers with the exception of his thumbs. The rebels called this simulation “One love”. Before the war, people raised a thumb to say “ One love” to each other, an expression popularized by the love and influence of reggae music.” which clearly shows how reggae music brought together the homeland and was used in a positive way, is now used in a very negative way.

Something that heavily impacted Ishmael would be all the people’s deaths he had seen firsthand. Many times Ishmael wanted to die himself, but he kept on.’Every time people come at us with the intention of killing us, I close my eyes and wait for death. Even though I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, part of me dies. Very soon I will completely die and all that will be left is my empty body walking with you. It will be quieter than I am.’ […] Tears formed in my eyes and my forehead became warm, thinking about what Saidu had said. I tried not to believe that I too was dying, slowly, on my way to find safety.” Ishmael has seen many people die on his way to safety including younger kids. For instance, “ one man carried his dead son. He thought the boy was still alive. The father was covered with his sons blood, an as he ran he kept saying, “ I will get you to the hospital, my boy, and everything will be fine.” The woman who carried her baby on her back. Blood was running down her dress and dripping behind her, making a trail. Her child had been shot dead as she ran for her life.”

Just by reading this I can feel the pain and sadness. It also shows that these rebels do not have any remorse for the lives they are taking. They have no remorse for the kids lives they are taken either. Having to see that first hand had to have taken a toll on Ishmael and his friends seeing all of this unfold right in front of them at such a young age. These acts of violence was intended not only to break people down, but to control the people by separating families and friends and killing them. By these acts there were many after-effects like the break in trust and the want for food at any cost. For instance, “ one evening we actually chased a little boy who was eating two boil ears of corn by himself…. He was about five years old….. Rather, we rushed on the boy at the same time, an before we knew what was happening we had taken the corn from him.”

This shows the consequences and the circumstances they are in. Also how scars food is at that moment and time. That they would literally do anything to find food. This is also another weakness that the rebels saw because by them coming into all these different homelands an run people off, no one really took the time to prepare due to how the rebels attacked them. The rebels would send messages to warn the people that they were coming and would wait several days, giving the impression that they weren’t coming. Then surprise them and start killing an run people out of their homeland. By people being unprepared, put them at a disadvantage with survival making it easier for the rebels to kill them off or to take them in hostages or slaves.

“Three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past.” from Ishmael journey from being at a young age witnessing the civil war first hand and actually being in the civil war. From the happy memories to the sad memories. They all come back when Ishmael is actually a soldier in the war. “One of the unsettling things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally, was that I wasn’t sure when or where it was going to end. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I felt that I was starting over and over again.” By Ishmael being in the war really transformed his state of mind and how he saw his life.

It made him feel as if he was starting over, but yet those memories played over and over again in his head. Which connected to The 1994 Rwandan genocide was remarkable for its speed, intimate violence, and widespread participation: an estimated 200,000 killers massacred at least half a million Tutsi in a mere 100 days.” Just by this shows how much of an impact these genocides/ wars affects the people of Africa. Not to mention of this affected all the lost children without parents, and parents losing their children to these wars. This corresponds to the book “ A Long Way Gone” because this is very similar to what Paul Rusesabagina experienced in Rwanda’s genocide. Although, there was a lot of bloodshed from these genocides in the events that occurred in the war were alike, there were also differences. Now instead of seeing it from an adults eyes we see it from a child’s eyes first hand.

Work Cite

  1. Staff. “Rwandan Genocide.”, A&E Television Networks,

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The Son of the Leader of Rwanda Spoke About the Beginning of the Civil War. (2021, Dec 02). Retrieved from

The Son of the Leader of Rwanda Spoke About the Beginning of the Civil War

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