The Siege of Monrovia, Mark Husband


In 1989 a young foreign correspondent, looking to make a name for himself, set off for a new life in West Africa. Writing initially for the Financial Times and subsequently for The Guardian, Mark Huband travelled far and wide, from the tumult of Mobutu s Zaïre to the Saharan homeland of the Touaregs, telling the stories of West Africa during that tumultuous time as the Cold War came to an end. When a small group of Libyan-trained fighters crossed the border into Liberia on Christmas Eve 1989, the series of wars which followed tore Liberia to pieces. Ostensibly launched to bring an end to the ten-year dictatorship of Liberia s President Samuel Doe, the ensuing decade of bloodshed left the country brutalised, its people traumatised, and its economy ruined. Rebel factions formed around Charles Taylor, a renegade government minister, and Prince Johnson, a former government soldier who broke away from Taylor s National Patriotic Front of Liberia. Characterised by the use of child soldiers, rape, drug-fuelled violence, and tribal slaughter, the Liberian civil war rapidly lost its purpose of liberating Liberians from dictatorship. Mark Huband was the first journalist to reach behind rebel lines, and reported on the war from all sides. Most journalists left when Monrovia, Liberia s capital city, was besieged by both rebel factions in the summer of 1990. Mark remained for the three months that the city was under attack, and his award-winning journalism provided a unique account of the conflict and its atrocities. But it is only now, almost thirty years later, that Mark has been able to write his own personal account of that time he spent among the rebels, killers, victims and warlords. He has found a way to do this in poetry, the terza rima form of the narrative poem The Siege of Monrovia allowing the verse to speak the unspeakable and describe the indescribable, in a work which bears witness to a time of chaos and bloodshed, but which also has space for light and humanity.