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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs