A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Summary and Analysis of Chapter 15


It is now 1996 and Beah is 15. By now, Beah and his former companions are seasoned soldiers. With their squad, Beah, Alhaji, and Kanei travel to a nearby town of Bauya for ammunition. They know their friend Jumah is stationed there, and they look forward to talking to him; Beah also hopes to see Lieutenant Jabati again and discuss Shakespeare with his former commanding officer. After some joking about Jumah’s increased strength (he can now carry a heavier weapon), the boys engage in their usual soldierly small talk, mostly about drugs. There is a social event in which the commanders mingle with everyone else; Beah feels that Lieutenant Jabati is a bit too jovial for the occasion. Beah learns that Corporal Gadafi is dead.

The next morning, Jumah and some other soldiers leave for their pre-arranged raid. A truck enters the village, discharging four men in UNICEF t-shirts. The boys are lined up and Lieutenant Jabati chooses fifteen of them, seemingly at random. Beah and his friend Alhaji are chosen, while Kanei is not. The chosen boys are ordered to turn in their weapons and equipment; Beah secretly disobeys the order by hiding his bayonet and a grenade in his clothing, then refusing to undergo a search by another soldier. The boys are loaded into the truck with several Military Police (MPs) - “city soldiers” whom Beah despises for their clean uniforms and weapons that belie no combat experience. Beah becomes increasingly anxious and angry at the seeming betrayal of his commanding officer.

After several hours, the boys are unloaded in Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown. They are taken to a fenced compound and assigned beds. The UNICEF workers attempt to feed and clothe them, but the boys are uninterested in what the workers have to offer. Another group joins the boys and a fight breaks out as they attempt to learn whether each group has fought for the state or the RUF. Beah alters a hand-to-and fight to a standoff when he pulls out his grenade and threatens to throw it at the second group of boys unless they answer their questions. It turns out both groups are Sierra Leone military, so the boys become companions and the leader of the new group, Mambu, eventually becomes one of Beah’s closest friends. In the meantime, the UNICEF workers, unfamiliar with the severity of the boys’ military indoctrination, prove incapable of controlling their charges.

The united military boys head out to another group of boys sitting on the verandah. They want to know more about their situation and ask the boys if they know why their commanders gave them up to the civilians. The boys on the verandah refuse to answer, calling Beah’s companions “civilians.” Soon it comes out that the boys on the verandah are former RUF soldiers. This time a full-on fight breaks out. Beah throws his grenade at the rebels boys, but the explosion is delayed so it has little effect. Bayonets come out and boys begin slicing and stabbing one another. The MPs arrive to put a stop to the fight, only to be overpowered and have their weapons claimed by the opposing factions: one rifle for the RUF and one for the military. After a brief skirmish, six boys are dead (two of the military and four of the RUF). More MPs arrive to quell the fighting. The boys are separated and several are sent to Benin Home, a rehabilitation center on the outskirts of Freetown. As they are driven to Benin Home, Beah wonders what has become of his G3 weapon and what movie his squad might be watching that night. He shakes involuntarily as he goes through withdrawal from the drugs.


This major turning point in Beah’s life is complicated by his thorough dedication to the military by the time the UNICEF workers arrive. He is so loyal to his commanding officers, his squad, and his “cause” that being sent away to have a new life and an education seems like a betrayal to him. Beah does not say why he or the other boys were chosen - he suggests it was random. However, the fact that Alhaji was chosen while Kanei was not suggests that Lieutenant Jabati was choosing the youngest-looking of the boys who could feasibly have a second chance at a normal life. (Beah had previously noted that while Kanei was younger than Alhaji, Alhaji was often considered the younger of the two because Kanei was taller).

The boys’ interactions with one another and their disdain for the UNICEF workers and the MPs brings to light the naivete of the UNICEF intervention in Sierra Leone. At this point, they believed the boys to be merely children who had been traumatized by violence. In the UNICEF compound it becomes clear that these young men are in fact deadly killers who cannot be cajoled into obedience when they are used to taking and giving orders in life-and-death situations. That the MPs are so ineffectual at keeping order suggests that Beah’s experience in actual combat has matured him beyond their “pretend” militarism, making him the superior warrior.

The riots at the UNICEF compound also demonstrate how deeply-rooted the boys’ military “brainwashing” (as Beah terms it) truly is. When offered a second chance at a civilian life after two years of combat, with new clothes, a safe place to sleep, and people who care for them, the boys turn the situation into a military endeavor. Strange boys, no matter their affiliation, are a threat until their motives and loyalties can be determined. The fight with the RUF boys accentuates how deep the ideological chasm is between boys who have suffered similar traumas, but been indoctrinated by opposite political factions.