Debora (or Am-Eli) sits on the straw mat, her legs
straight in front of her, and intensely fixes her eyes on my tape
recorder when she spoke. Apparently, she had thought a lot about
what she wanted to say about her life. She spoke in
Mokoulou. Several of the women who spoke Moukoulou were there
and listened carefully as she spoke.
Am-Eli is a short woman, about 50 years old. She is always full
of energy and loves to laugh. She lives with her son and her
family near to the Protestant Mission.
I came from Moukoulou, and the Djonkor Canton
in the Guéra. I was born into a animistic family. I got
married but my father-in-law wanted nothing to do with me; this is why
they sent me away. Then, I was married to another man.
The family of my second husband worshipped an
idol named Menéce. One of the members of the family was often
sick. Before the sick person would get better, another family
member would get sick and so forth. Their idol told them that
this meant that their house was cursed and that they needed to abandon
the house and all their possessions. This sort of thing happened
often. Before leaving the house, the family members need to wash
themselves and shave their heads. They leave the home naked,
carrying nothing at all with them. They sit under a tree not far
from the village and the neighbours bring them food, water and
clothes. I did all this with the family of my husband.
After a few days we began to construct a new house.
The mother of my husband participated in the
war but his other wife, the second wife, did not participate. A
little while later, the second wife gave some sesame seeds to my
mother-in-law and right after that, my mother-in-law became
paralysed. Then there was a fire in the house of my
mother-in-law, and she died. My husband had left to go
fishing. Upon his return, the people of the village met him to
encourage him to stay for a little while outside the village with the
nomadic Arabs. They were afraid that the curse that killed his
mother would also do him harm.
After this, my husband and I went to live
with the missionaries. Then my own family was obliged to abandon
their house because it was cursed. They wanted me to pass by the
traditional rituals by having me leave the house with them, as I had
done with the family of my husband. We refused to do so because
we had already become Christians. But as soon as my family left
the house, I brought them some food, water and clothes and I did all I
could to help them out.
My mother and my daughter dies soon
afterwards. My family said that I caused them to die.
Everyone agreed that it was my fault. They brought me before the
Leader to tell him that I had not followed the traditions. Now
the consequences of this had to fall on my head. The Leader sent
them back to their idols.
My family and my husband abandoned me.
I was alone. The Christians were my family. My Christian
brothers Bokoro, Dounia and Timothy were with me through these
injustices. I was faithful to my commitment to God. During
the famine, I carried water, ten trips each day. I earned money
this way to buy food for my children.
Then my father died. And my family
forbade me to come into the house. I was forced to stay behind
the houses in the courtyard. They told me to dig the grave and
to wear the mourning clothes (These obligations were traditionally
done by the men.) To shock me, they tried to make me accept the
idols again. They tried to bring me among the idols to offer
sacrifices to the dead. I told them, "No, the dead have
finished living in this world." I heard them say among
themselves that they would take the opportunity to beat me if I went
with them. I followed them from a distance when they brought the
body to the tomb.
My husband rejoined me later and we
moved on to the Mongo Mission Station. He worked at the mission
and we lived in the house across the street from the Mission's
property. My husband is dead following the events of 12 June
1987. (The government troops attacked a lot of men in the place,
arrested them to take them to prison in the Capital where they were
eventually killed.) A year later, the elders of the church sent
us out of our house. I had already planted my millet, okra and
peanuts in my concession. I left it all behind, and they gave me
a bag of millet in exchange. But I did not think that Christians
would send away one of their beloved, as my family did to me when I
lived in Moukoulou.
God is always with me. He helps me in
my difficulties. He told me to seek first the Kingdom of God and
He would give us everything else we need.
I have eight children, seven of which are
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