Philip Yayah Kpakiwa is the country coordinator of the MasterPeace Club in Guinea. MasterPeace is a grass-roots movement that is working to build peace all over the world. Philip, who is 32, talked with Justice Hub about his idea of justice and explained how he managed to react positively after a terrible life experience.
“I was born in Sierra Leone. I studied there. All of a sudden, my country descended into a brutal civil war.
“The rebels invaded our land, our town. They arrived at our house and took my father and my brother out. My father was a businessman. He used to go to the mining areas, buy diamonds and sell them to people and, with a little income, he managed to sustain our small family. They thought he had a lot of diamonds, which he didn’t, because when the rebel issue became serious, he stopped going out because he was afraid. They tried to force him, but there was no way he could give away the diamonds, so they shot him dead. My elder brother wanted to jump on one of the rebels. They burned him alive.
“The best solution for me was to escape. If I hadn’t, I would have become a victim as well. I slept in trees and lived with wild animals until I finally escaped to Guinea.
“That experience pushed me to do the work I do now. It pushed me to get myself involved in this movement because I decided I shouldn’t allow myself to be on the negative side. I decided to be a solution, instead. If I preach peace and become a peacebuilder, I can save the lives of many people.
“It was a difficult decision, very difficult. It was not at all easy, thinking about my father and my relatives who were all gone. I was alone. This could have given me a negative perspective or a negative life, but I realised that that was not the solution. If I had committed negative actions, many people’s lives would have been in danger.
“Now I’m in Guinea, and I see myself as a Guinean. For the past 18 years, I’ve been living here. People welcomed me as a son of the land. They’ve been so generous, so nice and supported me in many things. I’m working here, and my life is somehow improving.
“Yet, I’m seeing the same issues that I was seeing in Sierra Leone. The things that are happening in Guinea might lead to social problems. The political, ethnic and tribal conflicts might lead to a civil war. The massacre that took place in September 2009 at the stadium in Conakry nearly led to that. It nearly brought the country to the brink of war.
“That’s why I’m studying as a peacebuilder, to preach peace and get all the young people involved in peacebuilding. If young people are prepared for peace, then nobody can change their minds on the negative side.
“I believe justice is possible, for sure. I think the international community can go into the Guinean situation, do some research and find out about what really happened and bring out the true story and then bring it to the justice level. It needs to be someone outside Guinea to work for justice, though. If the problems are left to the people themselves alone, then there won’t be justice.
“To someone who went through what I went through and wants justice, I would say go ahead. Seek justice, rather than vengeance. If you are on the side of vengeance, you only make things worse. You could hit not only the person you want to have vengeance on, but also many others.”
Lead image: Philip Yayah Kpakiwa (Photo: Niklas Jakobsson/Justice Hub)
My Justice highlights the stories of individuals who work in the field of international justice or who have been affected by it and asks what does justice mean to them.