Archive for February, 2010
Author: Lansana Juana
Since the war in Sierra Leone came to an end in 2002, some ex-child combatants find themselves in rural communities like Tongo Field, Hangha, Blama, Segbwema, Daru and Potoru. These are all diamond furious rural areas in Sierra Leone where ex-child combatants have resolved to settle to engage in illicit diamond mining. Their presence in these areas has both advantages and disadvantages which need to be monitored, because most of them are underage to handle the duress of diamond mining, and their frustrations can serve as a threat to post-conflict development.
The communities where ex-child combatants are dominant has cheap manpower labor, because most of them can only survive by providing that kind of service for people. The most unfortunate situation is that not all of the ex-child combatants went through the National Commission Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR) process or were catered for by any organization or agency. The bias implementation of the NCDDR made a good number of the ex-child combatants to stay in their villages, slum areas in the bigger towns without any training to give them a better future. How will those who did not benefit from any disarmament package cope with their lives? They can only resort to selling their labor cheap, crime, drugs addiction, prostitution, armed robbery etc.
In the rural areas today, you will see that ex-child combatants are mostly engaged in riding motorbikes as a taxi service, subsistence farming, fishing, mining, and early marriages on both sides. All that can be attributed to the lack of proper training during the reintegration process and a good number of them did not go through the process. There is urgent need to address this menace in post-war Sierra Leone, in order to change the mindset of these ex-child combatants to a brighter future. We need to do more to take them out of trauma, and give them better future. Trauma in Africa especially Sierra Leone is not the same as in developed countries.
The work of Mind to Change by giving formal education to the ex-child combatants is a welcome and timely idea in Sierra Leone, because if these people get access to formal education, adult education, or skill training it will serve as boost to build sustainable peace in the country. For those who decided to do farming, they have made the right choice since it will help to get work, but they too need help like provision of working tools and food for work. Some may want to do skills training from their village, but they lack the opportunity. In the case of female ex-child combatants, we can see that they are mainly involved in cheap prostitution and street trading. Most of them are without husband, because they are hostile and brutal to men.
It is necessary to help these ex-combatants, because if not, there is a possibility that they would easily get carried away by politicians during election to involve in election violent since they are helpless, and those were one of the causes for the past civil war. Without good security, ex-child combatants are vulnerable to be influence by politicians with the hope that they will help them after winning election. This was typically manifested in the 2007 presidential and parliamentary election, where a group of ex-combatants were involved in violent campaign nationwide.