News / Africa

New Initiative Sets Out to Prevent Child Soldiers

Logo of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Courtesy: Child Soldiers Initiative)Logo of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Courtesy: Child Soldiers Initiative)
x
Logo of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Courtesy: Child Soldiers Initiative)
Logo of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Courtesy: Child Soldiers Initiative)
It's been over a decade since the civil war ended in Sierra Leone.  During the war, 50,000 people were killed and millions displaced.  Child soldiers played a key role in the conflict, as rebels recruited them to pick up weapons, fight and be used as sex slaves and spies.  Now, a non-profit group is looking to help Sierra Leone change its image and become a leader in the campaign against the use child soldiers in Africa. 

Twenty-seven-year-old Adama - not her real name - was recruited by rebels in the north of Sierra Leone during the country's civil war.

"They asked my father to have sex with me, he refused, when he refused, he lost his life... Seeing your dad [killed] in cold blood in front of you, it's not easy," she said.

A rebel then raped her at 12 years of age.

Adama says she spent two years with the rebel group The Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

She says normally she would've become a permanent sex slave for them but brigadier general's wife took a liking to her, and she only had to cook and clean for the RUF members.

Or act as a spy.

"So we are the ones they send as intelligence to get info for them, so we go back and say hey, there's this many police and soldiers around and they get ready to go for the fight," she said.

She eventually managed to escape to Guinea where she received refugee status before coming back to Sierra Leone when the war ended.

Thousands of other children captured by rebels during the Sierra Leone civil war have similar stories, according to a Canadian-based organization, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

The organization, created in 2008 by Roméo Dallaire, a retired lieutenant-general and former force commander of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Rwanda, estimates that 10,000 children were victims of military recruitment in Sierra Leone.

Shelly Whitman, the executive director of the organization, says the initiative aims to create training and education programs to prevent the future use of child soldiers. 

Whitman says the organization plans to with work the military and police in Sierra Leone as well as youth.

"So teaching kids that if conflict does break out, you need to be aware that you could be taken by an armed group, here is how we suggest how you might prevent yourself from being taken, if you are taken, here are some pointers on how to escape being taken," she said.

Whitman says the Child Soldiers Initiative has trained troops around the globe on how to deal with child soldiers in combat but this is the first time the organization is working directly with a country for a nationwide project.

"What if we look at this as creating a model for how the rest of world could prevent the use of children in armed conflict and take it and mold it so can be used in DRC [the Democratic Republic of Congo] or Somalia or other contacts around the world," she said.

Kalia Sesay, the officer for police peacekeeping operations in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, says many former child soldiers have now been reintegrated into society but more rehabilitation could still be done.  Some former child soldiers have gone on to lead a life of drugs and crime.

"There might be one or two bad eggs that need rehabilitation and it is a police concern which we need to work on," said Sesay.

Meanwhile, Adama is pleased the initiative is happening.  She says it's been hard to be accepted back into society because of her past.

"When these things have happened, there are stigmas around us.  Some are even afraid of coming close to us and interacting with us so I think with this program things will change," she said.

The project is expected to be fully operating in Sierra Leone by June.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid