Posts Tagged ‘Child Soldiers’
Many children were abducted from their villages and towns where they were press-ganged in to fighting, because of their poor social background and lack of proper parental care. This is a clear manifestation by the Special Delivery (SD) Unit in their song Time to Change trying to speak on behalf of the former child soldiers and vulnerable youths in Sierra Leone. Most of these children were given drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana…. To dull their senses and in return give them courage to fight, kill and rape. These child soldiers committed a lot atrocity on the civilian population through the influence of drugs where they themselves faced mines, and constantly faced injury and death.
Other children who were not part of the fighting forces suffered violence and witnessed horrific events, including the murder of their parents, friends and family members. The mutilation of other people, friends and maiming of community members changed their feeling and thinking from being normal. In 2002, the war in Sierra Leone was declared over and the children that were involved in various categories began to come home, but they were and even now not always received a warm welcome from the communities they found themselves and are facing an array of problems in every aspect of their lives. Even eight (8) years after the war, many children are growing up with a future of limited opportunities which if not correct would lead to vicious circle of social problem.
SD Unit is the name of the group that has decided to send out a strong message about the lives of post-conflict youth in Sierra Leone through the song Time to Change. Based on the different ways children are being subjected to suffering during conflict as mentioned above it is difficult to measure the difference between former child soldiers and non former child soldiers .These two boys are staying in the ghettoes, selling marijuana for their daily living where Mind to Change, a charity organization based in Sierra Leone working with former child soldiers and vulnerable youths contacted them to know why they are engaged in such activities explained in the above song.
NO CIVIL EDUCATION FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE IN SIERRA LEONE; WHY…….
In my quiet moments, I sometimes try to make sense of violence perpetrated by young people in the world. Especially in countries like Sierra Leone, young people cause numerous problems. One of the most imperative problems facing youths affected by the post-war conditions in Sierra Leone is the lack of access to specific civil and political tutoring for youths to grow into their civic role and take on responsibility as a citizen. Lack of civic and political education; more importantly the allotment of information regarding duties and farm duties of citizens; prevents youths from obtaining the comprehension to control, improve and contribute meaningfully toward their communities development.
A second predicament for war affected youths is the low literacy level among the youth population. The 10 years civil war denied preponderance of the youths the prospect to grow into leaned and literate adults; most of the present day youths in Sierra Leone are without the capacity to read, write, see if and lucid their judgment about issues affecting their lives.
Lack of civic and political information/knowledge is one of the most important issues affecting Sierra Leone, 70% of the population can neither read nor write. And unfortunately, the Northern and Eastern regions are most affected. This is manifested in the present high rate of civil chaos and political violence among the youth population in that region and the type of economic activities they engage in.
It is now a matter of most; instead of a matter of necessity; to make the first move. Programs that will address the issue of civic responsiveness and political edification for the youths (who are the future leaders). And to improve the quality of life for the youth population by engaging and educating both out of school and in school youths about basic civil rights, duties and responsibilities
The exposure to such information will assist youths to learn why education is important for both themselves and their families. After the civil war, no institution has ever thought of helping the ex-combatants to learn how to take a more active role in civil and political activities in their various communities.
Youths need care and nurture like children; they should be groomed to talk amongst themselves about civic and political issues of the country and their instantaneous communities and the youths also need to be taught how to communicate to their elders about their plans and things like protection against, femininity issues, bribery, good authority, national wherewithal, elections, economy of the state etc. The women are faced with the tedious work of rebuilding their lives and the lives of their families in areas that have been devastated by the civil war. One of the most damaging results for young women and girls was interrupted and/or terminated schooling. This had a devastating effect on the already low literacy rate among women.
The Eastern Region is particularly affected by the war in the sense that the war left very few houses, government buildings, schools and healthcare facilities. Tens of thousands of women and children fled to neighboring countries seeking refuge or were constantly running from one town to the other to escape the war in their own territories.
It is well documented that by improving a youth’s level of education both the physical and psychological health will be positively affected. Furthermore, educating youths about health issues that formerly were classified as “women’s information” allows men the opportunity to become better husbands and fathers while at the same time promoting the status of women.
Perhaps a curriculum of civic responsibilities will provide an immediate campaign in areas where information facilities and their resources are limited. With a complimenting literacy curriculum reinforced learned civic and political knowledge while aiding the men and women in improving their literacy skills and thus, their status in the community.
In addition, we should provide young women and men of the community with an educational program which increases dialogue among community members and households about crucial issues affecting the lives of men, women and children. In turn, dialogue generated by such means will aid the reintegration process of the communities.
From the field: Sierra Leone
Author: Lansana Juana
In our work with former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, we are constantly confronted with societal issues affecting their lives. The individual ex-soldiers we are trying to help, are not isolated from their societies. On the contrary. They belong to society and it is one of our main goals to help them to become responsible citizens, who contribute to the rebuilding of the country’s economy, their own communities and social infrastructure. In order for us to be able to help them adequately, we invest a lot of time and effort in research. What do former child soldiers need? What does society need? And how do the two needs relate to each other? How can we help both society and individual ex-soldiers?
In Sierra Leone, most (if not all) former child soldiers fall in the youth category. We found out that, although they form a specific group with some specific needs, their problems do not differ much from that of other (so-called ‘normal’) youths in society after all.
Sierra Leone as a nation is confronted with the tedious work of having to rebuild society, infrastructure and the lives of its citizens after an 11-year civil war, which left the country devastated and destructed. One of the most damaging outcomes of the war was the interruption or termination of education of young people. Considering the low literacy rate amongst the population, this has added to the challenge Sierra Leone is facing to rebuild its structures and to establish a solid foundation for governance and bureaucracy.
One of the obvious results of the civil war was a breakdown in community, political, social, economic and cultural structures. One of the most urgent problems facing young people affected by the war conditions in Sierra Leone, is the lack of civic awareness and democratic political education. Consequently, young people are blocked from decision-making, since they lack the knowledge to participate responsibly and to effectively contribute to the improvement of the social, economic, political and cultural structures in their communities.
The second problem for our war affected youths, is their low level of education. The war denied the youths the opportunity to grow into educated and literate people. Most of them don’t know how to read and write, so they have little possibilities to express their opinions about issues affecting their welfare in a serene and civil manner. The nation is now going through a very serious political, economic and cultural crisis brought about by the reckless political attitudes tailored by lack of the requisite political and civil education.
The present national development strategies should therefore take account of political, cultural diversities, traditional knowledge to enhance the people’s participation and accelerate the peace among youths in the country when it comes to their participation in politics and developmental activities in an informed and responsible manner.
The definition of literacy in this context refers to the improvement of the ability to read, write, count, understand and discuss with critical awareness that will enable an informed participation in the process of governance.
Democracy and multi-party rule cannot be sustained without the full and informed participation of the people especially the youths. Informed participation is contingent on knowledge and awareness of the dynamics of governance, the processes of electing a government and issues on which elections are contested.
Democracy is not only about electing governments. For democracy to be sustained, the true culture of democracy and body politics should be rooted into the minds of the youths; inculcated into the attitude and behavioural patterns of the youth who for the most part are involved in the perpetration of civic disruptions and upheavals. And unfortunately, former child soldiers are more vulnerable to end up in a weak societal position than other youths. It is necessary to teach them about their rights, their duties and their responsibilities. To bring them ‘on board’, Mind to Change hopes to invest in a youth leadership project.
A former child soldier who is one of the key founding members of Mind to Change Organization has graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Geography Linguistics Education (B.A. Ed. Geo./Ling.).
This is a clear test of the aim of the organization being established by one Anthropologist called Ginny Mooy together with the former child soldier based on their experience with the subject (child soldier).
I voluntarily became a child soldier in a Sierra Leone’s leven years rebel due to the death of my parents in 2007. Before that time, I was being taking care of by my parents, running from one village to another in escape for our lives. But even with that, wherever we settled, my parents will make sure that I started attending school. I attended a lot of displaced school right round the country wherever we found safety.
My life was safe through education. In 2007, I was supposed to to write the Basic Education Certificate Education (B.E.C.E.), and that was the year the Arm Forces Revolutionary Council (A.F.R.C.) took over power. For the rest of the year, there was no school. In 2008, the Government asked us to write the examination and I was fortunate to pass the exams, but school was not properly functioning in Segbwema where I was attending. My parent asked me to go to Kenema, the Regional Head Quarter Town for the Eastern Region. There I got a message that rebel had killed my family.
