“Life in Iraq is not easy. We experienced a lot of things; as you would know living in a war zone is always life threatening” lamented Mohamed Dumbuya, one of the many young Sierra Leoneans who travelled to Iraq under the government’s overseas employment scheme, in the hope of getting greener pastures.
He added “every Sierra Leonean that went to Iraq had to take up arms as security guards” said Mohamed; sounding rather scared of explaining his ordeals.
He said at one point, five bombs were detonated in Camp Hammer, one of the many camps they were deployed in, forcing about 28 Sierra Leoneans wishing to return home.
“You don’t see the people you fight and when the bombs come, you’ll never know where they’re coming from; it was really frightening,” re-echoed Mohamed, looking a bit regretful of ever going to war-torn Iraq.
He said though Sierra Leoneans never experienced casualties, the constant living in fear forced most people to return home in just about a month or two.
“We now know that we went for money, but our expectations were dashed rather terribly” Mohamed added.
He said they were deployed in different locations to do different works. “Those who were lucky were deployed in the life support unit, others were sent to the kitchen; but the vast majority, including me, took up arms as security guards” disclosed young Mohamed, probably in his late twenties.
He continued that they were segregated on grounds of race. “When some of our colleagues, who are whites, realized that we were working for only $250, they never encouraged us. In fact, we were even separated from other workers, which made us feel neglected” expressed Mohamed in a rather pensive mood.
“Some were accusing us of being terrorists in Iraq, this made us loose popularity; our movement was incredibly restricted. This was very frustrating” added the new Sierra Leonean returnee from Iraq.
He went on to say that they used to experience a lot of hit injury “right now the temperature in Iraq is about 130 degrees, which is the hottest.
We used to stand in the sun for over two hours without water. Some of our brothers’ fell down, experiencing heat injury; every part of the body would be cramped” said Mohamed, looking tired of explaining his experiences in Iraq.
The Minister of Labor and Social Security, Hindolo Trye, in his response to the status of Sierra Leoneans in Iraq, said initially when people did not have jobs, they would take to anything to make a living.
He said they had realized the mistakes of the past about employment in Iraq, adding it was one of the reasons for not rushing into the issue anymore.
He said if Sierra Leoneans carried guns in Iraq, then it was in contravention of their employment contracts.
“We wanted our brothers to be patient with us for the contract in Iraq to be regularized, but they wouldn’t. So this made us fast track the process, overlooking a lot of issues relating to safety” said the Labor and Social Security Minister.
Observers have said that Sierra Leone is still grappling with a rather fragile economy, mounting more pressure on the cost of living for the average man.
Those who suffer the worst of this are believed to be the young people, who would therefore take to anything to get a living for the day.