Life After Liberia

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Richmond Tobii fled a long civil war in his home country of Liberia and now lives among other Liberian refugees in the U.S. Tobii still bears the scars of the war, but he’s discovered that moving forward and reaching out is the only way to heal. Ahmed Konteh reports.    

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(Locator: Maple Grove, Minnesota)

There’s a little bit of home at this Liberian market outside Minneapolis. Here, a large community of refugees can gather over familiar food and conversation.

But this community is also a place where victims of their country’s brutal civil war live side-by-side with their perpetrators. Richmond Tobii (TOE-BEE) was just one of the thousands of victims.

Richmond Tobii, Liberian Refugee: “Sometimes I ask myself why? Why this war?”

Liberia’s 14-year war has painfully tested the limits of forgiveness—because families and friends were often brutalized and killed at the hands of neighbors.

Richmond Tobii, Liberian Refugee: “I was arrested at the airport and taken to prison. A couple of armed men went to my house to search for me and they didn’t find me, and they saw my sister there, and they raped her.”

Some of her attackers now live in Tobii’s American community. But, he is determined to forgive, even though it hasn’t been easy.

Richmond Tobii: “In my heart, I forgive them.”

Barbay (BARBIE) Gaye suffered at the hands of the SBUs—Small Boy Units.

Barbay Gaye, Jr., Liberian Refugee: “You are dealing with people who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. They have AK47 rifles, so whatever their instinct tells them at that moment is what they do.”

Tobii encourages victims to look their offenders in the eyes and say:

Richmond Tobii: “You know what, if I’ve offended you in the past, I want you to forgive me and if you offended me, I have forgiven you.”

Tobii has emerged as leader among a community of Liberians who are trying to leave the painful past behind. He hopes his example will encourage others to seek the peace that only forgiveness can offer.

Richmond Tobii: “You can’t read forgiveness. You can’t teach forgiveness. You gotta live forgiveness. That will transform the community.”


In addition to his post war reconciliation efforts, Richmond Tobii is also the coordinator of an AIDS awareness campaign to stop the spread of HIV in minority communities like his own.

For more information, contact Richmond Tobii, Project Manager of the Awareness Campaign, at 651-796-8636.

Posted: March 11, 2009