Archive for May, 2010
Child abuse on the increase
Sierra Leone News
Reports on the local press in Sierra Leone indicate that the abuse of children is not uncommon place in this country.
The reports claim that children born in the country are much deprived of their basic human rights which include the right to liberty, right to their welfare, right to human dignity, right to education, right to home care and support and also the right to their decisions and choices.
It has been also discovered that children supposedly under the age of care and support were seen to be engaged in economic activities, domestic servitude and other vices that is very telling on their mental, physical psychological and emotional wellbeing.
In different parts of the country, it was discovered that children are in the common practice of petty trading and doing menial jobs, engaging in early sex, taking dangerous drugs and thieving.
Kadiatu Mansaray, twelve, said she was attending the Muslim Brotherhood Primary School in Makeni and that she was in Class II when she lost her father.
“My mother only does petty trading to eke out a living she told a local journalist.
My sister passed away after a short illness because my mother did not have money to take her to the hospital. Since my mother could not take proper care of me she gave me to my aunt who promised to send me back to school in Freetown but when we got to Freetown I was not sent to school but became the servant in the house while her children went to school. As you can see I am on my way to the stream to do the day’s laundry,’ she recounted.
Rugiatu Kamara, eight, and Husainatu Kargbo, seven, both vend sachet water in the streets of Freetown. They explained that they reside at Mount Aureol Hills in the East of the city but come all the way to the centre to conduct petty business to help feed the home.
“We normally come down the hill to sell cold water for one Mammy Jartu who gives us five thousand Leones per day which we take home to our aunt for cooking. Sometimes when we fall ill our only medical option is native herbs since we cannot afford a square meal per day not to talk of medicines.
Our dreams of going to school are now dead because there is no one to help us go to school,” Rugiatu recounted.
Morlai Bangura, thirteen and his colleague, Momoh Conteh, fourteen, pick out metals from the dump sites. “We normally sell these metals, tin cups and plastic rubbers for us to be able to make a living. Life is not easy in Freetown but we will not sit by and allow hunger to kill us,” Momoh Conteh who appeared to be the spokesman explained.
“We are Christians and by the grace of God we are going to get education and be big men in future,” he asserted.
“We attend the Ahmadiyya Muslim Secondary School at Kissy Dockyard. When school is over we remove our uniforms and go to the car wash places where we will patiently wait to wash vehicles. Sometimes we go home with five, ten or twenty thousand Leones which we mostly use to pay for pamphlets and lesson fees,” he concluded.
Memunatu Kanu, fifteen, has just dropped out of school because she has no one to take care of her and now she moves around the city trading her body to make a living.
Mr. Philip Kamara, a human rights activist, asserted that children’s welfare and their issues are of great concern to them given the fact that they are tomorrow’s leaders.
Marijuana And Our Youths: Smoking The Future Away
Posted by Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk) on May 22, 2010, 09:01
ABOUT 50 metres from the United Methodist Church at Koroma Street, Old Road, Calaba Town, a group of youth gather in a pote called Main Bowl to smoke the “Wise Thang.” Four of the youth are in their school a uniform…Brima’s (not his real name) behaviour has changed considerably. His eyes are constantly bloodshot. He keeps himself withdrawn from the rest of his class and now prefers sitting at the back row.
“What’s wrong with you Brima?” queries his teacher repeatedly. “Madam, don’t disturb me ok; you’re interrupting my meditation,” the boy retorts to the annoyance of his teacher, but to the amazement of his classmates.Marijuana! At home here it has a variety of names or nick-names, from Couchie, Sling, Jumbo, Weed to Wrap, Djamba, Tie, Grass, Ganja and the Wise Thang. The cost per wrap is Le 500.00 or Le1, 000 (far less than a dollar)- depending on the quality, and it is available next door. Apparently Marijuana is out of control in Sierra Leone and very little is arguably being done by any organisation to control the cultivation, sale and use of the Indian Hemp. It has become the most popular drug among our youth and is potentially the most dangerous drug in the West African country.
There are more than a thousand outlets called ghettos/potes/camps/cartels/yards scattered all over Sierra Leone. The peak period for abuse of marijuana in Sierra Leone is the so-called Bob Marley’s night on May 11, when youth all over the country celebrate the late reggae musician’s birthday by smoking the substance openly and freely. In the past (70s and early 80s) marijuana smoking was done in secrecy, says Mr Arnold Olayinka, a retired school teacher. “It was like any secret society. Most of the people who smoked it then- mostly young men- hated very much to be associated with it because society woefully scorned at it. Society associated users with all the criminal activities that were going on.”
However, today marijuana smoking is done in open air. It is as accessible as cigarettes. Almost every street you walk past in the capital city of Freetown, the smell of Djamba sweeps across your nostrils. Moreover, users of the substance are not afraid to be identified with it. Youth of school going age constitute an alarming proportion of users. Four out of every 10 school pupils in the Western area interviewed randomly for this article are either frequent smokers, have just being introduced to it or have gone through the experience one time or the other. Nowadays there are even potes near school compounds where some pupils hangout before going for lessons or to dodge school assembly.