From that time, I was having no option to continue with life but to take up volunteer work with Civil Defense Force (CDF) that was fighting to safe the lives of the peaceful citizen. CDF was a fighting force that dominated by 95% of illiterate young men without any woman. I started the volunteer work in Segbwema to write their names, pass (a document that will allow somebody to travel in their territory), and most of the administrative work for me to survive. I did that until end of the war in 1999 when the symbolic disarmament started. From there I went to Freetown, because I heard an information that there is an opportunity for children took part in the war and also those that have lost their parent.
I went to Freetown in 1999, and I was staying at Brookfield Hotel that was occupied by the CDF. Their also there was a vacancy for somebody that can read and write to take over the administrative affairs of the boys, and I applied for the position. Successfully, I was giving the position which I held for four (4) months. And we were repatriated to our various home of origin, and I choose Kenema. In Kenema, School, I was interested in doing volunteer work for people to be able to meet my day to day need including my younger brother I met in Kenema that survived the death.
Life was not easy for me, but I took my education very seriously, base on what my father used to tell me about education (may their soul rest in perfect peace). With my interest in volunteer work, one Organization went to Kenema Called Conciliation Resources with aim of providing recreation for post-conflict young people. There also I became I volunteer, and I was given Le 10,000 (2 euro) after every three months, but there was library facility without internet.
Based on my performance, I recommended to be assisting researchers that started visiting the country to do research, and one of the research felt sympathy for me with the promised that if I pass the University entrance examination will help me to have University education, which is a privilege in my country where 85% of the population is illiterate. In 2006 December, I met Ginny Mooy as a research assistance to her, and she felt deep sympathy for my situation and we became friends. From there we found out that we have similar ideas about the world, we decided to start this organization.
What a child soldier is needs no further explanation. We’ve all seen pictures and news-footage of young boys and girls fighting wars. Still, even though the images speak for themselves, questions remain. What is it like having to fight, when you’re still a kid? Movies like Blood Diamond give us a little insight, but always from an external perspective. Biased, and for the sake of box office numbers not diving into the details of this difficult and complex subject.
Through what we see in the media we tend to think of child soldiers as people who are severely traumatized, and will remain violent for the rest of their lives. The question arises whether these people even stand a chance of becoming normal citizens again. A justified question as such, since most of us believe that once you’ve killed someone you’ll always be a killer. No matter how much sense that makes to us, to the child soldiers it seems unfair. Especially when you realize the things they have to endure to leave their pasts behind them, trying to gain acceptance from their communities again. Being treated as ‘ruined for life’ is an added burden with a devastating effect on their lives.
We mean well, being genuinely concerned about them. We can’t even begin to think what it would be like had we been forced to kill when we were only children, and somehow it’s hard to believe we would ever be able to.
But that’s exactly what I’d like to ask you to do. Imagine what it would be like to be a child-soldier. Sit down, take your time, and close your eyes in-between sentences if you like. Imagine finding yourself in a dusty landscape. Derelict, bullet-ridden buildings to your left, lush green forest to your right. You’re eight years old. So far life has been all school and play, but now you find yourself in the midst of a violent and cruel war. An mob of rebels, raging with fury, appears from behind one of the huts, carrying enormous machetes and automatic rifles. The biggest one of them appears to be the leader, a black bandana covering his right eye. A vicious scar trails along the left side of his face. In a blur of bone-chilling screams, your grandparents are slaughtered before your very eyes. The noise takes control of your mind as you watch people scatter in all directions. Bullets are tearing through the air like a hailstorm. Your dad grabs you and together with your mother you make a run for the bush.
UNITED NATIONS — Eight more UN member states have agreed to sign on to the 2007 Paris Commitments aiming to protect children from being recruited by armed forces or armed groups.
Albania, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Jamaica, Liechtenstein, Panama and Senegal endorsed the commitments on Tuesday at a ministerial session, bringing to 84 the number of countries which have done so.
The Paris Commitments were adopted in February 2007 as an expression of strengthened international resolve to prevent the recruitment of children and highlight the actions governments should take to protect children affected by conflict.
"It is important that all children, whether they have joined an armed group by force or by circumstance, have access to vital assistance to help them reintegrate and lead empowered and productive lives, said Ann Veneman, the executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund.
"The support for the ?Paris Principles? and new endorsements show that the international community is mobilized to stop this unbearable phenomenon," said Alain Joyandet, France’s junior minister for cooperation.
Around a quarter of a million children are fighting in the ranks of armed groups across the world, down from around 300,000 five years ago, according to UN officials.