Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone Research Paper

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Research Paper on Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone Assignment

Childhood is supposed to be a time for innocence, the only time in a person's long life where their cares are allowed to be limited to the enjoyment of life and to the education they receive in school. This is supposed to be the time where they are allowed to indulge in the activities that bring them joy and to develop into the adults that they will one day become. It is not the time when they are supposed to be forced into the world of the adults and to perform actions which will prohibit any chance they have of becoming normal individuals as they age. However, for a large number of very unfortunate young people, childhood is cut short by the ambitions and desires of adults in their community. There are factions of children soldiers throughout the world (Denov & Maclure 2007,-page 243). From the continents of South America to Asia and Africa, adults have taken it upon themselves to disrupt and retard the natural development of children and turn them from innocent versions of humanity into disciplined, unquestioning murder machines, willing to commit any atrocity at the behest of their leaders. It is believed that at the present there are more than three hundred thousand child soldiers throughout the world (Capodalglio 1999). In the country of Sierra Leone in Africa, children are being recruited and then indoctrinated as soldiers in the guerilla militaries of rebels. Young people, instead of focusing their energies on things like math and learning to read are instead being taught how to fire guns, to load weapons, and to kill other people in the service of an uncaring authority figure. The children of this country are forced into the adult world of violence and death long before they have reached puberty. Children as young as seven are being taught to pick up weaponry and to fire at the enemy, whoever that may be. Understanding this phenomenon and how to eradicate it, everyone must be made aware of how children become soldiers, what they do in this role, and how they might recover.

History:

Sierra Leone has a history of violence starting from before World War II. In the 1930s, a rebellious group was started by I.T.A. Wallace-Johnson called the Youth League which focused on the education and acquisition of rights for young people throughout the country (Rosen 2005,-page 67). This group, comprised of the nation's most intelligent people such as teachers and other educated people was focused on the creation of equal rights for all members of the nation, no matter their social position or class. The Youth League was one of the first to utilize underage citizens to spread the ideas of the rebellious faction and to immerse younger people about a certain ideological vantage point. After the imprisonment of Wallace-Johnson, the Youth League was suppressed and it is believed that the failure of this peaceful governmental change led the groundwork for the subsequent ultra violence of later rebellious groups. It became apparent that the government was unwilling to listen to dissenting attitudes and would do whatever was deemed necessary to silence opposition. This episode also taught subsequent factions that the youth of Sierra Leone could easily be coerced or indoctrinated into a system of belief antithetical to the policies of the government, a lesson which would feature heavily in the lives of later generations.

These rebellious groups, going as far back as the early 1990s, were trying to incite a civil war which was intended to overthrow the present government of the nation of Sierra Leone. During that period, the group known as the Revolutionary United Front or RUF began a campaign against the government wherein they would systematically attack many towns and villages of the country (Zach-William 2006,-page 122). There, the adults and children, men and women as well, would be systematically murdered by members of the rebel army. Those who were allowed to live would often find themselves at the mercy of their aggressors. Young people, like Ishmael Beah, who were fortunate enough to escape the initial attack on their village would eventually find themselves forced into recruitment when starvation and the cruelty of the elements demanded that they seek some kind of refuge from nature (Beah 2007). Through a systematic exclusion of moral foundation and an inclusion of violence and drug use, adults compel young children and teens to commit acts of violence against others until the child has little or no emotion whatsoever about their actions.

The conflicts following the year 2000 have had more to do with friction between groups in Sierra Leone and neighboring Liberia but were still an extension of the first Civil War period. The conflict with Liberia was more to do with that nation's own governmental difficulties. This neighbor of Sierra Leone also has a history of using children as a form of armed forces during their guerilla warfare. There have been widespread reports of children being "recruited" in Sierra Leone and then taken across the border and into Liberia, where they are made to perform military actions against enemies in that location (Doek 2009). They are an extension of the earlier Civil War of the 1990s, but in an expanded form. Rebels who determined that they would be less able to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone tried to create a community where they would be the government in control and would not have to answer to the official government or its leaders.

How Children Become Soldiers:

International law forbids the recruitment or employment of people under the age of fifteen into any military, governmental or rebel, but that has not deterred many factions from continuing the practice. Although child soldiers are utilized around the world, it is widely acknowledged by international groups that Sierra Leone is the worst offender in this avenue. Most of the children involved in the guerilla or rebel militaries are recruited by force into becoming soldiers. Very few actually volunteer or go at all willingly into the service of these groups. Almost all of the child soldiers come from poverty-stricken areas of Sierra Leone. In some instances, impoverished adults will actually sell their children into the army or other forms of slavery, such as the sex trade (Capodaglio 1999). A large percentage are physically dragged from their homes and kidnapped by revolutionaries. Their parents are very often murdered right in front of them. In some instances, the children themselves were forced to kill their own parents, lest they and their siblings also lose their lives. The traumatic psychological effect of this is obvious; after taking the lives of their own family members, there would likely be nothing the child soldiers would subsequently be unwilling or unable to do (Richardson 2006). Any sense of morality or right and wrong that the child had developed up until this point in life would be eradicated by this action. An additional reaction to such a murder would be that there would be no authority figure in the child's life to compete with those of the revolutionaries and the child would have no choice but to rely and thus become loyal to the person or persons who had destroyed their lives.

After this kidnapping, a systematic brainwashing occurs wherein the children are eventually indoctrinated into believing themselves acting on the side of good and moral right. The revolutionaries would instruct the children about their political viewpoints. Children would be taught protest mantras and the oral history of the rebels. For most, this would be the only form of education they would receive while in the military. The only form of entertainment would be when the rebel leaders would have the children watch violent films featuring rebellious heroes such as Rambo. They were thus taught that to be heroes, they must fight against the government because the authority was in the wrong. Thus committing violent acts were heroic and following the demands of the rebel armies was the best way to serve the moral right. An example of this comes from a report by BBC News in 2005 wherein a young former child soldier was interviewed. He said:

I was a small boy, 12 years old, and I was going to school when the rebels captured me and a lot of my friends. They caught my mother and father, and then killed my father in my presence. Then they went with us to the bush to go and train how to fight (AK-47).

This is not a rare occurrence. Most child soldiers of Sierra Leone and other countries around the world have or will have experienced something similar to this young man's "recruitment" into the army.

Activities of Child Soldiers:

There are many different jobs which are given to child soldiers. They can be trained in relatively safe occupations such as by being trained as cooks or healers of the rebellion factions, preparing meals and treating wounds. Or they could be trained as reconnaissance members and spies, forcing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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