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'The Search for a Lost Brother'

The role education plays in writing a book seems to be as mighty as the pen for some University of Phoenix alumni. Like college professors who find inspiration in the classroom, some alumni have found being a student has spurred them to chronicle personal experiences or research that ultimately finds its reality and strength in the written word.

Educational premises certainly inspired two alumni, Dr. Tekemia Dorsey, a 2006 Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership graduate living in Baltimore, and Yankuba Mamburay, a Gambian based in the United States, a 2006 Master of Business Administration graduate and author of the 'The Mysterious Odyssey of a Village Boy. Both authors say their books serve as vectors that allowed them to enhance or share their education as it unfolded at different stages in their lives.

Business entrepreneur, Yankuba Mamburay's latest book is entitled 'The Search for a lost Brother'. It was recently featured by the University of Phoenix in their recent publication. He authored the book after his spiritual journey to locate his long-lost brother in West Africa. It was education, the Gambia native says, that secured his freedom when fellow West African rebels ruling the most rural and forested areas of Liberia accused him of trafficking blood diamonds in Liberia. This powerful, personal example of how education could blur political, cultural, and personal differences inspired him to hungrily pursue a graduate degree through the University of Phoenix,and write his first novel.

In review, Mr Mamburay explains in the book;

July 2000 was a moment of desperation for Mamburay. With an AK-47 trained on his head, Mamburay—alone and searching for his older brother in politically dysfunctional, war-torn Liberia—stood silent among a group of agitated rebels and immigration officers representing then-President Charles Taylor. (Taylor is currently on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity.1) Another angry swath of money-thirsty military troops trickled over a nearby hillside toward Mamburay as corrupt immigration officers demanded he relinquish all of his money to them in order to bypass the checkpoint on the way to Lofa Bridge.

Yelling for his hired driver to leave the area, Mamburay recalls how he maintained a calm demeanor as he respectfully spoke to this menacing, fearless group of primarily teenage marauders. The young Mamburay chose to tap into his own courage as he looked at the aggregate of even younger faces before him, and recognized he too had a weapon that could save him. That is, education. "It just came to me all of a sudden," recalls Mamburay, the poor son of a mother of seven from a small farming village and a 1996 graduate of International Islamic University Malaysia.

The Gambia native Yankuba Mamburay chronicles his spiritual and educational search to find his long-lost brother in civil war-torn Liberia. The young Mamburay, who spent four years writing and publishing his book, recounts his harrowing tale of being held at gunpoint and accused of blood diamond trafficking by former Liberian President Charles Taylor's troops.  At that point, he says, "I had a classroom education, but I also was fortunate in that my studies abroad allowed me to obtain a world perspective as I lived among many kinds of people and learned their different cultures and languages."

Yet he could see naiveté in the men who decried his lack of payoff money as an attempt to smuggle blood diamonds throughout Liberia. Of course, Mamburay says, these unwarranted accusations were false as he had nothing but his luggage and valid travel documents with him. "This sense came to me that most of them did not have lot of schooling or any schooling. They were uneducated so I took this time as an opportunity to lecture them." Simply put: Mamburay, who served as teacher from 1996-1997 at his high school alma mater in Africa, says he wanted to educate his captors about their mutual situation in a rational manner that might also spark their critical thinking skills.

"All of us are from Africa," Mamburay recalls saying in order to connect his audience through their culture. For the next 35 minutes, Mamburay, who had taken a leave of absence from his job as a banker in The Gambia capital of Banjul and had already given most of his money to other military checkpoint officers since landing in Liberia, dedicated his speech to logic and economics. He explained how the legality of his traveling documents and lack of physical evidence of illicit materials guaranteed him the right to travel throughout Liberia free of hindrances per the protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission.2 His audience had never heard of ECOWAS so Mamburay says he taught them about their countries' mutual agreement to be a part of ECOWAS and uphold its policies and regulations.

This elicited curious questions from these young African men, which Mamburay says he was secretly pleased from an educational standpoint to answer. In fact, Mamburay recalls how many within the group stood before him like a group of schoolchildren listening with rapt attention to their teacher's lesson. However, most of them still distrusted him enough not to lower their guns. Mamburay proceeded to explain that even if he owned enough money to satiate their demands, that the Liberian dollar would soon hold very little value from a global economic perspective. Ten years later, Mamburay's explanation still rings true as one Liberian dollar is worth only $.01 in American dollars.3 By his lecture's conclusion, Mamburay says there was evident friction within the group regarding his immediate future. They eventually allowed him to pass through the checkpoint physically unscathed, some of them even thanking him for the knowledge since they were forced into the military without ever finishing high school.

Thus, after several days and a lifetime of waiting, Mamburay says he arrived at another village where he finally met the brother who left home in 1966 before Mamburay's birth to settle in a then more peaceful Liberia. But the emotional journey did not immediately end. Even then, as recounted in Mamburay's 2009 book published by Publish America, he had trouble convincing his brother, Demba, that he was truly his biological brother and not just casually referring to him as a "brother" as he spoke to him in their native Mandingo language.

The skeptical Demba would only reply to Mamburay in English, vaguely responding to Mamburay’s claims until Mamburay offered him convincing evidence. It was only after he played a recorded tape of their mother's voice that the weight of the meeting settled in for Demba and brought him to tears of happiness Mamburay says. "This emotional journey, from meeting my brother to encountering the rebels, really changed my whole idea about the importance of education in one's life," says Mamburay, who has since followed up his 109-page book about his two-week search with a second, fiction book, The Mysterious Odyssey of a Village Boy.

"It was soon after that encounter [with Taylor’s troops] that I decided to pursue a master's degree," says Mamburay, who initially came to America to study at Jackson State University in Mississippi before moving to Georgia and transferring his credits to University of Phoenix in 2004. During this time, Mamburay says his friends encouraged him to pen his experiences and, after much thought, Mamburay returned to the childhood talent that had earned him awards back in Africa.

Despite school and family responsibilities, the father of four young children persisted, writing one or two manuscript pages per sitting and eventually publishing his first book 4 years after he started writing it. He has mixed feelings on the positive attention his book has received from readers. "The Liberian war is nothing anyone should root for because it was such a calamity, but I felt I should tell the whole world this story . . . because I want to inspire people to avoid conflicts, if possible," says Mamburay. "Conflicts should be solved by education and knowledge, not by a guns”

 

Yankuba Mamburay


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