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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 20:18 GMT 21:18 UK
Your questions to Liberian villagers
Composite image of Liberian villagers

Sinje is a village set in the lush vegetation of the border area between Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The BBC News website invited readers around the world to send e-mails to the four villagers profiled below. They answered your questions on Monday 10 October - the day before Liberia holds its first post-war elections.

Click on the links above to read more about the villagers.

MOMO FREEMAN, 73, VILLAGE CHIEF

Momo Freeman

Because Sinje is on the road to Sierra Leone and Guinea, all the rebel groups wanted to capture us.

In 1993 the Ulimo rebel group captured Sinje. Our troubles began when the Ulimo split into two factions: Ulimo-K and Ulimo-J.

Every few days, we would be attacked by a new faction. Many of us were injured, some were shot or killed with machetes. Others starved to death because we were unable to farm, so we had no food. We were too afraid to leave our homes and go into the fields in case we were killed.

After the 1994 ceasefire, things got better but we were still hungry. In 1996, we got our first delivery of food aid. But the very next day - a Saturday - we were attacked by Ulimo-K.

They killed 444 people, because many people had sought shelter here from surrounding villages. Thousands of us were taken away by the rebels.

We had nothing to eat and nor did the rebels. We all survived on wild leaves and roots. The rebels even started killing civilians to eat.

I expected to die at any time. Only God helped me survive.

Three months later, we managed to escape. But then a new war started. In 2003 when the Lurd rebels came I fled to the bush, but I was captured and brought back to Sinje.

I saw lots of dead bodies. Some had been shot dead, others burnt. The rebels told me to bury them on my own. I was the only civilian, with 500 rebels.

I did everything I was told in order to survive. Although I was an old man and a chief, if a small boy with a gun told me to do something, I just said: "Yes, sir."

Then one day, one of the soldiers told me to climb up a coconut tree and fetch him a coconut. I was 70 years old at the time and said I could not climb the tree. Eventually, the commander came over and asked what was going on. When I explained that I could not climb the tree, he said: "OK old man, you can go."

I was overjoyed and ran straight into the bush until it was safe to come out.

All of these problems were caused by children who were not educated, so the first thing the government must do is build schools and educate the children. If they do this, the war will be over.

KULAH BALO, FARMER

Kulah Balo

I have my doubts about these elections.

Charles Taylor was elected in 1997 after making promises but nothing changed. I don't know if this time, the politicians' promises will be kept.

But I will vote.

My husband was killed by Lurd rebels in 2003. We had been planning to plant more palm and coconut trees but because of all the fighting, we have not been able to do this.

However this year, I have been able to collect palm oil from my trees and sell it for the first time in many years.

I have not been able to harvest coconuts yet. And we have started to clear the bush.

If the peace holds, maybe we will finally be able to plant more trees.

VARNEY FAHNBULLEH, UNEMPLOYED CARPENTER

Varney Falbulleh

I lost 16 members of my family, including my mother, father and three children, when Ulimo-K attacked in 1996.

They came early in the morning for me. I opened the door and saw a man with a G3 [heavy machine-gun]. He shot me three times but I did not feel the pain.

I managed to hide and watched as they pulled people out of my house and my parents' next door.

They started spraying bullets and people started dropping to the ground. Then they started cutting people with cutlasses. I saw them cut my sister's neck and pull the baby off her breast.

People were screaming and some were calling my name but I could not move, as I knew I would be killed. I hid in the attic with my wife.

I saw them shoot my father as he tried to escape. I saw them stealing everything they could find - even a bag of salt, which was hard to find in those days.

We stayed in the attic until about nine o'clock at night.

I got down to see who they had killed when suddenly, a flashlight was shone on me. I lay down by a tree. A rebel came over to see who he had seen and walked right over me. I managed to get back to the attic.

When the moon came out at about 11, I said to my wife: "Let's get down and see if God will protect us."

We took all our clothes off to make it harder to see us and held each other's hands, walking in a line. But they still saw us and shot at us.

We hid in a pit latrine and fell asleep. The next morning, we woke up and walked through the bush all day until we reached the next village. They had heard about the massacre and could not believe that I was still alive.

I am a carpenter but I have no tools.

I hope that God will give us a good president because we need lots of things. We need to build everything from scratch. It will be a difficult job for whoever wins.

I can never get over what happened to my family. I don't think those who killed my family will ever be brought to justice.

MASSA SONI, 20, EXPECTANT MOTHER

Massa Soni

I hope we get a good president because we need schools and development in this country.

I am seven months pregnant with my first child.

I want to be a nurse, but in 2003 I stopped going to school here in Sinje because my family could no longer afford the fees. Primary schools are supposed to be free but it costs $4 a year.

The fighting also made it difficult to go to school.

In 2003, the rebels captured me and made me carry what they had looted. I was terrified.

I carried it for a while but then everyone was allowed to rest. I said I needed to go to the toilet and they let me go behind a house. Then I managed to run away.

I think the war is over and we are not suffering as much as we were. But it will not be totally over until we get a new president.




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