"I thought I was going to die." A Red Cross Ebola volunteer talks about being attacked by an angry mob

تم النشر: 17 أغسطس 2015 7:00 CET

On 29 May 2015, IFRC beneficiary communications assistant Dr Alimou Diallo was one of several Red Cross staff to be trapped when violent protests broke out against Ebola workers in the western Guinean town of Kamsar. The Red Cross logistics base was burned down, a local Red Cross leader’s house ransacked, and two Red Cross cars were damaged. Eleven Red Cross staff were evacuated back to Conakry in the middle of the night. This is Dr Diallo’s account of the day.   

I’ve worked for many humanitarian organizations in the past – ICRC, MSF, and now IFRC. I spent eight years as an HIV beneficiary communications worker. I’ve been at IFRC for four months. 

On 29 May I was working in Kamsar in Boke, near the border with Guinea Bissau. Three of us Red Cross beneficiary communications workers were talking with  80 imams at the town hall about safe burials, and we were sharing information about Ebola. Some of the imam went to the mosque to do prayers and halfway there they were insulted by a group of protestors. Fearing an attack, they ran back to the town hall. People were abusing them because they said they were involved in Ebola business.

We were inside the town hall when people started coming and throwing rocks at the windows. We locked all the doors but they kept trying to get in. They were shouting at us, things like, “We don’t need Ebola in Kamsar”, “We don’t need Red Cross”, “Ebola is nothing but a lie” and “You bring Ebola to Kamsar”.

There were a lot of people and they were very angry and they kept banging at the door. I thought I was going to die because the same thing happened to two of my friends in Womey in September last year. My friends, two doctors, were killed and their bodies thrown into latrine pits. I kept thinking about what happened to them.

I went to hide in the toilets. I was there for about 45 minutes then the young people who live in the neighbourhood came and helped us. We went out the back door and saw our car was broken so we just ran. We ran out of the immediate vicinity, but then decided to walk normally so we wouldn’t attract attention. We went directly to the hotel, walking very fast.

We went to a complex guarded by soldiers and then in the middle of the night we were evacuated back to Conakry. We went at 5 o’clock in the morning when the road was secure. We took our damaged cars, but with the Red Cross sign removed. When we got back to Conakry we had psychosocial support from our staff who are experts in that field. I had three days off work.

It’s the first time I’ve seen people want to kill me. It’s not that they really wanted to kill me, it’s just ignorance. The people who organized the demonstration, you don’t see them. I’m not angry with the young people who threw the rocks because they did it through ignorance. Now, when I see political rallies or any other heated situation, I’m not scared anymore because I’ve seen the worst. I still come to work every day, I have even been back to Kamsar since the attack. We cannot let this stop the fight against Ebola.