Ishmael Beah

  • Aired:  01/08/14
  •  | Views: 13,480

Author and former child soldier Ishmael Beah explains how he was recruited into the Sierra Leone military at 13 years of age. (6:37)

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,EVERYBODY, MY GUEST TONIGHT

IS A FORMER SOLDIER WHOSENEW NOVEL IS RADIANCE OF

TOMORROW.

THE KIR SUM FRIENDS OFTOMORROW DIVIDED BY TWO

TIMES PI OF TOMORROW.

PLEASE WELCOME ISHMAEL BEAH.

>> THANK YOU FOR COMING ON.

ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, MAY ICALL YOU ISHMAEL.

>> YES.

>> THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

>> THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

NOW YOU FROM AGE 13 TO 16WERE A CHILD SOLDIER,

CORRECT?

>> YES, I WAS.

>> OKAY, WE'RE UP AGAINSTLETTERMAN AND CONAN SO, ANY

FUNNY STORIES.

>> THERE ARE PLENTY OF FUNNYSTORES.

>> REALLY?

>> PEOPLE MAY NOT REALLYUNDERSTAND.

>> IS THERE ANY WAY TO KEEPTHIS LIGHT?

>> THERE COULD BE SOME WAYS.

>> OKAY.

>> COULD BE SOME WAYS.

>> HOW DOES ONE BECOME ACHILD SOLDIER AT AGE 13?

>> WELL, IN MY COUNTRY YOUHAD A CIVIL WAR THAT STARTED

WHEN I WAS 11.

>> OKAY.

>> SIERRA LEONE.

>> I DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS ACOUNTRY.

>> MOST PEOPLE DON'T.

>> IT SOUNDED LIKE A STATIONWAGON.

>> WE BECAME REALLY, REALLYFAMOUS BECAUSE OF THE WAR

THAT WE HAD RIGHT AFTERTHAT.

WE DID NOT KNOW THAT THEYWERE THERE.

>> WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ACHILD SOLDIER.

IS THERE AN ORGANIZED CHILDMILITIA OR IS IT MORE LIKE

GUERRILLA GROUP.

>> NO, WHAT HAPPENS IS THATWHEN THERE IS A WAR IN THE

COUNTRY, AT SOME POINT THEGOVERNMENT ARMY EVEN, THE

REBEL GROUP START RECRUITINGCHILDREN.

IN VARIOUS WAYS, SOMETIMESIT CAN BE BY FOOT, SOMETIMES

IT WOULD KILL THEIR FAMILIESAND THEN THEY WOULD TAKE

THEM INTO THE GROUP ANDSOMETIMES YOUNG PEOPLE

TRYING TO STAY ALIVE BECAUSEIF IT COMES TO IT, IF THEY

ARE NOT PART OF ANY GROUPYOU BECOME THE PREY FOR

ANYBODY.

SO IN MY CASE I LOST MYIMMEDIATE FAMILY AND WAS RUN

APPROXIMATING FROM THE WAR,EVERYTHING I KNEW AS A CHILD

HAD BEEN COMPLETELYDESTROYED.

AND THEN I WENT TO AMILITARY BASE TO LOOK FOR

SAFETY ALONG WITH A GROUP OFYOUNG PEOPLE AND THIS IS

WHERE WE WERE TRAINED IN THEMIDDLE OF WAR.

>> IT IS NOT LIKE REGULARSOLDIERS WHERE YOU TRAIN FOR

YEARS AND SOMETIMES NEVER GOTO BATTLE.

YOU ARE TRAINED WHILE YOUARE HEARING THE GUNSHOTS.

>> SO THEY GIVE YOU A GUNAND SAY GO OUT AND TRAIN.

>> YOU JUST HAVE TO SHOOTAND THEN YOU LEARN ON THE

JOB.

>> DO YOU HAVE CHILDRENYOURSELF?

>> NOT THE QUESTION.

>> OKAY.

WHEN YOU DO, YOU ARE GOINGTO HAVE THE TRUMP CARD OF

ALL TRUMP CARDS.

THEY'RE GOING TO SAY DAD, IDIDN'T GET AN X BOX ONE THIS

CHRISTMAS, THEY WILL SAY YOUKNOW WHAT I GOT FOR

CHRISTMAS WHEN I WAS YOURAGE, AN AK-47.

>> YOU WORRY ABOUT THIS,CALLED A LONG WAY GONE.

>> YES.

>> LONG WAY GONE.

YOU'VE GOT A NEW BOOK CALLEDTHE RADIANCE OF TOMORROW.

THAT IS A VERY HOPEFUL TITLEFOR SOMEONE WHO WAS A CHILD

SOLDIER AND HAVE SEEN THEHORRORS OF WAR.

ARE YOU A HOPEFUL PERSON,LIKE ARE YOU HOPEFUL FOR

YOUR HOME COUNTRY OF SIERRALEONE.

>> I AM VERY HOPEFUL.

I'M HOPEFUL FOR A LOT OFTHINGS.

I'M HERE SO THAT IN ITSELFIS HOPE.

>> HOW DID YOU GET HERE?

HOW DOES ONE STOP BEING ACHILD SOLDIER.

>> WELL, IT DEPENDS ON WHEREYOU ARE.

IN MY CASE I WAS REMOVEDFROM THE FIGHTING BY UNION I

SELF AND ACTUALLY DIDN'TWANT TO LEAVE BECAUSE IT'S

ALL I COME TO KNOW.

I DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ELSEWAS POSSIBLE.

AND AT THERE POINT IN MYCOUNTRY THE WAR WAS STILL

GOING ON.

SO THEY REMOVED ME.

AND MY COMMANDER HAD TO GIVEME UP AND I WENT AND I WENT,

AND EVENTUALLY I CAME TO THEUNITED STATES AND NEW YORK.

>> WHAT WAS YOUR FIRSTIMPRESSION WHEN YOU LEFT.

WHEN YOU GOT ON THE PLANE,WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST

IMPRESSION.

>> HI NEVER BEEN ON A PLANEBEFORE.

IT WAS VERY COLD.

I TURN ON THE AIR AND IDIDN'T TURN ON THE AIR, THE

AIR WAS COMING OUT.

AND NOBODY TOLD US, NOBODYGAVE US ANY INDICATION

WHATSOEVER.

SO I WAS THERE WITH ANOTHERYOUNG FELLOW AND WE SURVIVED

THIS OR ARE WE GOING TO DIEON THIS.

IT WAS ABSOLUTELY COLD.

ON THE PLANE, YOU KNOW.

>> VERY COLD.

>> WERE YOU IN COACH?

>> WE WERE IN COACH.

>> THIS IS TO THE-- WHICHWAS WORSE.

>> HUH?

>> THE CIVIL WAR, A CIVILWAR OR COACH, WHICH ONE.

>> I WOULD TELL YOU,ACTUALLY A LOT OF THINGS

WERE VERY, VERY-- FOREXAMPLE, YOU KNOW, WHEN WE

GOT TO NEW YORK IT WASWINTER OF '96, I'M FROM A

PLACE ARE IT GUNT GET COLDERTHAN 60 DEGREES, I ARRIVE

HERE.

>> WOW.

>> WHAT WHAT FRUIT DO THEYUSE TO DEMONSTRATE HOW COLD

IT IS?

>> BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE TODO, OUR WEATHER, OUR WEATHER,

I DON'T THINK WE EVEN HAVETO-- TOMORROW WILL BE NICE

AND THE NEXT DAY AND THE DAYAFTER THAT, YOU KNOW.

>> THIS IS A NOVEL ABOUT AMAN OR TWO FRIENDS WHO GO

BACK TO SIERRA LEONE TO THELIFE WHERE THEY USED TO LIVE,

TO SEE THE PEOPLE THEY USEDTO KNOW DURING THE CIVIL

WAR.

>> IT REALLY TALKS ABOUT WHYTHE PEOPLE GO BACK AFTER WAR,

WHY DO THEY GO BACK TO THEIROWN COUNTRY.

BECAUSE I BEGAN TO OBSERVEAFTER MY FIRST BOOK THAT

MOST PEOPLE WERE VERYINTERESTED WHEN THE PLACE

HAD COLLAPSED.

BUT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT ITWHEN THE GUNFIRES.

AND PEOPLE GO BACK.

AND THIS IS ACTUALLY THEMOST DIFFICULT.

HOW DO YOU GO BACK AND STARTLIVING AGAIN.

WHAT TRADITIONS DOW HOLD ONTO.

HOW DO YOU MOVE TOWARDS THEFUTURE WHEN THE PAST IS

PULLING AT YOU.

SO I HAVE A FEW CHARACTERS.

I HAVE THE ELDER, THREEOLDER PEOPLE AND THEN THERE

ARE TWO YOUNG MEN, ONE OFTHEM IS TRYING TO KEEP THE

FAMILY TOGETHER, AND THEN OFCOURSE ALL THE CHALLENGES

THAT COME WITH THAT.

SO THE RADIANCE OF TOMORROW,REALLY WHAT I'M TRYING TO

EXPLAIN IS OFTENTIMES PEOPLETHINK ABOUT PEACE OR

HAPPINESS IN ONE'S LIFE.

THAT'S NOT TRUE.

EVERY DAY A HUMAN LIFE YOUHAVE TO FACE SOME

CHALLENGES.

SOME CHALLENGES ARE BIGGERTHAN OTHERS THAT DONE MEAN

ARE YOU NOT LEAP.

IN THE BACK OF ALL THATPEOPLE FIND TIME TO LOVE

EACH OTHER TO HAVE FUNNYMOMENTS IN THEIR LIVES,

GREAT FAMILY, AND TO MOVE ONWITH THEIR LIFE.

AND THIS IS POSSIBLE.

SO THAT'S REALLY WHAT I AMTRYING TO GET AT IN THIS.

AND ALSO USING LANGUAGE WITHMY OWN CULTURE AND MY OWN

TRADITION.

BECAUSE I COME FROM THE OLDTRAER DECISIONS.

AS WELL.

AS A BOY I WOULD SIT AROUNDTHE FIRE AND THE OLDER

PEOPLE WOULD TELL A STORY.

AND IT'S QUITE BEAUTIFUL.

SO I TRIED TO SHOW SOME OFTHAT AS WELL.

>> WHAT DOW MISS MOST ABOUTSIERRA LEONE.

>> PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING.

THE FOOD IS ABSOLUTELYWONDERFUL.

IF I WAS THERE I WOULDN'T BECOLD RIGHT NOW.

>> WELL, ISHMAEL BEAH, THANKYOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: THE BOOK IS THERADIANCE OF TOMORROW.

ISHMAEL BEAH, WE'LL BE RIGHTBACK.

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