Other users include the young unemployed, vagrants, prostitutes, immigrants, ex-combatants (most of who have not been properly rehabilitated and re-integrated into their communities of origin) and the down-and-out who don’t see any future in their lives. The ghetto is their office, and they spend hours every day smoking while discussing a range of topics from the economy and politics, to music and football. “If Reggae legends such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, and Joseph Hills Culture smoke it publicly during their performances… if they advocate for its legalization so passionately… What’s the harm in us smoking it? After all some medical practitioners recommend marijuana as a cure for asthma,” says one youth at Valley View, a popular pote in Central Freetown. “If you are to give a speech in front of a large gathering and you are kind of panicky, I recommend a sling. You will deliver well,” says another youth. “Marijuana gives you confidence. It gives you control over everything you’re doing. “Peer pressure is a major influence on young users. “If you want to be recognized by your peers, or you want to court a girl, then you must move with the crew,” says a youth who was introduced to marijuana recently. “If you don’t, the others will consider you a ‘Babylon’ or a ‘baldhead’. They will dissociate themselves from you.” This desire to be recognized encourages many youth to experiment with marijuana smoking. And when they do, they gradually become hooked.
Another cause is frustration and depression over life’s circumstances and poverty. Lack of opportunities for a better life, the youth turn to the ghetto to get company and kill the day; and to forget about the problems at home. However, the problems never go away, especially with marijuana. The effects of marijuana can be detrimental. According to official sources, the strong type of marijuana is now being imported from Nigeria into Sierra Leone. Some retailers even mix it with another substance called brown brown, which is derived from cocaine. This increases the risk of users developing a mental illness. The most common combination of drug abuse among Sierra Leonean youth is marijuana and alcohol (e.g. Pegapak), and, according to Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Edward A. Nahim, this is responsible for 80% of all mentally ill problems we have in Sierra Leone. Abusers of marijuana also risk having psychoses, a condition wherein they lose touch with reality or the world around them. 90% of the inmates at the City of Rest-the only rehabilitation centre for substance abusers in Sierra Leone- are drug related cases, especially with Marijuana.
In addition, marijuana can be very dangerous to the country as a whole, says Dr Nahim. It can lead to violence, aggression, armed robbery, and sometimes destabilising the functioning of the state. The ugly side of this trend falls on school children. Marijuana changes their attitude towards school, religion and authority. In early April this year, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) apprehended 27 bags of Marijuana in Kambia district. Ironically five police men are being investigated on allegations of taking bribe and letting the culprits go free. According to ASP Shyllon, Asst Director of CDIID, the consignment of Marijuana was heading for Guinea when the Police arrested the vehicle after a tip off. Marijuana farming is a very lucrative business in Sierra Leone today. The SLP at one time discovered a large marijuana farm in the peninsula area, and apprehended seven miles of marijuana farm in the provinces. Recent raids have also yielded alarming discoveries.
However, the ones not apprehended are in the majority. Marijuana is now produced in all parts of Sierra Leone, as opposed to before, for domestic, commercial and export purposes. It’s even alleged that some police officers do own Marijuana farms up country. “The marijuana problem is a huge one,” says ASP Francis Munu. “I think during the war, many Sierra Leoneans took the liberty to grow Marijuana because it’s more rewarding financially than food crops. But we (the Police) are doing our best and I think we are up to the task. “Unfortunately, legal justice does little or no good. In 2008 the Government of Sierra Leone ratified the National Drugs Control Act, which makes the possession and use of drugs such as marijuana illegal. In other words anyone caught buying, selling or in possession of marijuana is liable on conviction for a term not less than five years. However, raiding potes and arresting and charging culprits to court exposes offenders to more substance abuse and criminal behaviour in prison.
But according to Dr. Nahim, it is the dealers that should be prosecuted while the users should be referred for treatment. “The solution to the problem is two-fold,” says Dr Nahim, who incidentally has been Sierra Leone’s only psychiatrist for a long time. “First, you reduce the supply of marijuana by destroying farms and effectively manning traffic routes. Second, you discourage the demand for marijuana through medical advice. Give public lectures and sensitise the public on the dangers of marijuana smoking. “Furthermore, Dr. Nahim suggests the creation of skills training and job opportunities for the youth to be able to live independent lives and become less dangerous.
Amadu Beah, 19, a former child combatant, has received support to enhance his education and wellbeing. Amadu Beah who at the tender age of 8 years was abducted by insurgents and forced to become a child soldier attracted sympathy when early this year he granted interview to two visiting CBS News reporters from the United States of America (USA).
The journalists were on a mission to follow up the story of a former child soldier in Sierra Leone civil war, and Amadu happened to have been eye-marked as a suitable candidate. The journalists did a video footage of him whilst dressing up for school onto his school compound for devotion and then to his classroom.
He was also followed to a market place at Regent Road in Central Freetown where he frequents on a daily basis, mostly before going to school, to carry heavy loads for people in exchange of a few leones…just to make ends meet. Amadu’s story was aired recently on television in the USA, and according to reliable sources, his story touched many.
It is in sympathy with his pathetic story that he has been sent the sum of One Hundred US Dollars (Le 385.643 according to Western Union transfer rate). The money was handed over to him at his No.98 Regent Road resident in Freetown, by freelance journalist and campaigner, Theophilus S. Gbenda, who in concert with officials of Children Associated with War (CAW) identified the recipient for the encounter with the CBS Crew.
Amadu Beah lost both parents of his during the war and has since been looked after by his ailing aunt, Fatmata Mansaray.
On May 5th in every year, is a day to reflect on freedom, historically freedom from the second world war. But I as a former child soldier in post-war Sierra Leone, and one the founding members of Mind to Change, an organization working to give long term reintegration to former child soldiers and vulnerable youths in society is asking all the organizations that are working in the interest of child soldiers to observe this day as a day of proper freedom for all child soldiers and vulnerable youths world wide, Sierra Leone in particular. children who used to fight war, and the ones that are still fighting wars have no freedom at all.
Every year, 300,000 children are used to fight wars, and in the course of that, they are deprived of their freedom, robbed of their childhood, where they would start to act as an adult. At the end of the war, their freedom can be still seized by policy makers, communities in which they would find themselves and some of the organizations that would pretend to help or take care of them through donor monies as a way of giving them freedom, but yet still they remain in the same position in societies, in the ghettoes, are involve in arm robberies and the war remain existing with them.
Mind to Change is giving actual freedom to these children (child soldiers) and vulnerable youths, in order to prevent them from being exploited from their past and to stop them from being use in future wars through education and training. As a result of that, Mind to Change is going to regard this day as a day to leave no former child soldiers, child soldiers that are currently in war un help for them to be free for ever. For those that are still war are going to be remembered.
Any body who Visit this site is kindly asked to joined hands to help free these children on that day for freedom for all with an educational support and training as a new weapon to faced new challenges to keep them out of war, which in return will helped their communities. What remains is education and training for sustainable development, and freedom from exploitation, because childhood is not for ever. Education and training is the actual freedom in life, and that implies for all former and current child soldiers world wide. Education and training makes life easy and independent, therefore all children need it. It is a clear means of being free for ever, and can lead to self emotional flow and brings happiness in the life of children. For child soldiers, independent means actual freedom, because that is what they used to fight for, not only the enemies in war, but the enemies after war. New weapon to fight against exploitation, That is the power of education and training.
The issue of war is always complex to figure out when it comes to the use of children as soldiers, because war in general always based on the struggle for socio-economic and political power world wide from which children are not interested. But war lord always used children to fulfill their selfish aim at the detriment of the innocent children. There are basically two ways in which children are being recruited as a soldier to fight.
The recruitment of child soldiers is done in two different ways. To begin with, children are mandated or would be ask by a particular country through national legislation in order to take part in a war or to take part in the armed forces. This particular phenomenon is not common in Africa Sierra Leone in particular.
Forced is one of the most common form of recruiting children to fight, about 20% of children are forced to fight. This means that children are forced to fight against their will, but this particular form has to do with so many factors, such as lack of proper care at home, street children and children that are abducted by family members (child trafficking) to another location. These are the children that are vulnerable to be abducted. Example of how such children can be abducted are, if you ask a child to go out to sell on the street if captured would like to stay without attempting to escape, most time school pupils waiting at the school will fall in the hands of fighting forces, but most of these children will find ways to escape if they are coming from good home, where they are properly taken care of, (in general, 80% of children that are fighting war voluntarily choose and 20% are forced to fight) children that are easily plucked from the street will also find it interesting to take part in arm conflict.
Another form of recruitment which is the most unique and interesting ways is the voluntary, about 80% of child soldiers are volunteers, but less attention are paid to this particular form based on the ways most organizations would like to present these children internationally. The reasons for a child to volunteer to fight war are to many, but has to do with the type socio-economic back ground, such as Poverty, lack of schooling and work, abuse by the society in which they found themselves, if family members being murdered during the course of the war and if a child is found in an unsafe environment where abuse is the order of the day (a violent culture).
- Children can be easily manipulated, and are dependent on the armed group for protection.
- Children can be easily satisfy with whatever being giving to them, unlike the adult fighters.
- Children are normally in a dilemma for the well trained army, because it is forbidden to harm or shoot a child, therefore, they take advantage of their situation to take part in a war.
- Children are easy to escape than the adult fighters, meaning it is easy for then to hide.
- Children are not responsible, therefore, they are not afraid of dying or losing anything.
- In some countries, especially underdeveloped and developing countries, children are not protected by any law, because there is no national legislation on the use of children for economic purposes. Therefore in war, they can be also use as a soldier.
- Children can be use as child soldier for survival.
- Children can be also use as a soldier based on admiration from their contemporary. For example, if a child is a commander and has a lot of power as a child can be easily admired by his or her age group to do the same.
- Death of family members or guidance. If a child lost his or her parent or guidance would be vulnerable to take part in a war.
- Abject poverty is also another reason for children to take part in war.